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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 19-OCI-111

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

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On May 18, 2019, at 2:30 a.m., the Barrie Police Service (BPS) contacted the SIU and reported an injury to the Complainant.

The BPS advised that on May 18, 2019, at approximately 12:40 a.m., BPS located an occupied stolen pickup truck in the area of 36 Mary Street. Police officers attempted to block the vehicle; however, the driver, the Complainant, managed to drive past the police cruiser and accelerated, colliding with the front doors of the Hope City Church. The distance travelled was approximately 15 metres. After a brief struggle police officers were able to arrest the driver and take her into custody. She complained of a sore hand and was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) where she was later diagnosed as having suffered a fractured right thumb. 

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 3
 
Three investigators were assigned to this case. Investigators secured a copy of closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage obtained by the BPS from the premises at 36 Mary Street. The Complainant was interviewed by investigators and she provided consent for the release of medical information pertaining to this matter. Following consultations with the BPS liaison officer one subject officer and two witness officers were designated. The BPS had canvassed the area for witnesses and took statement from three civilian witnesses.

Complainant:

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


Witness Officers

WO #1 Interviewed
WO #2 Interviewed


Subject Officers

SO Interviewed, and notes received and reviewed


Evidence

The Scene

The scene for this incident was a parking lot located at 36 Mary Street. The parking lot was adjacent to the Hope City Church which was a single story building on the west side of the parking lot. As this was a scheduled response, the scene was not held or examined.

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence


CCTV Footage


A black GMC pickup pulled into the parking lot at 36 Mary Street and parked in a covered parking spot. The lights on the pickup were turned off. It was faced south and was obscured from the recording with the exception of the driver’s side hood. A marked BPS cruiser pulled into the parking lot with the exterior spotlight engaged and directed at the pickup. The cruiser pulled up to the front of the pickup and parked facing west with the hood angled towards the driver’s side hood of the pickup.

The SO and WO #1 exited the police cruiser and approached the driver’s side of the pickup. The lights of the pickup came on. WO #1 removed his ASP baton from his duty belt and appeared to strike the driver’s side window of the pickup. The pickup accelerated forward at a high rate of speed and struck a cement wall with the passenger side and continued, crashing the front passenger side into the front door and window of the Hope City Church building.

When the pickup initially struck the building the front wheels were pointed forward. After the impact with the building the front wheels were forced to the right thereby directing the pickup into the front of the building. Both police officers ran over to the vehicle which had stopped. The driver’s side window was broken and the airbag was deployed.

The driver’s side door of the pickup opened and the Complainant exited without assistance. The SO grabbed her right wrist and WO #1 grabbed her left wrist. Together the police officers guided her onto her knees and then onto her stomach. The SO knelt on the right mid-back of the Complainant and WO #1 knelt on her left mid-back area. She was handcuffed with her hands behind her back and did not appear to resist in any way.

The SO stood up and held the right hand/wrist area of the Complainant with his left hand and her upper arm with his right hand. WO #1 held her left armpit area. Together both police officers lifted the Complainant up to a standing position. The Complainant was escorted by the police officers to the back of the cruiser. A marked cruiser pulled into the parking lot and WO #2 exited and conducted a search of the Complainant. The Complainant was escorted to the back passenger side of the cruiser and sat in the back seat without assistance.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the BPS:
  • Copy of CCTV footage from 36 Mary Street, Barrie;
  • Civilian Witness Statements (x3);
  • BPS Arrest Procedure;
  • BPS Use of Force Procedure; and
  • Notes of witness officers and the SO.

Materials obtained from Other Sources

Investigators also received the medical records in relation to the Complainant’s treatment at the RVH.

Incident Narrative

The material events in question are apparent based on the evidence collected by the SIU, which included statements from all the principal players and a video recording of the incident captured by a surveillance camera in the area. At about 12:40 a.m. on May 18, 2019, the SO and WO #1 were on patrol in a marked cruiser traveling north on Mary Street when a black pickup truck caught their attention. The truck, which had pulled into the parking lot of 36 Mary Street, matched the description of a vehicle that had been reported stolen by the Complainant. The Complainant was indeed the driver of the vehicle. She had backed into a parking spot in the lot, with her front end facing south, when her vehicle was approached by the police cruiser.

With their cruiser facing west and stopped at a right-angle nose-to-nose with the pickup, the SO and WO #1 exited and walked toward the Complainant advising her she was under arrest. As the Complainant started her vehicle, WO #1 drew his baton and smashed the driver’s door window in an effort, he says, to extricate the Complainant from the pickup. The Complainant steered to the right and accelerated forward, narrowly missing the front end of the police cruiser. She continued to accelerate and struck the wall and front entrance of a church situated at the west side of the parking lot, whereupon her airbag deployed and her vehicle came to a stop.

The officers approached the pickup, opened the driver’s door and ordered the Complainant to come out, which she did on her own power. The Complainant then also went to the ground of her own volition and was handcuffed by the officers. An ambulance was eventually summoned to the scene and the Complainant was transported to hospital.

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 involved in a motor vehicle collision on May 18, 2019. The collision occurred moments after two BPS officers had approached her vehicle to arrest her. The Complainant was arrested after the collision and subsequently taken to hospital where she was diagnosed with a fractured right hand. One of the arresting officers, the SO, was identified as the subject officer for purposes of the SIU investigation. On my assessment of the evidence, there are no reasonable grounds to believe that he 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. Observing a vehicle that matched one that had been reported stolen and recognizing the Complainant in the driver’s seat as the person who was reported to have stolen it, the SO and WO #1 were in the lawful discharge of their duty when they sought to arrest the Complainant. Regrettably, the Complainant attempted to evade apprehension and drove the pickup truck into the hard wall and doorway of a nearby building. Before she could do so, WO #1 attempted to thwart the Complainant’s plans by breaking the window of the driver’s door with his baton and forcibly removing her from the vehicle. I am satisfied the officer acted reasonably in his efforts. Given his and his partner’s proximity to the pickup, and realizing that the Complainant had just started the vehicle, the officer was within his rights in adopting the course he did in the interests of everyone’s safety. Undeterred, however, the Complainant managed to escape, but only very briefly. Her pickup travelled a short distance – a matter of several metres – before colliding with the church wall. Thereafter, it is apparent on the evidence, including the video recording of the incident, that the officers used only moderate force in guiding the Complainant to the ground and securing her in handcuffs. On this record, there is simply no basis for reasonably concluding that either of the SO or WO #1 used excessive force at any point in their dealings with the Complainant.

In the result, whether the fracture to the Complainant’s right hand was incurred in the motor vehicle collision, which seems most likely, or caused in the course of her arrest by the officers, I am satisfied that the officers conducted themselves lawfully throughout. Accordingly, there are no grounds for proceeding with criminal charges in this case and the file is closed.


Date: November 4, 2019
Original signed by

Joseph Martino
Interim Director
Special Investigations Unit