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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 18-TCI-234

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 26-year-old woman (the “Complainant”).

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On August 6, 2018, at 10:00 a.m., the Toronto Police Service (TPS) notified the SIU that a suicidal woman had jumped from a bridge, after having been earlier taken to hospital by TPS officers.

According to the TPS, on August 5, 2018 at 11:42 p.m., the TPS received a telephone call from a Peel Region suicide prevention hotline, reporting a female had threatened to jump from the Bloor Street overpass onto Highway 427. TPS officers and Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officers checked the area but could not locate the female. Her cellular telephone was “pinged” and at 12:18 a.m. the female was located on a bus near The East Mall. The TPS officers did not feel they had grounds to make an apprehension under the Mental Health Act (MHA) but they convinced the female, the Complainant, to go to the hospital. The police officers took her voluntarily to the Etobicoke General Hospital (EGH), arriving there at 12:28 a.m. The Complainant fell asleep and was not seen by doctors. At 2:38 a.m., the TPS officers left the hospital, while the Complainant was still asleep in an Emergency Department waiting room.

At approximately 5:30 a.m., the Complainant woke up and she left the hospital. She took a taxicab to Dundas Street at Highway 427 and she jumped from the overpass. She was taken to St. Michael’s Hospital and was determined to have suffered a broken back, broken pelvis and other injuries.

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 5
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 2

Complainant:

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


Civilian Witnesses

CW Interviewed 

Witness Officers [1]

WO #1 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed
WO #2 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed
WO #3 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed
WO #4 Interviewed
WO #5 Interviewed
WO #6 Interviewed
WO #7 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed
WO #8 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed
WO #9 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed
WO #10 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed
WO #11 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed
WO #12 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed
WO #13 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed
WO #14 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed
WO #15 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed


Subject Officers

SO #1 Interviewed, and notes received and reviewed
SO #2 Interviewed, and notes received and reviewed



Evidence

The Scene

Highway 427 runs in a general north and south orientation. The roadway is paved with marked lanes. Located just south of the Bloor Street overpass, in an area between the merging northbound collector lanes and the northbound express lanes, was an area of blood staining. Further to the north, under the overpass, was a long-sleeve T-shirt with visible blood staining.

Bloor Street runs in a general east and west orientation. At the overpass over Highway 427 there are three traffic lanes in each direction along Bloor Street, with a raised centre median. There are raised concrete sidewalks on both edges of roadway. At the outer edge of the sidewalks are concrete retaining walls topped with circular metal pipe handrails. The height of the retaining wall and handrail was measured to be 1.07 metres. The distance from the top of the handrail to the surface of Highway 427 where the Complainant landed was measured to be 7.6 metres.

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence


In-Car Camera Recording


At 12:18 a.m., the in-car video recording from WO #4’s vehicle started. WO #4 can be heard speaking to the Complainant in an encouraging manner. He addressed her with the name she had provided to the crisis intervention hotline. WO #4 told the Complainant she was not in trouble, explaining that police do not just arrest people, they help people. WO #4 explained he was going to give her to people with whom he works.

WO #4 explained to arriving police officers that the Complainant feared she was in trouble. The other police officers also told the Complainant that she was not in trouble. The other police officers explained to the Complainant they were going to take her to a hospital so she could see a doctor. WO #4 told two of the police officers that because they had done “the Hamilton transfer” they were “off the hook.” The Complainant was then walked over to a police cruiser and one of the police officers walking with her searched through her purse. The video recording then ended.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the TPS and the OPP:
  • Event Details Report (1st call for service regarding suicidal female);
  • Event Details Report (2nd call for service regarding jumper);
  • General Occurrence Report (x2);
  • The notes of all witness and subject officers;
  • A copy of the related radio and telephone communication recordings; and
  • In-car camera video from WO #4’s vehicle.

Incident Narrative

The events in question are clear on the evidence collected by the SIU. Just before midnight of the day in question, the Complainant found herself on the Bloor Street bridge over Highway 427 with intentions of jumping to end her life. Her suicidal ideations abated following a call to a suicide prevention hotline and the Complainant decided to return home on a bus. The police were alerted to the situation and dispatched officers to locate the Complainant. One of the officers, WO #6, managed to contact the Complainant on the phone and indicated he wished to speak with her. The Complainant agreed and arrangements were made to meet at the intersection of The East Mall and Dundas Street. WO #4 was the first officer to meet with the Complainant at about 12:18 a.m. From the inside of his cruiser, the officer spoke with the Complainant and assured her she was not in any trouble with the police. Other officers soon arrived, including SO #1 and SO #2. The Complainant explained she had changed her mind about jumping off the bridge and had decided to return home, but agreed to attend the hospital with the police so that she could be seen by a medical doctor. SO #1 and SO #2 were given the task of taking the Complainant to hospital in their cruiser.

The officers arrived at the EGH at about 12:30 a.m. and assisted the Complainant in the triage process at the emergency ward. It was a busy night at the hospital and the Complainant was assigned a private room where she could rest pending the availability of a doctor. SO #1 and SO #2 waited outside the room while the Complainant fell asleep. When a couple of hours had passed, SO #1 and SO #2 decided to leave the hospital while the Complainant was still asleep.

The Complainant awoke following the officers’ departure. She took a cab from the hospital and made her way again to the Bloor Street overpass over Highway 427, where she jumped off the bridge.

Relevant Legislation

Section 219 and 221, Criminal Code -- Criminal negligence causing bodily harm

219 (1) Every one is criminally negligent who
(a) in doing anything, or
(b) in omitting to do anything that it is his duty to do,
shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons.

(2) For the purposes of this section, duty means a duty imposed by law.

221 Every one who by criminal negligence causes bodily harm to another person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years

Analysis and Director's Decision

At about 6:15 a.m. of August 6, 2018, the Complainant jumped from the Bloor Street overpass at Highway 427 and landed in the northbound lanes of the roadway. She suffered multiple fractures as a result of the fall. Several hours before the incident, the Complainant had been at the EGH in the company of two TPS officers waiting to be assessed in relation to her mental health. The two officers were SO #1 and SO #2. For the reasons that follow, there are no reasonable grounds in my view to believe that either officer committed a criminal offence in connection with the Complainant’s injuries.

The offence that arises for consideration in this case is criminal negligence causing bodily harm contrary to section 221 of the Criminal Code. The offence is predicated, in part, on conduct that amounts to a marked and substantial departure from the level of care that a reasonable person would observe in the circumstances. Of importance in the analysis is the fact that the Complainant was never actually apprehended by the police, notwithstanding the language used by a number of officers in their notes suggesting that she had been. The Complainant was at the hospital voluntarily.

The question that then presents itself is whether the officers ought to have apprehended the Complainant under the MHA. Arguably, such a course would have committed the officers to a greater level of care over the Complainant. In my view, the officers cannot be faulted for not having done so. Though the Complainant had just threatened to end her life, she had contacted a suicide prevention hotline of her own volition and decided against jumping. In fact, by the time the officers caught up with her, the Complainant had been on a bus on her way home. In conversation with officers at Dundas Street and The East Mall, and at the hospital, the Complainant was by all accounts lucid and coherent. She answered the officers’ questions, assured them she was feeling better, and gave them no reason to suspect she was then at risk of harming herself. On this record, the officers’ decision not to apprehend the Complainant under the MHA seems to me a reasonable one to have been made.

In the final analysis, the Complainant was free to have walked out of the hospital as she did regardless of the officers’ presence. It might well be that SO #1 and SO #2 would have been better advised to remain at the hospital pending the Complainant’s assessment by a doctor. Certainly, had they done so, the officers would have been in a position to speak with the Complainant when she awoke or take such other steps that would have been appropriate at the time to ensure her safety. The fact that did not happen, however, is insufficient to render the conduct of SO #1 and SO #2, which in all other respects had been professional and caring toward the Complainant, a marked and substantial departure from a reasonable level of care in the circumstances. In the result, there are no grounds for proceeding with charges against either subject officer and the file is closed.


Date: August 26, 2019

Original signed by


Joseph Martino
Interim Director
Special Investigations Unit

Footnotes

  • 1) WO #1-10 are TPS officers. WO #11-15 are OPP officers. [Back to text]