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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 19-OCI-126

Contents:

News Releases for this Case:

French:

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

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On June 2, 2019 at 12:40 p.m., the Orangeville Police Service (OPS) notified the SIU that the Complainant had consumed drugs while she was in custody at the OPS headquarters and as a result she had been transported to hospital.

According to the OPS, on June 1, 2019 at 10:50 p.m., the OPS responded to an address in Orangeville for a suspected drug overdose. The address was well known to the police to be a common drug house. Paramedics tended to the overdose victim while OPS officers investigated the other occupants of the house. One OPS officer determined there was an outstanding arrest warrant for the Complainant and she was arrested at 11:18 p.m. She was transported to the OPS headquarters. While being booked into custody she admitted to having consumed both alcohol and crack cocaine. However, the Complainant was not in any distress at the time and so she was lodged into a cell.

At 1:51 a.m. on June 2, 2019, the Complainant was observed, via the cell video monitor, to be sitting on the toilet in her cell. She arose from the toilet and approached the cell door, where she produced a baggie which had been secreted in a body cavity. The baggy had a white substance in it. The Complainant bowed her head and was heard on the video to be snorting the white powder. She then lifted her head, looked into the camera and stated she had just ingested cocaine. There was white powder obvious on her face.

At 2:26 a.m., the Complainant was transported to the Headwaters Health Care Centre in Orangeville. Due to her unconscious state, she was then transferred to the Intensive Care Unit at the Guelph General Hospital.

At the time of the notification to the SIU, the Complainant was reported to be in stable condition. The OPS advised there was an OPS officer with the Complainant at the hospital. The OPS undertook to apprise the SIU if there were any changes in her condition.

The OPS provided the SIU a copy of the cell video that documented the Complainant consuming the white powder. The SIU did not initiate an investigation at that time.

On June 10, 2019, the Complainant’s sister contacted the SIU and reported that the Complainant had been on life support in the hospital for eight days. She was concerned that her sister was taken into police custody rather than being taken to hospital at the time of her arrest. The Complainant’s sister was aware that another individual in the residence where her sister was arrested had been consuming the same drugs as the Complainant and that individual was immediately transported to hospital. She also understood that the Complainant was able to ingest additional quantities of drugs while in custody. The Complainant’s sister was convinced her sister had been unsupervised while in custody and she believed her sister would not have been in medical peril had she been transported to hospital at the time of her arrest.

Given the updated information provided by the Complainant’s sister, the SIU then initiated an investigation into the circumstances of the Complainant’s arrest and detention.

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 2
 

Complainant:

36-year-old female not interviewed, [1] medical records obtained and reviewed


Witness Officers

WO #1 Interviewed
WO #2 Interviewed
WO #3 Interviewed
WO #4 Interviewed
WO #5 Interviewed


Police Employee Witnesses

PEW Interviewed


Subject Officers

SO Declined interview and to provide notes, as is the subject officer’s legal right


Evidence

The Scene

Cell 6 is a typical police custody cell. In one corner (left rear if looking into the cell from the hallway) there is a stainless-steel toilet fixture (with a sink at the top). On the right side of the cell there is a bunk. Outside the cell, to the right of the cell door, there is a door leading into a hallway of the police station. A security camera mounted across from Cell 6 recorded events in the area of Cell 6.

Forensic Evidence


Automated Vehicle Locator (AVL) Data – WO #2


On June 2, 2019, at 1:45 a.m., WO #2 was travelling eastbound on Broadway (the major thoroughfare through Orangeville). At 1:56 a.m., WO #2 was driving westbound on Broadway, having just departed from the area of the McDonald’s restaurant located on Broadway.

At 2:03 a.m., WO #2 became stationary at a location identified by the OPS as the area of Greenwood Construction (at the west end of Orangeville). [2] At 2:10 a.m. WO #2 was again in motion and at 2:14 a.m. he arrived at the police station.

He remained at the police station (at least until 3:30 a.m., the last data point reviewed by the SIU).

Communications Recordings

On June 1, 2019, emergency responders were summoned to an address in Orangeville regarding a male who was believed to be vital signs absent. The fire department arrived first and requested that the OPS dispatch several police officers due to the number of people at the address.

While police officers were inside the residence, a police officer asked the dispatcher to query the Complainant. The dispatcher reported the Complainant was wanted in relation to several shoplifting matters and there was a warrant for her arrest. The dispatcher reported the warrant had not been endorsed. The SO then reported the Complainant had been arrested and she was in his vehicle for transport to the police station.

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence


In-station Video Recordings


At 11:26 p.m. on June 1, 2019, the Complainant entered the booking room. She was dressed in a purple dress, a purple sweater and black underwear.

While speaking to WO #2, the Complainant appeared to be upset regarding her arrest, but she otherwise presented to be in a normal state of mind. She answered WO #2’s questions without difficulty as he went through the booking form. When questioned about alcohol consumption, the Complainant stated she had consumed a bottle of wine and four beers since noon. When questioned about drug consumption, she named several prescription medications she had taken during the day. When WO #2 started to read a notice to the effect that failing to disclose drug use might compromise their ability to provide assistance, the Complainant stated she had consumed 40 dollars worth of crack cocaine.

WO #2 advised the Complainant that the cells were video recorded. He then instructed her that the SO was going to search her. The Complainant protested, stating a female was supposed to conduct searches on female prisoners. The Complainant was told there was no female police officer working that night. WO #2 explained they were allowed to search her, and he stated they were not going to “feel her up.” The Complainant stated it was “bullshit” that she had been arrested, given that she was the person who had called 911.

WO #2 showed the Complainant several documents indicating she was wanted by the police. While the Complainant debated with WO #2, the SO had the Complainant pull her clothing away from her body and shake it out (to allow any hidden contraband to fall). He also had her pull her dress up so he could visually inspect her underwear.

During the booking process, the Complainant was provided a privacy apron intended to provide her privacy while using the toilet. It was a poncho-style garment made of paper.

At 11:49 p.m., the Complainant was escorted to Cell 6 by the SO and lodged in the cell. Although upset with the circumstances, she was otherwise displaying no health issues.

At 12:05 a.m. on June 2, 2019, the PEW came to the cell and made sure the Complainant was alright. He told her that he would keep her updated on matters.

The Complainant paced around the cell. She yawned frequently.

At 12:19 a.m., the PEW asked the Complainant if she wanted to get her fingerprints done at that time and he escorted her out of the cell. While the Complainant had her fingerprints and photograph taken, she displayed no issues with her ability to walk and communicate. At 12:26 a.m. she was returned to the cell.

The Complainant continued to pace around the cell. The PEW spoke to her at the cell at 12:46 a.m. and 1:00 a.m.

At approximately 1:01 a.m., a male prisoner was taken through the sally port and into the police station.

At 1:01 a.m., the SO entered the cell area and advised the Complainant there was a probation order in effect that required her to attend court. He advised the Complainant that she was going to be charged with failing to comply with the probation order. The SO advised the Complainant that she would be taken to WASH (weekend and statutory holiday) court in the morning, given that it was Friday night. The Complainant said something about Monday, and the SO responded, “No, that’s what we’re doing.” He then departed the cell area.

The Complainant became upset and started yelling profanities. She paced about the cell while continuing to yell profanities. At 1:06 a.m., she punched the walls of the cell. She then started to yell about calling a lawyer. At 1:11 a.m., someone opened the nearby door to the hallway and told the Complainant to stop yelling. He asked her if she wanted to call a lawyer and at 1:12 a.m. the door closed.

The Complainant then started to yell at another person in custody. As the Complainant paced around the cell, she yelled profanities at the other person in custody. She and the other person in custody engaged in continued yelling at each other. At 1:15 a.m., the Complainant started to kick at the cell walls.

At 1:29 a.m., the PEW entered the cell area and tried to calm the Complainant, to no avail. He confirmed with her that she wanted to speak to a lawyer and at 1:30 a.m. he departed the cell area.

The Complainant continued to pace around the cell in an irate state. She continued to punch and kick the cell walls and at 1:38 a.m. she could be seen hitting her head against the cell wall. At 1:39 a.m., the SO came to the cell and told the Complainant to stop yelling. He asked if she had a lawyer and when she stated she did not, he said he would call duty counsel. The SO left the cell area, and the Complainant continued to yell at the other prisoner.

At 1:47 a.m., the Complainant was taken to a room where she was provided access to a telephone to speak to counsel. At 1:49 a.m., the Complainant exited the room and walked back toward the cells, followed by the SO and the PEW. The Complainant was again lodged in the cell.

At 1:50 a.m., the Complainant stated, “I’m gonna do some right now.” She then sat on the toilet, pulled down her underwear and at 1:52 a.m. reached between her legs, with the privacy garment across her knees. The Complainant then stood up and was holding a plastic bag which contained a white substance. She stepped out of her underwear as she walked toward the cell door.

The Complainant called out, “You guys want to (inaudible),” and she then inhaled from the plastic bag she was holding. She then turned toward the toilet and could be heard inhaling deeply again. She walked back toward the cell door and then turned toward the toilet again, stating, “Yah, watch this,” and she could be heard inhaling deeply again.

At 1:52 a.m., the Complainant walked over to the cell door. She was holding the plastic bag in her left hand and was wiping her nose with her right hand. The Complainant said to the cell camera, “Like it.” She then said, “(inaudible) big bag of dope,” as she popped something from the plastic into her mouth. At 1:53 a.m., the Complainant started licking the plastic wrap material. She looked at the camera and continued talking.

The Complainant paced around the cell licking the plastic wrap, making remarks about cocaine and getting high. She then yelled out, “Officers!”

At 1:53:46 a.m., the PEW entered the cell area and asked, “What are you doing?” The Complainant walked over to the toilet and flushed the plastic material down the toilet. The PEW asked her what she had in her mouth and the Complainant responded, “Cocaine.” The PEW exited the cell area, as the Complainant yelled that it was too late.

The Complainant picked up small pieces of the white substance from the cell floor and placed the material into her mouth. She paced around the cell and called out she had eaten cocaine and was going to go to jail high.
At 1:57 a.m., the Complainant removed her sweater. She started to move about the cell in a much more animated manner.

At 2:02 a.m., the PEW came to the cell and asked the Complainant a question. He then departed. The Complainant removed her dress and threw it to the floor.

The Complainant stepped up onto the cell bunk and she started to pick at her hair. She started stepping from the bunk to the cell floor and back, while pulling her fingers through her hair. The Complainant had by then put her underwear back on, but at 2:06 a.m. she stepped out of her underwear again. She continued pulling on her hair, as though trying to remove something from her hair.

The Complainant started yelling again, but her comments were hard to hear (due to the reverberation in the cell area) and it is unclear if she was yelling at the other person again or was hallucinating.

By 2:08 a.m., the Complainant’s behaviour was becoming more bizarre. She started screaming and jumping around the cell, as though there were mice running across the tops of her feet. At 2:09 a.m., the Complainant was running around the cell and she jumped up onto the cell bunk, as though terrified of something she saw on the floor of the cell. She also looked up toward the ceiling in a manner suggesting she was afraid of something she saw there.

At 2:12 a.m., the PEW came to the cell and asked the Complainant what she was doing. She responded there was something (inaudible) there. The PEW told her there was nothing there. The Complainant responded, “You’re just trying to fuck with me.” The PEW departed. The Complainant yelled toward the hallway door. The PEW opened the door, again told her there was nothing there, and he closed the door.

The Complainant continued to run around the cell and jump up onto the bunk. Her behaviour was becoming increasingly bizarre. She also continued to pull at her hair.

At 2:14 a.m., the hallway door opened and a male, believed to be the SO, said, “Hey [the Complainant].” He asked why she was naked. Her response was too difficult to make out. The male discussed the Complainant’s warrant and her charges, and he asked her to put her clothes back on. He then closed the door.

The Complainant resumed running around the cell in an agitated state. She also started pulling on the cell door. She was ranting, but her comments were hard to discern due to the reverberation in the call area. While repeatedly pulling on the cell door she repeatedly called out, “Guys!”

The Complainant ran around the cell as though something was chasing her. At 2:19 a.m., while standing at the cell door she called out, “I’m sorry, I’m really sorry.” She continued to apologize. The hallway door opened, and a police officer told the Complainant they were going to take her up to the hospital. The door then closed.

At 2:20 a.m., the Complainant slipped and fell to her knees. She then stood and continued to run around the cell in a highly agitated manner, as though terrified. At 2:21 a.m., the Complainant sounded winded and was breathing heavy.

At 2:24 a.m., the Complainant picked up her underwear from the cell toilet and she shrieked. She continued to run around the cell excitedly. At 2:27 a.m., she was lying with her feet on the floor and her back on the edge of the cell bunk, supporting her weight on the edge of the bunk. She was kicking her feet on the floor. She then moved to the cell door on her knees.

At 2:26 a.m., the sally port door opened, and an ambulance could be observed outside the sally port. At 2:27 a.m. a second ambulance arrived.

At 2:27 a.m., the hallway door opened as the Complainant was running around the cell. A paramedic’s gloved hand could be seen at the hallway door. At 2:28 a.m., someone asked, “What’s going on there, girl?” It sounded as though the Complainant responded, “I’m scared.”

At 2:30 a.m., a paramedic entered the cell area and stood in front of Cell 6. He tried to engage the Complainant in conversation, as she continued to pull at her hair. At 2:31 a.m., the Complainant was standing at the bars of the cell, bent over at the hips. The paramedics asked her, “[The Complainant], what did you take?” and she answered, but her response was difficult to hear due to the reverberation in the cell area. The paramedic repeatedly asked, “And what else?”

At 2:33 a.m., the paramedics started to bring their stretcher into the cell area. As they did so, the Complainant fell to the floor of the cell and started shaking, apparently suffering a seizure. Paramedics and police officers entered the cell and the Complainant was picked up and loaded onto the stretcher.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the OPS:
  • OPS communications recordings;
  • Custody area video recordings;
  • A list of OPS occurrences involving the Complainant;
  • Warrant for Arrest-the Complainant;
  • Arrest Report-the Complainant;
  • Prisoner Log - the Complainant;
  • General Report (initial overdose call);
  • General Report (summary of the Complainant’s failures to appear in court);
  • Notes of the witness officers and the PEW;
  • The AVL data for WO #2’s vehicle on June 2, 2019;
  • Supplementary Occurrence Report-PEW;
  • Supplementary Occurrence Report-undesignated officer;
  • Supplementary report re the Complainant speaking with Duty Counsel;
  • Will State-WO #4;
  • Will State-WO #5;
  • Procedure - Search of Persons;
  • Procedure - Prisoner Care and Control; and
  • Training records for the SO.

Materials obtained from Other Sources

The SIU obtained from other sources:
  • The Ambulance Call Report;
  • Written reports (e-mails) from the involved paramedics;
  • Medical records from Guelph General Hospital; and
  • Medical records from Headwaters Health Care Centre (Orangeville).

Incident Narrative

The following scenario arises from the weight of the evidence collected by the SIU. The Complainant was lodged in Cell 6 of the OPS station just before midnight on June 1, 2019. She had been arrested by the SO in a basement apartment in Orangeville at about 11:20 p.m. of June 1, 2019. The SO, together with WO #1, WO #2 and WO #3, had arrived at the residence in support of paramedics and firefighters responding to a drug overdose call. The Complainant had called 911 to report the overdose. While at the scene, the SO ran a check on the Complainant, learned that she was wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant, and took her into custody.

The SO transported the Complainant to the police station, arriving at about 11:30 p.m. She was paraded before WO #2 and asked a series of questions. In response to inquiries about alcohol and drug consumption, the Complainant acknowledged having consumed a bottle of wine, a quantity of beer, prescription medications and crack cocaine. At WO #2’s direction, the SO proceeded to search the Complainant by having her pull her clothing away from her body and shake it out (presumably, to allow any hidden contraband to fall). The Complainant was also asked to pull up her dress so the SO could visually inspect her underwear. When she demurred, arguing that a female officer should search her, WO #2 explained they were allowed to search her and would not “feel her up”.

The Complainant was lodged in Cell 6 at about 11:49 p.m. She had been upset with her arrest believing it unfair as she had called 911 to help someone in dire need. When advised while in custody by the SO that she would be held for a court proceeding in the morning, the Complainant became incensed. She began to kick and punch at the cell walls, at one point striking her head against the wall. At about 1:50 a.m., the Complainant sat on the toilet, pulled down her underwear and reached between her legs, thereafter standing while holding a plastic bag with a white substance in it. She began to inhale deeply from the bag. At about 1:53 a.m., she started licking the plastic wrap material. As she ingested the material in the bag, the Complainant repeatedly looked at the cell camera attempting to attract the attention of whoever might be monitoring the camera.

PEW, who was tasked with monitoring the Complainant, observed the Complainant on a screen in another room licking the bag and went to speak with her. The Complainant told him she had ingested cocaine. He then saw her flush the plastic bag down the toilet. Reporting what had occurred to officers in the Constables Room, the PEW was advised by the SO to inform WO #2. WO #2 had left the station to resume his duties on the road as the platoon sergeant. When contacted by the PEW, WO #2 directed that the Complainant’s condition be closely monitored. The Complainant’s behaviour deteriorated prompting the PEW to call WO #2 again; she had removed her clothing, was pulling at her hair and appeared panicked and delusional.

Back at the police station at about 2:14 a.m., WO #2 observed the Complainant’s behaviour from the video monitoring room and decided to contact the paramedics. That call was placed at about 2:19 a.m.

Paramedics arrived at the station at about 2:26 a.m. The Complainant collapsed in their presence, was loaded on a stretcher and rushed to hospital in an ambulance, departing the station at about 2:42 a.m. She arrived at hospital at about 2:47 a.m.

Relevant Legislation

Sections 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

 

Section 215, Criminal Code - Failure to Provide Necessaries

215 (1) Every one is under a legal duty

(c) to provide necessaries of life to a person under his charge if that person
(i) is unable, by reason of detention, age, illness, mental disorder or other cause, to withdraw himself from that charge, and
(ii) is unable to provide himself with necessaries of life.

(2) Every person commits an offence who, being under a legal duty within the meaning of subsection (1), fails without lawful excuse to perform that duty, if
(b) with respect to a duty imposed by paragraph (1)(c), the failure to perform the duty endangers the life of the person to whom the duty is owed or causes or is likely to cause the health of that person to be injured permanently.

Analysis and Director's Decision

In the early morning hours of June 2, 2019, the Complainant was in police custody in a cell at OPS headquarters when she ingested cocaine and fell into medical distress. The Complainant had been lodged in the cell following her arrest by the SO. Paramedics attended the police station and transported the Complainant to Headwaters Health Care Centre. She was subsequently taken to the Guelph General Hospital where she was placed on life support. The drug overdose appears to have left the Complainant with cognitive impairments. 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 medical condition.

The offences that arise for consideration are failure to provide the necessaries of life and criminal negligence causing bodily harm contrary to sections 215(2)(b) and 221 of the Criminal Code, respectively. As offences of penal negligence, liability under both provisions is predicated, in part, on conduct that amounts to a marked departure from the level of care that a reasonable person would have observed in the circumstances.

There is no doubt that the officers who had dealings with the Complainant during her time in custody were duty bound to care for her. Regrettably, it seems the care the Complainant received was not all that it could have been or, perhaps, what it should have been. Specifically, the circumstances were such that professional medical attention ought in my view to have been secured sooner than it was. The PEW was informed by the Complainant that she had consumed cocaine at about 1:53 a.m. Shortly thereafter, she began to exhibit symptoms that should have alerted the officer that she was lapsing into medical distress; she was pacing frenetically and acting delusional, and had disrobed. The PEW consulted the SO and was directed to contact WO #2. Following the second of such contacts, WO #2 returned to the station and called for paramedics at about 2:19 a.m. All told, about half-an-hour had elapsed from the moment the Complainant had consumed cocaine in her possession until the first concrete step was taken to arrange for medical attention. Arguably, this was too long. Arguably, the PEW, the SO and/or WO #2, each in a position to have acted of their own accord, could have made the call as early as 1:53 a.m., in the case of the PEW, or approximately 2:00 a.m. or shortly thereafter, around the time it appears WO #2 was notified a second time of the Complainant’s predicament and the SO was directed by WO #4 to call for an ambulance.

On the other hand, if the officers did not act with alacrity, they did not sit on their hands either. The record establishes that the Complainant was monitored closely throughout her time in the police cell. The PEW conducted regular physical checks and was quick to spot the Complainant licking the plastic bag, whereupon he went to inquire what she had done and was told she had consumed cocaine. The officer quickly advised the SO and, shortly thereafter, WO #2. He was told to continue to monitor the Complainant closely and update the sergeant if her condition worsened. He did precisely that and again contacted WO #2 moments later, prompting the officer’s return to the station. Shortly thereafter, WO #2 called for an ambulance. On this record, a level of diligence was apparent on the part of the officers as they considered their options in dealing with the Complainant.

With respect to WO #2, it also bears noting that he may not have been apprised by the PEW that the Complainant had admitted to ingesting cocaine. WO #2 makes no mention of being so informed until after the Complainant had been admitted to hospital. The PEW contends that he did tell WO #2, but he also says that he did so in person, which appears unlikely. Data downloaded from WO #2’s cruiser suggests he was on the road at the time, calling into question the reliability of the PEW’s account. The PEW’s failure to mention the cocaine ingestion, if that in fact is what occurred, is a mitigating factor in the liability analysis with respect to WO #2; perhaps he would have called the paramedics sooner was he put squarely on notice of a prospective drug overdose. Conversely, a failure on the part of the PEW to provide that information would magnify his role in the length of time it took to seek and obtain medical attention for the Complainant.

There is also the question of how it was that the Complainant was able to bring cocaine into the cell with her. The Complainant had been subjected to a search of sorts by the SO prior to being lodged in the cell, but, clearly, the search had failed to uncover the contraband. The bag containing the drug appears to have been secreted in the Complainant’s underwear, or anal or vaginal orifice. If the former, then there is reason to believe the search was substandard. Rather than actually laying hands on the Complainant to feel for any items, the SO conducted a visual inspection as he had her pull her clothing away from her body and shake it out. The SO’s circumspection may have had something to do with complaints from the Complainant that a female officer should be searching her. Be that as it may, the officers probably should have done what was necessary to ensure an effective pat-down search, at the very least, prior to lodging the Complainant in cells, even if it meant bringing a female officer in from another police service to conduct the search.

If, however, as seems more likely the case, the Complainant had hidden the bag in her vagina or anus, it is questionable whether anything short of a strip search or perhaps even a body cavity search would have sufficed to discover the drug. However, a strip search is an invasive and degrading technique reserved for cases where there are reasonable and probable grounds to believe it is necessary in the circumstances: R. v. Golden, [2001] 3 SCR 679. The circumstances justifying a body cavity search are even narrower. Though the Complainant had acknowledged consuming cocaine and a significant amount of alcohol prior to her arrest, she appeared sober, coherent and in good condition when she was booked at the police station. On this record, I am not persuaded that the officers had sufficient basis to conduct a strip search or body cavity search or, if they had, that they exercised their discretion unreasonably in refraining from performing such a search.

In the final analysis, while I am satisfied on reasonable grounds that the Complainant ought to have been subjected to a more thorough search and medical attention secured sooner than it was after she ingested cocaine in her cell, I am not similarly satisfied that the care exercised by the officers was sufficiently wanting as to deviate markedly from a reasonable level of care in the circumstances. I reach that conclusion with reference to what the officers did do to care for the Complainant and the extenuating circumstances associated with their omissions. The Complainant was checked regularly, and her possible ingestion of cocaine quickly discovered and brought by the PEW to the SO’s attention. Thereafter, the Complainant was monitored even more closely. Soon after WO #2 returned to the station, upon being notified of the PEW’s continuing concerns for the Complainant, paramedics were contacted. All told, medical attention was arranged for the Complainant within about 27 minutes of her cocaine ingestion; the delay may have been less than ideal, but it was not one out of all measure. The failure to search the Complainant more thoroughly prior to lodging her in the cell is not as easily excused; after all, she had admitted to consuming cocaine prior to her arrest. That said, the Complainant gave no outward indication of any ill effects from drug consumption, nor was it certain that the officers had the requisite grounds to subject her to a strip search or body cavity search. When these considerations are weighed in the balance, I am unable to reasonably conclude that the SO or the other officers who dealt with the Complainant transgressed the limits of care prescribed by the criminal law. Consequently, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges against any one or more police officer.

Before closing the file, I wish to address one further issues. On June 10, 2019, the Complainant’s sister, called the SIU and reported that the Complainant had been on life support in the hospital for eight days. She expressed concern that the Complainant had been taken to the police station after her arrest rather than directly to the hospital. Had that occurred, as the Complainant’s sister believed had happened in the case of the person in the same residence who had overdosed, the Complainant’s sister was of the view that her sister would not have been in medical peril.

The Complainant’s sister is correct that the person involved in the original overdose call had been taken straight to hospital. It also bears noting that arrestees who appear ill or in obvious need of medical attention are supposed to be taken directly to a medical facility pursuant to OPS policy. However, unlike the man from the original call, the Complainant did not appear medically unwell when she was arrested and taken to the police station nor had she acknowledged any drug use prior to being arrested. In the circumstances, I am unable to find fault with the SO’s decision to transport the Complainant to the station rather than hospital.


Date: February 10, 2020

Original signed by

Joseph Martino
Director
Special Investigations Unit

Endnotes

  • 1) SIU investigators met with the Complainant at the hospital. She had significant difficulty communicating and was unable to provide a statement to the SIU. [Back to text]
  • 2) According to the OPS, WO #2 frequently attended the McDonald’s restaurant and then attended this location during his lunch break. [Back to text]