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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 19-OVI-100

Contents:

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Mandate of the SIU

The Special Investigations Unit is a civilian law enforcement agency that investigates incidents involving police officers where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault. The Unit’s jurisdiction covers more than 50 municipal, regional and provincial police services across Ontario.

Under the Police Services Act, the Director of the SIU must determine based on the evidence gathered in an investigation whether an officer has committed a criminal offence in connection with the incident under investigation. If, after an investigation, there are reasonable grounds to believe that an offence was committed, the Director has the authority to lay a criminal charge against the officer. Alternatively, in all cases where no reasonable grounds exist, the Director does not lay criminal charges but files a report with the Attorney General communicating the results of an investigation.

Information Restrictions

Freedom of Information and Protection of Personal Privacy Act (“FIPPA”)

Pursuant to section 14 of FIPPA (i.e., law enforcement), certain information may not be included in this report. This information may include, but is not limited to, the following:
  • Confidential investigative techniques and procedures used by law enforcement agencies; and
  • Information whose release could reasonably be expected to interfere with a law enforcement matter or an investigation undertaken with a view to a law enforcement proceeding. 
Pursuant to section 21 of FIPPA (i.e., personal privacy), protected personal information is not included in this document. This information may include, but is not limited to, the following:
  • Subject Officer name(s);
  • Witness Officer name(s);
  • Civilian Witness name(s);
  • Location information; 
  • Witness statements and evidence gathered in the course of the investigation provided to the SIU in confidence; and 
  • Other identifiers which are likely to reveal personal information about individuals involved in the investigation.


Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004 (“PHIPA”)

Pursuant to PHIPA, any information related to the personal health of identifiable individuals is not included.

Other proceedings, processes, and investigations

Information may have also been excluded from this report because its release could undermine the integrity of other proceedings involving the same incident, such as criminal proceedings, coroner’s inquests, other public proceedings and/or other law enforcement investigations.

Mandate Engaged

The Unit’s investigative jurisdiction is limited to those incidents where there is a serious injury (including sexual assault allegations) or death in cases involving the police.

“Serious injuries” shall include those that are likely to interfere with the health or comfort of the victim and are more than merely transient or trifling in nature and will include serious injury resulting from sexual assault. “Serious Injury” shall initially be presumed when the victim is admitted to hospital, suffers a fracture to a limb, rib or vertebrae or to the skull, suffers burns to a major portion of the body or loses any portion of the body or suffers loss of vision or hearing, or alleges sexual assault. Where a prolonged delay is likely before the seriousness of the injury can be assessed, the Unit should be notified so that it can monitor the situation and decide on the extent of its involvement.

This report relates to the SIU’s investigation into serious injuries sustained by a 59-year-old woman (the “Complainant”).

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On May 6, 2019, at 2:25 p.m., the Peel Regional Police (PRP) notified the SIU of the serious injury sustained by the 59-year-old Complainant as a result of a motor vehicle collision with a PRP cruiser during the morning rush hour.

The PRP reported that at 8:07 a.m. that day, a marked cruiser operated by the subject officer (SO) was travelling to a call for service northbound on Dixie Road approaching the intersection of Williams Parkway. The SO entered the intersection against a red traffic signal and collided with a vehicle driven by the Complainant.

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 4
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned:

On May 6, 2019, three SIU investigators, two SIU Forensic Investigators and an SIU Collision Reconstructionist initiated an investigation in Brampton. The scene was thoroughly photographed, measured and a diagram was prepared. The data from the police cruiser airbag control module (ACM) were downloaded and later analyzed. Civilian witnesses were identified, located and eventually interviewed, and the medical reports for the Complainant and her son were obtained with her consent.

Complainant:

59-year-old female interviewed, medical records obtained and reviewed


Civilian Witnesses

CW #1 Interviewed
CW #2 Interviewed
CW #3 Interviewed
CW #4 Interviewed
CW #5 Interviewed
CW #6 Interviewed
CW #7 Interviewed
CW #8 Interviewed 

Witness Officers

WO #1 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed
WO #2 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed


Subject Officers

SO Declined interview and to provide notes, as is the subject officer’s legal right


Evidence

The Scene

In the area of the collision, Dixie Road is a four-lane paved highway which permits two lanes of northbound and two lanes of southbound vehicular traffic. At the approach to Williams Parkway there are additional left turn lanes with white painted arrows and a concrete median separating the opposing lanes. At the southbound approach there is an additional right turn lane with white painted arrow on the road.

Williams Parkway intersects Dixie Road at right angles. It is a four-lane paved highway which permits two lanes of eastbound and two lanes of westbound traffic. The opposing lanes are delineated with a solid yellow paint line and a centre grassed boulevard. At the approach to Dixie Road there are additional left turn lanes with white painted arrows and a concrete median separating the opposing lanes.

The intersection is controlled by functioning pedestrian and vehicle control signals, white painted pedestrian crosswalks and white painted stop bars. The grade is level and the posted speed limit on both roads is 60 km/h. 

Scene diagram

Physical Evidence

A 2018 Dodge Charger bearing the markings of the PRP was facing northwest across the sidewalk on the northwest corner of the intersection. Fresh damage was noted to the right front fender, right front wheel at the axle and right rear fender. The cruiser came to rest 29.8 metres west of the east edge of the pavement of Dixie Road and 6.6 metres north of the north edge of the pavement of Williams Parkway.

This photograph faces south from the west side of the west sidewalk of Dixie Road depicting the right front corner of PRP vehicle.  The damage to the right front fender is evident.  Damage to the right rear fender indicates a secondary impact.
Figure 1 - This photograph faces south from the west side of the west sidewalk of Dixie Road depicting the right front corner of PRP vehicle. The damage to the right front fender is evident. Damage to the right rear fender indicates a secondary impact.


A 2017 white Hyundai Sonata, operated by the Complainant, was facing northeast in the passing southbound and southbound left turn lane of Dixie Road. Damage was to the complete front end, to the left rear fender and the front passenger door. That vehicle came to rest 11.9 metres west of the east edge of the pavement of Dixie Road and 11.7 metres north of the north edge of the pavement of Williams Parkway.


This photograph faces southeast from the centre of Dixie Road depicting the front and left side of the Hyundai Sonata.  The damage to the front is evident and the damage to the left rear fender and door indicates the secondary area of impact. The front is visibly in contact with a Jeep Wrangler.
Figure 2 - This photograph faces southeast from the centre of Dixie Road depicting the front and left side of the Hyundai Sonata. The damage to the front is evident and the damage to the left rear fender and door indicates the secondary area of impact. The front is visibly in contact with a Jeep Wrangler.

Forensic Evidence


ACM Data


The ACM was downloaded by the SIU through the data link connector at the scene. Up to 4.5 seconds prior to impact, the speed of the PRP vehicle was zero at which point it gradually increased to 39 km/h at 0.1 second before impact. The vehicle driven by the Complainant was not supported by the Crash Data Retrieval tool.



Expert Evidence


Speed Determination


The ACM of the police cruiser indicated that the impact speed was essentially 39 km/h. The tire mark leading to the right front tire of the PRP vehicle is a slide to stop distance of 25.9 metres. Only the front right tire was locked for the complete distance and the right rear tire was locked for 7.1 metres. A 50 percent braking efficiency and an average slide distance of 16.5 metres was therefore used in the speed formula. Drag coefficients were also used. The calculated slide to stop distance for the PRP vehicle is 38 km/h to 43 km/h, consistent with the reported ACM speed.

Conclusions of the SIU Collision Reconstructionist


At about 8:07 a.m., May 6, 2019, the SO was operating a marked 2018 Dodge Charger northbound on Dixie Road at Williams Parkway. The SO was completely stopped before entering the intersection.

The SO slowly accelerated to 39 km/h in the northbound passing lane of Dixie Road. At the same time, a Sonata operated by the Complainant was westbound in the passing westbound lane of Williams Parkway. There were several westbound cars waiting to turn left, or southbound, onto Dixie Road in the westbound left turn lane, thereby blocking views from westbound Williams Parkway to the south and from northbound Dixie Road to the east.

The SO attempted to avoid collision by turning hard to the left. The complete front of the Sonata came into collision with the right front fender and the PRP vehicle. The police vehicle rotated counter-clockwise and the Sonata was rotated clockwise just after impact so that the right rear of the PRP vehicle impacted the left rear of the Sonata. The police vehicle was pushed with the right front axle and wheel broken and scraping on the asphalt before coming to rest on the northwest sidewalk of the intersection.

The Sonata was pushed northwest between a Chevrolet Trax which was stopped facing south in the passing southbound lane of Dixie Road and a Volkswagen Golf which was stopped facing south in the southbound left turn lane of Dixie Road. The right side of the Sonata impacted the right side of the Volkswagen and the left side may have impacted the left side of the Chevrolet Trax. The Sonata continued northbound and it came to rest with the front bumper in contact with the front bumper of a Jeep Wrangler that had been stopped in the southbound left turn lane of Dixie Road behind the Volkswagen Golf.

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence

SIU investigators also canvassed the area for video surveillance evidence. The Ministry of Transport did not have cameras mounted at the intersection of Williams Parkway and Dixie Road and the Shell station at the southwest corner of the intersection was also devoid of surveillance video of the intersection. CW #5’s vehicle was equipped with a dash mounted camera, but the device was not activated at the time and civilian witness CW #2 took cellular phone video but upon inspection the film only captured after the fact scenes and was of no evidentiary value to the SIU and the film was not seized.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the PRP:
  • Notes of all witness officers;
  • Google map of scene submitted to PRP by CW #2;
  • The Ministry of Transport collision report;
  • PRP Occurrence (Collision);
  • PRP Occurrence (In regard to the call the SO was attending);
  • A copy of the civilian witness list; and
  • PRP statement of CW #2, CW #4, CW #5 and CW #6.

Incident Narrative

The material events in question are relatively clear on the evidence collected by the SIU, which included statements from the Complainant, her son, and a number of motorists in the area who witnessed the collision, as well as data derived from the deployment of the officer’s airbag and a reconstruction of the incident. Shortly after 8:00 a.m. of the day in question, the Complainant was traveling west in the passing lane of Williams Parkway approaching Dixie Road. She was operating a Hyundai Sonata. At the same time, the SO was travelling north on Dixie Road in his marked police cruiser toward the same intersection. The officer was sounding his siren and had his emergency lights on as he came to a stop at the intersection facing a red light. His intention was to continue through the intersection en route to a call for service at Brampton Civic Hospital. While the light was still red in his direction, the SO entered the intersection and was struck by the Complainant’s vehicle, which had entered the intersection on a green light. The Sonata’s front end made contact with the passenger side of the cruiser at the point of impact, propelling the cruiser toward the northwest sidewalk of the intersection, where it came to rest. The Sonata ended up in the southbound lanes of Dixie Road sandwiched between vehicles in the left turn and passing lanes.

Relevant Legislation

Section 320.13(2), Criminal Code – Dangerous operation causing bodily harm

(2) Everyone commits an offence who operates a conveyance in a manner that, having regard to all of the circumstances, is dangerous to the public and, as a result, causes bodily harm to another person.

Section 144(18) and 144(20), Highway Traffic Act -- Red light exemption

144 (18)  Every driver approaching a traffic control signal showing a circular red indication and facing the indication shall stop his or her vehicle and shall not proceed until a green indication is shown.

144 (20)  Despite subsection (18), a driver of an emergency vehicle, after stopping the vehicle, may proceed without a green indication being shown if it is safe to do so.

Analysis and Director's Decision

In the morning of May 6, 2019, the Complainant was involved in motor vehicle collision with the SO of the PRP. The incident occurred at the intersection of Dixie Road and Williams Parkway in Brampton, and resulted in injuries to the Complainant and her passenger and son, CW #1. For the reasons that follow, there are no reasonable grounds in my view to believe that the SO committed a criminal offence in connection with the collision.

The offence that arises for consideration on this record is dangerous driving causing bodily harm contrary to section 320.13(2) of the Criminal Code. The offence is predicated, in part, on conduct that markedly deviates from the level of care that a reasonable person would have observed in the circumstances: R. v. Beatty, [2008] 1 SCR 49. While the SO’s conduct was not flawless, I am satisfied on reasonable grounds that he exercised a level of care that fell within the limits prescribed by the criminal law. The officer was on duty and responding to a serious call for service involving potential violence at a hospital as he approached the Dixie Road and Williams Parkway intersection. In compliance with subsection 144(20) of the Highway Traffic Act, which permits emergency vehicles to travel through a red light, the SO brought his cruiser to a stop with his emergency lights and siren operating before he entered the intersection. Subsection 144(20), however, also requires that the driver of an emergency vehicle not proceed through a red light unless it is safe to do so. I have no reason to doubt that the SO believed it was safe to proceed when he did. But for the Complainant, other motorists at the intersection appear to have taken heed of the officer’s presence and brought their vehicles to a stop before the officer continued northward. That said, the collision itself suggests that it was not, in fact, safe to proceed at the time chosen by the SO. He clearly did not see the Complainant until, perhaps, it was too late to avoid the collision. It may well be that his sightline was obstructed by traffic stopped in the westbound left turn lane of Williams Parkway. Indeed, the same traffic would have blocked the Complainant’s view of vehicles on Dixie Road approaching Williams Parkway from the south and she did not see the cruiser when she entered the intersection. That is not offered as an excuse, but it may explain why the collision occurred and is arguably an extenuating circumstance in the liability analysis. Be that as it may, the SO’s driving behaviour was in other respects prudent in the moments leading to the collision. After bringing his vehicle to a stop, he entered the intersection slowly after a period of time had elapsed during which he was actively scanning in all directions to ensure traffic around him had come to a stop. Moreover, there is no indication of any dangerous driving in the time before he arrived at the intersection. Nor was it the case that environmental conditions called for added care: the weather was clear, the roads were dry and in good repair, and visibility was good. Weighed in the balance, the SO’s singular indiscretion, if it be such, of entering the intersection without it being safe to do so, is not sufficient in my view to render his conduct a marked departure from a reasonable level of care in the circumstances. Accordingly, there are no reasonable grounds for proceeding with criminal charges against the subject officer and the file is closed.


Date: July 17, 2019

Original signed by

Joseph Martino
Interim Director
Special Investigations Unit