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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 18-TCI-244

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 a serious injury sustained by a 34-year-old woman (the “Complainant”).

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On August 20, 2018, at 3:17 p.m., the Toronto Police Service (TPS) notified the SIU of the Complainant’s injury.

According to the TPS, on August 19, 2018, at 6:36 p.m., the SO and WO #1 were sent to a domestic assault incident at a residence on Winona Drive in Toronto. The Complainant had reportedly assaulted her spouse. The police officers entered the residence and located the Complainant who was naked on a couch and asleep, and breastfeeding her infant. The Complainant was awakened and told to dress. She dressed and returned to the living room. The SO and WO #1 arrested her for assault and were handcuffing her when she became violent. The SO had her left arm and she was grounded by him. WO #1 handcuffed her hands behind her back. The Complainant’s feet were previously cut from walking through broken glass she had smashed from the entry door leading to the interior of the residence.

The Complainant was transported to 13 Division and then to the Humber River Regional Hospital for treatment of the cuts to her feet. At the hospital, she complained of a sore left arm. She was treated by the emergency physician who made an appointment for her to return to the fracture clinic on August 20, 2018. She returned at the appointed time with police officers and saw an orthopedic surgeon who advised that her left elbow was dislocated and had a fracture. She was treated and returned to the police cells area at 13 Division and then to court at College Park.

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 3
 

Complainant:

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


Civilian Witnesses

CW #1 Not interviewed (Next-of-kin)
CW #2 Interviewed
 

Witness Officers

WO #1 Interviewed
WO #2 Interviewed
WO #3 Interviewed
WO #4 Interviewed
WO #5 Interviewed


Subject Officers

SO Interviewed, but declined to submit notes, as is the subject officer’s legal right.




Evidence

The Scene

The scene of the arrest was limited to the living room area floor of a residence occupied by the Complainant and her spouse, and their infant daughter. The flooring material was of wood laminate partially covered with an area rug. The area where the Complainant was arrested had fresh blood stains and droplets from the laceration of her foot.

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence


TPS ICCS Interview of the Complainant’s Spouse


The Complainant’s spouse was interviewed in the rear of a TPS vehicle at the scene of the incident shortly after the Complainant had been arrested and transported to hospital for treatment of her injuries. He provided a detailed account of the events preceding the assault and the assault that the Complainant allegedly perpetrated on him, noting that his wife stumbled and fell prior to police arrival and that at one point he had to forcefully push his wife to repel her. 

TPS Booking Hall CCTV Data


During the audio and video recorded booking process at TPS 13 Division with the Complainant standing between the SO and WO #1, the officer standing to the right of the Complainant [now known to be WO #1] in summarizing for the booking sergeant at 10:38:24 p.m., states: “She sustained an injury to her foot prior to police involvement. She had stepped on some of the glass from the broken window as well as a prior arm injury or, I don’t know…”

The Complainant interrupted the officer saying, “Well, can I, can I, am I allowed to talk, or?”
She looked to her left at the officer standing to her left [now known to be the SO] who interrupted her, saying, “The evidence first,” and as the Complainant interrupted him and over-talked him says, “Based…ah…yeah sure.”

As she was speaking, WO #1 again spoke at the same time as the Complainant was speaking, saying, “So she has a possible fractured arm, her, you know, forearm, so ah, she’ll clarify tomorrow if it’s actually fractured at the hospital…again she says it’s unrelated to the arrest but from prior.”

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the TPS:
  • 911 and communications audio recordings;
  • Event Details Report;
  • General Occurrence Report;
  • In-Car Camera System (ICCS) data;
  • Injury Report;
  • Notes of the witness officers;
  • Photographs of arrest scene;
  • Procedure-Arrest;
  • Procedure -Use of Force;
  • Training Record (UOF)-the SO
  • Undertaking given to a Judge-the Complainant (rec'd from TPS);
  • Video-recorded interview of the Complainant’s spouse; and
  • Witness List.

Incident Narrative

The events surrounding the Complainant’s arrest are relatively clear on the weight of the reliable evidence. Shortly after 7:00 p.m., the SO and his partner, WO #1, arrived at an address on Winona Drive. They were there in response to a call to police from the Complainant’s husband reporting a domestic disturbance involving his wife. The SO and WO #1 met the Complainant’s husband outside the residence on their arrival. He told the officers that his wife was inebriated, having consumed a half bottle of gin, and had smashed the lower glass pane of their entrance door before turning to attack him. He further indicated that the Complainant was inside their home with their young infant daughter.

The SO and WO #1 entered the residence to find the Complainant asleep on a couch with her daughter lying on top of her. She was woken by the officers, told she was under arrest for assaulting her husband, and asked to get dressed; she was only wearing a T-shirt at the time. The SO took her daughter and provided the child to the Complainant’s husband, who was waiting outside. The Complainant went to her bedroom, put on a pair of shorts and returned to face the officers. She became irate with the situation and insisted she was not leaving. With her hands clenched, the Complainant advanced quickly on the officers, prompting them to each take hold of one of her arms. The SO grabbed her left wrist and forced the Complainant to the floor as WO #1 did the same from the Complainant’s right side. The Complainant squirmed and struggled to an extent, but the officers were able to wrestle her arms behind her back in fairly short order and secure them in handcuffs.

Following the Complainant’s arrest, she was taken to the police station and, from there, promptly to the hospital. She had sustained cuts to her right foot from the glass she had earlier shattered in her residence. While at the hospital, the Complainant was advised that her left elbow had also been fractured.

Relevant Legislation

Section 25(1), Criminal Code -- Protection of persons acting under authority

25 (1) Every one who is required or authorized by law to do anything in the administration or enforcement of the law
(a) as a private person,
(b) as a peace officer or public officer,
(c) in aid of a peace officer or public officer, or
(d) by virtue of his office,
is, if he acts on reasonable grounds, justified in doing what he is required or authorized to do and in using as much force as is necessary for that purpose.

Analysis and Director's Decision

The Complainant was arrested by TPS officers inside her home in the evening of August 19, 2018. Following her arrest, the Complainant was taken to hospital and diagnosed with a fracture to her left elbow. One of the arresting officers, the SO, had hold of the Complainant’s left arm during her arrest and may have caused or contributed to the injury. Upon review of the information collected in the SIU investigation, I am satisfied there are no reasonable grounds to believe the SO committed a criminal offence in connection with the Complainant’s arrest and injury.

Pursuant to section 25(1) of the Criminal Code, police officers are restricted in the force they may use in the course of their duties to that which is reasonably necessary in the execution of an act they are required or authorized to do by law. In this instance, that act was the Complainant’s arrest, and it was authorized by law. Having spoken to the Complainant’s husband, who explained to the SO and WO #1 the details of the day’s events and the manner in which he had been struck by his wife, the officers were within their rights in seeking to take the Complainant into custody for the crime of assault. Thereafter, I am satisfied that the SO and WO #1 did not run afoul of the limits prescribed by the criminal law in the force they used to effect the Complainant’s arrest. The officers had reason to believe that the Complainant had been violent towards her husband. Now confronted by the same individual, angry with what was happening and becoming increasingly more aggressive in her posture toward the officers, the SO and WO #1 were entitled to respond with some force. In my view, that force, consisting of the officers taking a firm hold of the Complainant’s arms and wrists, guiding her to the floor and wresting her arms behind her back to be handcuffed, was a measured and proportional response to the situation at hand. On this record, I am unable to reasonably conclude that the force used by either the SO and WO #1 fell outside the range of what was reasonably necessary.

In the result, while I accept that the Complainant’s injury might well be the result of the force used during her arrest, [1] I am satisfied on reasonable grounds that the officers were legally justified in doing what they did. According, there are no grounds for proceeding with criminal charges in this case.


Date: August 19, 2019


Joseph Martino
Interim Director
Special Investigations Unit

Footnotes

  • 1) There is also evidence to suggest that the Complainant’s injury occurred as the result of her physical altercation with her husband prior to the officers’ arrival. [Back to text]