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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 19-PCI-166

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 46-year-old man (the “Complainant”).

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On July 12, 2019, at 9:10 p.m., the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) contacted the SIU and reported an injury to the Complainant.

The OPP advised that on July 12, 2019, at 5:26 p.m., the OPP was called to assist Huron County Paramedic Services (EMS) with an uncooperative patient, the Complainant, in Vanastra. The Complainant had taken a fall in his home. His family, fearing he had suffered a stroke, called 911. When paramedics arrived at the residence, they found the Complainant in a highly intoxicated state and he was combative and belligerent. The paramedics called for the assistance of the police. When the police officers arrived, they found the Complainant on the floor in his residence making comments about harming himself. The police officers decided to apprehend the Complainant under the Mental Health Act (MHA) and went to handcuff him. The Complainant was compliant with the police officers but, as they attempted to handcuff his hands behind his back, they heard a popping sound and he complained of pain in his shoulder. The Complainant was then handcuffed with his hands to the front of his body and he was transported by ambulance to Clinton Public Hospital (CPH). The Complainant was examined at CPH and it was determined he had suffered a fracture to his right shoulder. Due to his state of intoxication no assessment of the Complainant under the MHA was conducted. 

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 2
 

Complainant:

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


Civilian Witnesses

CW #1 Interviewed
CW #2 Interviewed
CW #3 Interviewed
CW #4 Interviewed 

Witness Officers

WO Interviewed


Subject Officers

SO Interviewed, and notes received and reviewed


Evidence

The Scene

The Complainant fell and was apprehended in the kitchen area of a house located in Vanastra. The scene was not held, and no examination was conducted of the kitchen.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the OPP:
  • Computer-Assisted Dispatch Event Details;
  • Notes of the SO and WO; and
  • Occurrence Report.

Materials obtained from Other Sources

SIU investigators also obtained and reviewed the following materials:
  • Medical Records from CPH, London Health Sciences Centre and the Complainant’s family doctor;
  • Ambulance Call Report; and
  • Photograph of X-ray (x2).

Incident Narrative

Following an investigation by SIU investigators, which consisted of interviewing five civilian and two police witnesses, including the complainant and the SO, the following facts were established on the weight of the reliable evidence.

While hospitalized in 2018, the Complainant had injured his right shoulder. On July 12, 2019, the Complainant had fallen onto the floor in the kitchen of his home and was unable to get up. His family was concerned that the Complainant had fallen as a result of a possible stroke and EMS were called to the home. Upon the arrival of the paramedics, the Complainant became belligerent and ordered the paramedics to leave his home. The paramedics did so and then contacted police to attend.

The WO and the SO, of the OPP, attended in response to the call; neither officer was made aware of the Complainant’s prior medical history. Upon the arrival of police, the Complainant was found to be lying on his stomach on the floor of the kitchen, on his right side, propping himself up with his left arm. The Complainant ordered police to leave his home indicating that he wished to be left to die. Due to the Complainant’s condition (he was on the floor and could not get up) and his threats of wanting to die, the WO determined that the Complainant was unable to care for himself and would be apprehended under the MHA.

The WO informed the Complainant of his intention and then moved toward the Complainant and took control of his left wrist. The Complainant resisted, and the WO placed his knee onto the Complainant’s left leg, following which the Complainant immediately stopped resisting and the WO placed the Complainant’s left hand behind his back. The SO then assisted and took the Complainant’s right hand and attempted to place it behind his back, in order to allow the Complainant to be handcuffed. The Complainant immediately complained. The SO then tried a second time and the Complainant complained again. The SO commented that he had heard a popping sound.

As soon as the officers became aware that there was a problem, they immediately stopped, and the Complainant was then cuffed to the front and transported to the hospital. There is no indication that any police officer, at any time, resorted to any other force against the Complainant.

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

On July 12, 2019, police were called to a residence in the Community of Vanastra, in Huron County, to assist paramedics who had attended to provide medical assistance to the Complainant. He had fallen and was believed to have possibly suffered a stroke. Upon the arrival of police, they found the Complainant to be highly intoxicated, combative, and belligerent. When the Complainant began making statements that he wished to be left alone to die, it was decided that he would be apprehended under the MHA. Following his apprehension, he was transported to hospital where he was diagnosed as having sustained a fracture to his right shoulder.

The medical evidence appears to indicate that the actions of the SO are not likely to have caused the injury to the Complainant (leaving open the possibility that the Complainant was injured when he fell in the kitchen). Be that as it may, it is clear that the SO did not employ any excessive use of force, but merely acted in the course of his duties, which required him to handcuff a highly intoxicated, belligerent, threatening, and resistant male, in order that he could be transported to hospital to be assessed and treated.

Pursuant to section 25(1) of the Criminal Code, a police officer, if he or she acts on reasonable grounds, is justified in using as much force as is necessary in the execution of a lawful duty. In other words, the SO is protected from prosecution, pursuant to section 25(1), if he was acting pursuant to his lawful duties as long as he used only as much force as was necessary for that lawful purpose. In this case, it is clear that the SO, being totally unaware of the Complainant’s prior injury to his shoulder, resorted to the minimal amount of force in order to handcuff the Complainant.

In conclusion, I find that the evidence does not support a criminal charge in these circumstances, as the SO resorted only to the minimal force required to carry out his lawful duties, and nothing more.


Date: March 30, 2020


Electronically approved by

Joseph Martino
Director
Special Investigations Unit