The already unusual case of an alleged fake psychologist working with the Ottawa Police Service has taken another startling twist – which adds to the police officer’s distress at his heart.
The Crown prosecutor has withdrawn a public mischief charge against Dr Ronald Frey, after the licensed psychologist flip-flopped.
In June 2021, Frey complained to the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) that he believed someone was impersonating him. The complaint follows a meeting with former Const. Kimberly Cadarette who showed her a 2007 mental health report about her, which both bore Frey’s electronic signature and was printed on her company letterhead.
CBC News organized the meeting as it investigated Cadarette’s allegations that his OPS-mandated meetings with a psychologist had in fact been with someone posing as a clinician. Cadarette had to submit to a mental health assessment in 2007, which came after she alleged that she had filed a complaint with the police for being the target of repeated sexual harassment.
In a reunion filmed last June, Frey and Cadarette denied ever seeing each other face to face before then.
Following the CBC News story, the OPS asked York Regional Police to investigate Frey’s complaint about an impostor. In November, police arrested and charged Frey with filing a false complaint.
At the time, Frey’s attorney told CBC News that the psychologist had no idea what the charge might be and would vigorously defend it.
A flip-flop in court
But during a court hearing on April 22, Frey changed her story. The psychologist admitted he had in fact assessed Cadarette after receiving new evidence, including appointment records kept by the OPS health and safety unit.
“When I spoke to CBC about their story in June 2021, given the passage of time, I had no recollection or record of a 2007 reunion or appraisal of Kim Cadarette,” Frey said, reading aloud a prepared statement in research. “Having reviewed the disclosure and investigative materials collected by York Regional Police in this matter – which were recently provided to me – I acknowledge that I have made an assessment of Kim Cadarette.”
Frey told the judge he saw Cadarette to determine his suitability to return to his duties with the OPS between September and October 2007.
The Crown prosecutor did not provide a specific reason for dropping the criminal charge, and no evidence was presented in court beyond Frey’s statement.
“After completing this review and considering the matter very carefully, the Crown has determined that a withdrawal of the charges is appropriate,” a spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General said in an email.
Frey did not respond to multiple interview requests after the April 22 hearing. Despite what happened in court, Cadarette said she was certain the man who assessed her 15 years ago was not Frey – or a real therapist.
Frey’s admission upset her, she said.
“[He] went on national television, you went through it all the way [assessment] report. And in his own words, he said this report was unethical,” Cadarette said. “It just doesn’t make sense.”
Experience a ‘ruined’ police career
The 2007 Mental Health Report concluded that Cadarette suffered from “partial paranoia” but could return to work under careful supervision. The officer, however, said she believed the assessment was fraudulent and its contents had been leaked.
The information in the report tarnished her reputation, she said, even after she was transferred from the OPS to Peel Regional Police, where she currently works.
“It ruined my career,” she told CBC News.
Cadarette said that in 2007, she had her police-issued firearm taken away from her and was ordered to see a psychologist shortly after complaining to the then police chief, Vern White, of being the victim of sexual harassment and intimidation within his platoon. She said she saw a therapist for five one-hour sessions in a windowless medical examination room on the University of Ottawa campus.
WATCH | Cadarette reacts to the announcement of Frey’s hearing:
In previous interviews, she said that she and the therapist sat on folding chairs during sessions and she noted that the psychologist drove a blue van. Frey told CBC News he’s never owned a minivan and his office has plush chairs, with a window facing the street.
Frey has reviewed Cadarette’s mental health assessment several times over the past two years, including a review with Cadarette and his lawyer and then with CBC.
This report described how the therapist showed up for surprise visits to Cadarette’s workplace or made last-minute appointment cancellations in an effort to test the patient’s paranoia. In a TV interview, Frey vehemently denied using the techniques described in the document.
“That would be, first of all, atypical and highly unethical and I can’t imagine a psychologist getting into that,” Frey said last summer. “I want to make it clear that I didn’t assess her.”
Following Frey’s arrest, the College of Psychologists of Ontario imposed restrictions on his practice in late December. He could not provide individual therapy or assessments unless supervised by another therapist. The supervisor also had to review Frey’s treatment plans for patients.
Now that the criminal charge has been dropped, the college says it will lift those restrictions.
Experience and control
Frey began working more frequently with the OPS on the recommendation of White, the former Ottawa Police Chief.
White, who is now a senator, became familiar with Frey’s work while working for the RCMP in Nunavut. The psychologist was often up north helping officers deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Frey has been a practicing psychologist since 2000. According to his resume, he has worked with dozens of public and private sector clients and he has assessed hundreds of police department patients across the country. He has also assessed workers at Public Safety Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Department of National Defence.
WATCH | The psychologist says the case raises questions:
Frey’s past experience may warrant further investigation, says Dr. Mary Ann Campbell, director of the Center for Criminal Justice Studies at the University of New Brunswick. She is also a practicing psychologist who has worked with law enforcement agencies.
“It makes us wonder, well, are there any other instances where apparent wrongdoing or miscalculation of how one should do one’s job has occurred?”
Campbell said memory is fallible, and therapists won’t necessarily remember all of their patients unless there are circumstances that stand out. But she said fitness-for-duty assessments should be done with the utmost care because they can impact an officer’s career path.
While Dr. Frey can see a lot of patients, Kimberly doesn’t see a lot of doctors – and she’s convinced he wasn’t the one who treated her.– Peter Brauti, attorney for Kimberly Cadarette
“In these types of contexts where we determine whether or not you’re fit to work, whether you should have your gun or the parameters of how you should do your job – it’s incumbent on us as a profession to be very credible, trustworthy, knowledgeable about the practices of psychology related to this work so that we provide good psychological care and do not put anyone at risk.”
Seek to be accountable
Cadarette’s legal team said the court process left them with more questions.
“While Dr. Frey can see a lot of patients, Kimberly doesn’t see a lot of doctors – and she’s convinced he wasn’t the one who treated her,” said Peter Brauti, Cadarette’s attorney.
“It’s devastating [to Cadarette] – it’s like kicking someone when they’re down, repeatedly.”
Brauti said he hadn’t seen the Crown disclosure, but he also found Frey’s about-face difficult to accept.
“He agreed to go on CBC with you to meet her in person for the first time. I mean, he had to know how serious it was and how sure he had to be in his responses to the media.”
Brauti calls the ordeal “cruel punishment” and said his client is considering bringing a civil lawsuit against Frey and filing a complaint with the College of Psychologists of Ontario.