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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 20-OCI-081

Contents:

News Releases for this Case:

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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 29-year-old man (the “Complainant”).

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On April 12, 2020, the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) notified the SIU of an injury to the Complainant.

The OPS reported that on April 12, 2020, at approximately 7:38 a.m., the Complainant called the OPS and asked for assistance in retrieving his dog from his parents’ residence. Further investigation revealed that the Complainant had been asked to leave his parents’ residence for being drunk and disorderly. When police officers arrived, the Complainant was waiting outside. He told the police officers his version of what was going on. When the police officers went to the door to speak with the parents, they told the Complainant to come back when he had sobered up. The Complainant became aggressive at this point and ran at his parents. The police officers intervened and grounded him. When he went to stand up, the Complainant said he had a sore right hip. Emergency Medical Services transported him to the Ottawa Civic Hospital where it was determined that there was a facture to his right hip. The OPS did not proceed with any charges, but the Complainant was issued a trespass warning for his parents’ residence.

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 3

Complainant:

29 -year-old male interviewed


Civilian Witnesses

CW #1 Interviewed
CW #2 Interviewed 

Witness Officers

WO #1 Interviewed
WO #2 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed



Subject Officers

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


Evidence

The Scene

The Complainant was taken to the ground on the lawn of a home on Rustic Hills Crescent, Ottawa, beside his car which was parked on the roadway outside his parents’ house to the north of the driveway.

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence

 

Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) Footage of Rustic Hills Crescent


At 7:38 a.m., two OPS police cruisers arrived and parked on the street. Two uniform police officers engaged in conversation with the Complainant who was on the front porch of the residence. The words were unintelligible. The police officers were standing in the driveway a few feet from the road. The Complainant walked toward them, speaking as he walked, then passed them and walked backwards, still speaking, and stopped near the left rear corner of his vehicle which was parked on the roadway. The SO walked to the house. WO #1 continued his conversation with the Complainant, standing approximately three metres away.

The SO walked out from the residence and stopped approximately two to three metres from the Complainant. They engaged in conversation for the next two minutes. The Complainant moved forward toward the police officers. Both police officers attempted to stop him, but he turned to his left along the passenger side of his vehicle. The SO took physical control and pushed the Complainant against the passenger side of his vehicle. The Complainant was visibly struggling against the SO’s efforts to hold him in place. WO #1 moved forward to assist. WO #1 delivered two knee strikes to the left thigh of the Complainant. Both police officers were holding an arm and yelled at the Complainant to put his hands behind his back. The Complainant refused to comply and said he was leaving.

The SO spun the Complainant around in a swinging motion to the right. WO #1 was still holding his left side. The Complainant fell forward to the ground with his head toward the house. The view of the Complainant on the ground was obscured by parked vehicles and his body could not be seen. Both police officers were bent over, above him. The SO was on his right side and WO #1 on his left. The police officers were still yelling for him to put his hands behind his back. The SO appeared to strike the Complainant and told him to give him his hands. It could not be ascertained from the CCTV footage if the police officers were kneeling on the Complainant or standing up bent over him. The Complainant’s mother was on the front porch watching. The Complainant yelled he was leaving, and the police were beating him up for no reason. CW #1 was standing directly beside the police officers and then walked out to the roadway and picked something up near the front of her son’s car (believed to be eyeglasses).

The police officers attempted to stand the Complainant to his feet. He yelled as if in pain and said the police officers had hurt his leg. He said his leg and his hip hurt. The police officers seated him on the ground. The SO walked to the front door with CW #1 and then returned to speak with the Complainant. He brought a chair from the house for the Complainant to sit on, but he declined. The police officers attempted to have the Complainant stand again; however, he screamed in pain and they sat him down again. An OPS sergeant and an ambulance arrived. The paramedics dealt with the Complainant.


Police Communications Recordings


911 calls


The Complainant called 911 at 7:27 a.m. on April 12, 2020. He requested the police attend because he wanted his dog from his parents’ home. He identified himself with his given name but refused to provide a surname.

The Complainant told the dispatcher that he had paid for the dog and he wanted it back. He added that if he did not get it back that someone would get hurt. When the dispatcher asked him to calm down, he apologized. The dispatcher advised the Complainant that the police could not force the parents to surrender the dog. He told the dispatcher it did not matter and to send the police and if they did not, he was going to hurt someone. He then hung up the telephone.

The second call at 7:38 a.m. was also from the Complainant. He asked where the police were and when the dispatcher asked for the address, he provided it and then told her the police had just arrived. 
 

OPS Radio Communications


At 7:41 a.m., the dispatcher checked on the well-being of the police officers who replied that everything was in order. An unidentified police officer requested an ambulance be dispatched. He reported that the Complainant claimed the police broke his leg and he could not walk. The dispatcher asked if the Complainant had been screened for COVID-19 and the reply was that he had. The dispatcher called Ottawa Ambulance Service and requested an ambulance. She reported that the Complainant claimed to have a broken leg and that he had negative screening for COVID-19.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the OPS:
  • Computer-Assisted Dispatch;
  • OPS - Arrest Policy;
  • OPS - Use of Force Policy;
  • Narrative Text of WO #1 and WO #2
  • Scene Photos; and
  • Provincial Offences Act Warning Ticket.

Materials obtained from Other Sources

Investigators also obtained and reviewed the following material:
  • CCTV footage of Rustic Hills Crescent.

Incident Narrative

The following scenario emerges from the evidence collected by the SIU, which included interviews with the Complainant, the SO, the other arresting officer – WO #1, and two civilian eyewitnesses. The investigation also benefitted from video footage of the incident captured by a surveillance camera in the neighbourhood. At about 7:30 a.m. of April 12, 2020, the SO and WO #1 were dispatched to Rustic Hills Crescent. The Complainant, who resided at the address, had been asked to leave by his parents and owners of the property. From outside the home, the Complainant contacted police for assistance in retrieving the dog from the house and indicated he would hurt someone if he did not get his dog back.

Once at the home, the SO approached the residence to speak with CW #1. She confirmed that the Complainant had been asked to leave the residence because of his behaviour overnight and explained that she was happy to provide him the dog once he was sober. From the driveway of the home, the officers explained to the Complainant, standing by his vehicle parked curbside in front of the house, that he was not welcome inside the residence and the dog would not be provided until a later date. That news prompted the irate Complainant to walk towards the officers onto the front lot of the home. The SO reacted by extending his right arm to push the Complainant backward. The Complainant took a step back, and then made his way parallel along the front lot of the home. As the Complainant did so, he was pinned against the passenger side of his vehicle by both officers who thereafter attempted to effect his arrest.

The Complainant resisted the officers’ efforts to secure him in handcuffs. After a short struggle on their feet, and two knee strikes by WO #1 into the Complainant’s legs, the SO forced the Complainant to the ground on the home’s front lot. The Complainant continued to resist on the ground and was met with a further hand strike by the SO and pressure applied by the officer’s thumb behind one of the Complainant’s ears, whereupon the officers were able to wrest control of the Complainant’s arms and restrain them behind his back.

Following his arrest, the Complainant complained of pain in his right leg. An ambulance was summoned to the scene and the Complainant taken to hospital, where he was treated for a fractured pelvis.

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 2(1), Trespass to Property Act -- Trespass an offence

2 (1) Every person who is not acting under a right or authority conferred by law and who,
(a) without the express permission of the occupier, the proof of which rests on the defendant,
(i) enters on premises when entry is prohibited under this Act, or
(ii) engages in an activity on premises when the activity is prohibited under this Act; or
(b) does not leave the premises immediately after he or she is directed to do so by the occupier of the premises or a person authorized by the occupier,

is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not more than $10,000.

Section 9, Trespass to Property Act – Arrest without warrant on premises

9 (1) A police officer, or the occupier of premises, or a person authorized by the occupier may arrest without warrant any person he or she believes on reasonable and probable grounds to be on the premises in contravention of section 2.

Analysis and Director's Decision

In the morning of April 12, 2020, the Complainant was arrested by officers with the OPS and suffered a broken right pelvis in the process. Among the arresting officers, the SO was likeliest to have inflicted the injury and was therefore identified as the subject officer in the SIU investigation. 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. Having been duly warned by the SO that he would be arrested for trespassing if he came back onto the property, I am satisfied that the officer had sufficient grounds to take the Complainant into custody pursuant to section 9(1) of the Trespass to Property Act when he walked defiantly onto the front lot of the home. Thereafter, I am satisfied on reasonable grounds that the force used by the officers fell within the range of what was reasonably necessary to effect the Complainant’s arrest. When grabbed by the SO and WO #1 and directed to put his arms behind his back, the Complainant refused to do so and struggled against their efforts to control his arms. In the circumstances, I am unable to fault the officers when, after half-a-minute or so had elapsed and two knee strikes had failed to subdue the Complainant, they decided to take him to the ground. In that position, the officers could expect to better manage any further resistance on the part of the Complainant. Once on the ground, the Complainant continued to refuse to surrender his arms and was met with a short right-handed strike to what appears to have been his torso by the SO and pressure applied by the officer’s thumb behind one of the Complainant’s ears – a pain compliance technique. The officers continued to grapple with the Complainant and were eventually able to affix his arms in handcuffs without any more blows having been delivered. On this record, I am unable to reasonably conclude that the force used by the officers was other than commensurate with the physical challenge the Complainant presented to being placed in custody.

In the result, while I accept that the Complainant’s pelvis was fractured when he was taken down or during the struggle on the ground, perhaps as one or the other officer placed a knee on his back to restrict his movement, I am satisfied that the SO and WO #1 acted lawfully throughout their encounter with the Complainant. Accordingly, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges in this case and the file is closed.


Date: May 25, 2020

Electronically approved by

Joseph Martino
Director
Special Investigations Unit