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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 19-OCI-075

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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 16-year-old female (the “Complainant”).

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On April 11, 2019 at 7:05 p.m., the Belleville Police Service (BPS) contacted the SIU and relayed the following information:

On April 11, 2019 at about 1:19 p.m., BPS received a call from Emergency Medical Services (EMS) requesting assistance in relation to a suicidal young woman who had barricaded herself in a bathroom and ingested an unknown quantity of prescription medication.

Police officers attended the residence in Belleville and tried convincing the young woman to come out of the bathroom. When it became apparent the young woman was not going to come out of the bathroom, the police officers breached the door and a struggle ensued between the woman and the police officers. When the police officers grabbed the young woman’s arms in an effort to gain control of her, a ‘snap’ was heard and then the young woman immediately became compliant.

The young woman was subsequently transported to the Belleville General Hospital. The young woman was diagnosed with having a fractured arm.

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 3

Complainant:

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


Civilian Witnesses

CW Interviewed 

Witness Officers

WO Interviewed


Subject Officers

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


Evidence

The Scene

The bathroom was approximately six feet wide and eight feet long. The toilet and the sink were located to the right of the bathroom, while the bathtub was located to the left. There was a window situated directly across from the door. The SIU was provided with two photos of the bathroom shortly after the Complainant’s apprehension. One of the photos showed the bathroom door in the bathtub. The door was completely off the hinges. The other photo showed a small sink, with no surrounding countertop, and a toilet. The toilet seat was completely off the toilet and on top of a pile of clothes that were on the ground, just below the sink.

Communications Recordings

On April 11, 2019, at 1:17 p.m., BPS received information from EMS that a 16-year-old female [now known to be the Complainant] was suicidal and had taken a handful of anti-depressant medication and was also violent towards herself and others.

At 1:21 p.m., a BPS dispatcher requested that the WO and the SO attend the residence to assist the paramedics. At 1:23 p.m., the WO reported that he and the SO had arrived at the residence.

At 1:25 p.m., one of the police officers advised that “everything is 10-4” and that it was safe for the paramedics to go inside the residence.

At 1:33 p.m., one of the police officers advised that the Complainant had barricaded herself in the bathroom and that the door had to be forced open and that a struggle ensued. The police officer also advised that the Complainant was very agitated inside the ambulance and the Complainant could be heard shouting in the background.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from BPS:
  • Event Details;
  • 911/Communication Recordings; and
  • Notes of the witness officer.

Incident Narrative

The material events in question are not in dispute on the evidence collected by the SIU, which included statements from the Complainant, the SO and the WO, who was also present at the time of the Complainant’s arrest. At about 1:15 p.m. on April 11, 2019, the CW placed a 911 call to paramedics. The Complainant had ingested an unknown quantity of prescription medication and locked herself in the bathroom threatening to harm herself. The ambulance service contacted the police and asked for their assistance in dealing with the situation.

The SO and the WO arrived promptly at the address. The WO took the lead in communicating with the Complainant through the locked bathroom door. His repeated entreaties that the Complainant come out of the bathroom were met with profanity and statements from the Complainant that she wanted to die. The officers warned the Complainant that they would force their way into the bathroom if she persisted, and then did so when she continued to ignore their requests.
With the use of a BBQ skewer provided by the CW, the officers were able to unlock the door but could not open it; the Complainant had her back pushed up against the door forcing it closed. The WO eventually managed to overcome the Complainant’s resistance and force the door open, whereupon it splintered, came off its hinges and fell forward into the bathroom.

The officers encountered an angry and combative Complainant inside the bathroom. She screamed and cursed at the officers, and violently resisted their efforts as they attempted to secure her in custody. The Complainant flailed her body, kicked her legs and refused to surrender her arms to be handcuffed. The officers were eventually able to force the Complainant prone on the floor, at which point the WO placed a knee on the Complainant’s back to restrict her movement. After some further jostling, the SO managed to wrestle control of her arms and bring them behind her back to be secured.

Following the Complainant’s arrest, she was taken by ambulance to hospital where her injury was diagnosed.

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.

Section 17, Mental Health Act -- Action by police officer

17 Where a police officer has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that a person is acting or has acted in a disorderly manner and has reasonable cause to believe that the person,
(a) has threatened or attempted or is threatening or attempting to cause bodily harm to himself or herself;
(b) has behaved or is behaving violently towards another person or has caused or is causing another person to fear bodily harm from him or her; or
(c) has shown or is showing a lack of competence to care for himself or herself,
and in addition the police officer is of the opinion that the person is apparently suffering from mental disorder of a nature or quality that likely will result in,
(d) serious bodily harm to the person;
(e) serious bodily harm to another person; or
(f) serious physical impairment of the person,
and that it would be dangerous to proceed under section 16, the police officer may take the person in custody to an appropriate place for examination by a physician.

Analysis and Director's Decision

The Complainant suffered a fractured right arm in the process of being arrested by two BPS officers inside her home on April 11, 2019. BPS officer, the SO, was among the arresting officers and the one most likely to have caused the injury. On my assessment of the evidence, there are no reasonable grounds in my view to believe that 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 immune from criminal liability for force used in the course of their duties provided such force is reasonably necessary in the execution of an act that they are required or authorized to do by law. I accept that the SO and the WO acted lawfully in deciding to apprehend the Complainant for her own safety. The Complainant had barricaded herself in a bathroom having ingested a large amount of anti-depressant medication while threatening to harm herself and others. Immediate intervention was necessary in the interests of the Complainant’s well-being. In the circumstances, I am satisfied that the Complainant’s apprehension was authorized pursuant to section 17 of the Mental Health Act.

The force used by the officers in aid of the Complainant’s apprehension, furthermore, was commensurate in my view with the Complainant’s resistance: the door was forced open because the Complainant refused to open it and then pushed it shut after it had been unlocked; and, the officers forced her to the ground and used their superior strength to wrestle her under control because the Complainant violently struggled against the officers’ efforts to take her into custody. At no time was the Complainant struck with any kicks, punches, elbows or knees, nor did the officers resort to any weapons in the altercation. Rather, it appears the Complainant’s arm was broken during the grappling that occurred, more than likely when her arms were brought behind her back to be handcuffed. On this record, I am unable to reasonably conclude that the force used by the SO and the WO was disproportionate to the challenge they were facing and, therefore, excessive.

In the result, as I am reasonably satisfied that the force used by the officers was legally justified, there are no grounds for proceedings with criminal charges against the subject officer notwithstanding the injury inflicted on the Complainant. The file is therefore closed.


Date: November 4, 2019

Joseph Martino
Interim Director
Special Investigations Unit