Winnipeg Free Press

Wed, Jan 10, 2001

Zero-tolerance author faces assault charge

By Mike McIntyre and Paul McKie
Winnipeg Free Press

A former police inspector who wrote the city's zero-tolerance policy on domestic abuse has been charged with assaulting his longtime girlfriend.

Ken Biener, 52, who retired from the force in September 1999 following a 30-year career, was arrested Dec. 23 after the local businesswoman called police saying she had been assaulted.

A police source said the woman recanted her story when they arrived but, according to guidelines Biener created, police had no choice but to pursue the allegations.

Biener was released the same day on a promise to appear in court, without any charges being laid.

Following further police investigation, he was charged with assault on Dec. 29.

He will make his first court appearance Jan. 22. No further details of the alleged incident have been released.

Under conditions of his release, Biener has been ordered to have no contact with the woman and stay 200 metres away from her home, work or place of worship.

Biener was head of the police youth division when he accepted a buyout package offered to several senior officers following the 1999 Pan American Games.

One of his most notable career accomplishments was introducing the Winnipeg police force's zero-tolerance policy in 1993, enshrining the province's new attitude toward domestic assault.

When the new policy was implemented, Biener said arrests in domestic assault cases would skyrocket.

"Once we get things up and running, I think it's inevitable,'' he told the Free Press.

He also said that getting police to accept zero tolerance was difficult.

"Some had to be dragged and pulled to get their head around the issue. Usually like so many other educational efforts or workplace changes, it's the younger employees who just have the least trouble adapting to these things," he said at the time.

Biener also spoke at length about his personal life, including his relationship with the woman he is now charged with assaulting, and the fact he has never married or been engaged.

At the time of the 1993 interview, Biener said the couple was "working carefully" to see where the relationship might go.

Biener has stayed out of the public spotlight since his retirement, but is expected to be a prominent witness when the investigative phase of the Thomas Sophonow inquiry begins this spring.

Biener was one of the lead investigators on the Barbara Stoppel murder case in 1981, for which Sophonow was wrongly convicted and jailed. He was exonerated last year, and police announced they have a new suspect they are investigating.

The first phase of the Sophonow inquiry, dealing with financial compensation, resumes Monday.

© 2001 Winnipeg Free Press.