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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 19-OCI-102

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

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On May 8, 2019, at 8:51 a.m., the Guelph Police Service (GPS) notified the SIU of an injury to the Complainant.

The GPS reported that on May 7, 2019, at 9:00 p.m., GPS officers arrested the Complainant during a domestic call. The Complainant was taken to the police station and during the booking was asked to remove her wedding ring. It was unknown at the time if an altercation occurred to cause the injury or how the injury occurred. At 11:52 p.m., the Complainant refused to be taken to the hospital by paramedics. At a later time GPS police officers took her to the Guelph General Hospital. The Complainant was diagnosed with a fractured finger and released back into custody. 
 

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 3
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 1 

Complainant:

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


Civilian Witnesses

CW #1 Interviewed
CW #2 Interviewed 

Witness Officers

WO #1 Interviewed
WO #2 Interviewed


Subject Officers

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


Evidence

The Scene

The booking area of the GPS.

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence


Summary of booking video


WO #1 walked the Complainant into the booking room. The Complainant was handcuffed with her hands behind her back and gibbering. WO #1 took the handcuffs off. WO #1 questioned the Complainant about her address, amount of consumed alcoholic beverage and employment. The SO walked into the booking hall and continued the booking process. He reminded the Complainant she was being video/audio taped and asked if she was aware she was charged. Also, the Complainant answered medical questions and informed the SO she had been diagnosed with craziness. The SO exited the booking hall and WO #1 continued the process. The Complainant tried to get her shoes back and WO #1 put them in a hallway. The Complainant began arguing and the SO walked into the booking hall. He asked the Complainant to calm down and explained she could not have her shoes in a cell. WO #1 informed the SO that the Complainant’s ring did not come off. WO #1 and the SO approached the Complainant. WO #2 walked into the booking hall. WO #1 and the SO asked the Complainant to show her hand. WO #1 tried to take the ring off and said it would come off. The Complainant began resisting by pulling her hands away and moving from side to side. The police officers stood the Complainant up. WO #2 grabbed her by the neck, WO #1 by the right hand and the SO by the left hand. The Complainant was seated back on the bench and the SO was trying to take the ring off her finger. WO #2 grabbed and immobilized the Complainant’s left palm, while the SO took the ring off. The Complainant was stood up by WO #1. The Complainant smoothed her hair with the left palm. She did not complain and was bending and unbending her left fingers. With the assistance of the SO and WO #2, WO #1 took the Complainant to a cell.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the GPS:
  • Custody Tracking Sheet;
  • Disclosure Log-May 17, 2019;
  • Disclosure Log-May 9, 2019;
  • Dispatch CAD from Details (x3)
  • General Occurrence Arrest Report and Property Sheet;
  • General Occurrence Arrest Report Breach Probation;
  • General Occurrence Arrest Report Disobey Court Officer;
  • Incident Report (Synopsis);
  • Notes of witness officers;
  • Policy - Arrest;
  • Policy - Search of Persons;
  • Policy - Use of Force;
  • Prisoner Property Report;
  • Training Records for witness officers and subject officer;
  • Booking video;
  • GPS photos of Complainant’s left hand; and
  • Witness Statement.

Incident Narrative

The circumstances surrounding the Complainant’s injury are clear on the information collected by the SIU. Following her arrest for having breached a condition of her conditional sentence, the Complainant was in the process of being booked at the police station when she objected to having a diamond ring removed from her finger. One of the arresting officers, WO #1, explained that it would have to come off and then attempted to remove it from the Complainant’s finger without success. The SO intervened and, with the help of WO #2, who managed to unclench the Complainant’s left hand, was able to pull the ring off. The Complainant was lodged in a cell. Later that day, the SO had paramedics examine the Complainant after she complained about pain in her ring finger. At that time, the Complainant refused to go to the hospital. At about 3:00 a.m. of May 8, 2019, the Complainant asked to be taken to the hospital, following which arrangements were made to transport her there.

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 on May 7, 2019 by GPS officers and taken to the police station where it appears she sustained a fracture of her left ring finger. The SO had dealings with the Complainant at the station and was identified as the subject officer in the SIU investigation. For the following reasons, I am satisfied there are no reasonable grounds to believe he committed a criminal offence in connection with the Complainant’s broken finger.

Pursuant to section 25(1) of the Criminal Code, police officers are restricted in the force they may use to that which is reasonably necessary in the execution of something that they are required or authorized to do at law. There is no question raised on the evidence that the Complainant’s arrest was anything but lawful. Having been subjected to a lawful arrest, the officers were also entitled to search the Complainant before placing her in a cell in the interests of her own safety and the safety of others. Specifically, I accept that the officers had good cause to wish to remove her ring as they believed, reasonably in my view, that it might be used to inflict harm. In this regard, it is important to note that the Complainant was significantly inebriated at the time. When the Complainant demurred, despite being told the ring would be returned to her, the officers were entitled to resort to some force to pursue their purpose. In the circumstances, I am satisfied that the force used by the officers, consisting of controlling her left arm behind her back and wrestling her left hand open while the ring was pulled from her finger, was measured, proportionate and reasonably necessary notwithstanding the injury to the Complainant’s injury. Consequently, there being no grounds to believe the SO, or either of WO #1 and WO #2, used excessive force, there are no reasonable grounds to proceed with charges in this case and the file is closed.


Date: September 13, 2019



Joseph Martino
Interim Director
Special Investigations Unit