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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 19-OCI-089

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 48-year-old man (the “Complainant”).

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On April 29, 2019 at 5:20 p.m., the London Police Service (LPS) notified the SIU of an injury to the Complainant.

The LPS advised that on April 29, 2019, police officers responded to a motel on Dundas Street in London, Ontario regarding the Complainant, who was showing signs of mental illness. Two police officers struggled to apprehend the Complainant under the Mental Health Act (MHA). Force was used during the apprehension and the Complainant suffered an injury. He was taken to the London Health Sciences Centre - Victoria Hospital and after an assessment was diagnosed with fractured ribs and a collapsed lung.

At 6:33 p.m., the LPS reported the incident occurred in room 5 of the motel and it was secured by a police officer. 
 

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 2
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 1
 

Complainant:

48-year-old male interviewed, medical records obtained and reviewed


Civilian Witnesses

CW #1 Interviewed
CW #2 Interviewed 

Witness Officers

WO Interviewed


Subject Officers

SO Interviewed, and notes received and reviewed


Evidence

The Scene

The motel is a single-story motel complex located on Dundas Street in London.


Room #5


Room #5 has its entrance door facing the parking lot. There is a window that also faces out to the parking lot that had its curtains partially pulled back. The door to room #5 opened inward.

The room consisted of a small sleeping area and a separate bathroom area. There was a 4-drawer dresser in front of the north wall. One of the drawers was pulled out and placed on top of the dresser top. There was an empty closet in the northwest corner of the room. There was a small fridge with a 2-litre bottle on top of it in front of the west wall between the closet and bathroom entrance. There was a small 3-piece bathroom in the southwest corner.

There was a chair in the southwest corner of the main room. There was a small nightstand in front of the south wall and between the bed and chair. The nightstand was slightly askew and had a red stain on top of it. There was a double bed in front of the south wall. The bed appeared that it had been slept in with the bedding bunched. The bottom sheet of the bed had numerous blood stains visible. There was a picture on the south wall over the bed that was slightly askew. There was a wall radiator on the east wall that had its front covering off. There were no clothing items located in the room.

Communications Recordings

The communications recordings were reviewed and it was determined they had no bearing on this case since they did not address how the Complainant received his injury or by whom.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the LPS:
  • Narrative Text of the SO and the WO;
  • Notes of the SO and the WO;
  • 911 dispatches;
  • Procedure-Emotionally Disturbed Persons; and
  • Procedure-Use of Force.

Incident Narrative

The events in question are not in dispute and may be summarized in short order. Shortly before 11:00 a.m. on April 29, 2019, CW #1 contacted LPS to complain about the Complainant. Police officers were dispatched to the motel.

The SO and the WO arrived separately at the motel at around 11:20 a.m. They spoke with CW #1 and proceeded to room 5 with the intention of speaking with the Complainant. The Complainant refused to open the door and CW #1 let the officers in with her key. Once inside, the officers found the Complainant sitting on his bed. They attempted to engage the Complainant in conversation and were met with incoherent ramblings, which included a statement that he wished to hang himself.

Concerned for the Complainant’s well-being, the SO and the WO decided to take him into custody under the MHA so he could be hospitalized for psychiatric assessment. As the officers moved toward him, the Complainant grabbed a flashlight and began striking himself in the head with it. Thereafter, from a prone position on the bed, the Complainant refused to surrender his arms so that he could be handcuffed, at one point biting the WO’s right hand. The SO used his right leg to stomp down on the Complainant’s torso, at which point the Complainant released his arms and they were secured in handcuffs.

Following the Complainant’s apprehension, he was taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with a pneumothorax and involuntarily admitted for psychiatric examination.

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

In the morning of April 29, 2019, the Complainant was apprehended by LPS officers, and appears to have suffered a collapsed lung in the process. Among the arresting officers, the SO was identified as most likely to have inflicted the injury and therefore designated a subject officer. On my assessment of the evidence, there are no reasonable grounds 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 was reasonably necessary in the execution of an act that they were authorized or required to do by law. The Complainant was clearly not of sound mind when he was confronted by the SO and the WO. He was speaking nonsensically and made mention of wanting to commit suicide. In the circumstances, I am satisfied the officers were within their rights in seeking to apprehend the Complainant under section 17 of the MHA. Thereafter, I am satisfied the officers used no more force than was reasonably necessary to effect his arrest. This consisted in the main of grappling with the Complainant to assert control over his arms, and a single foot strike by the SO, which may very well have been responsible for the Complainant’s injury. The application of muscular power and a single stomp to the body were in response to the Complainant’s refusal to release his arms despite the officers’ exhortations that he do so and, in my view, not excessive. Following the foot strike, the officers were able to free the Complainant’s arms and complete his arrest. No further hostilities were exchanged.

In the result, while it may well be that the Complainant’s lung injury was the result of the force used in his arrest, [1] I am satisfied on reasonable grounds that the SO and the WO acted lawfully throughout. Accordingly, there are no grounds for proceeding with criminal charges against the officers and the file is closed.


Date: November 4, 2019

Original signed by

Joseph Martino
Interim Director
Special Investigations Unit

Footnotes

  • 1) The evidence gives rise to the possibility that the Complainant’s injury predated his encounter with the police on April 29, 2019. [Back to text]