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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 20-OCI-022

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 the injuries that a 31-year-old woman (the “Complainant”) suffered.

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On February 2, 2020, the Peel Regional Police (PRP) notified the SIU of the following:

On January 31, 2020, at 11:30 p.m., criminal investigation bureau (CIB) officers observed a stolen vehicle and began following it. The driver of the vehicle reportedly saw the police and took off. Shortly thereafter, uniformed police officers noticed the stolen vehicle and radioed its location to CIB officers.

The CIB officers began following the vehicle again, entering York region. In the area of 16th Sideroad and Dufferin Street, the driver lost control of the vehicle and hit a snowbank. The driver and the passenger, the Complainant and the Civilian Witness (CW), were subsequently arrested. The Complainant was taken to Credit Valley Hospital (CVH), where she was diagnosed with a broken right index finger.

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 3
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 2

Complainants

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


Civilian Witnesses

CW Interviewed

Witness Officers

WO #1 Interviewed
WO #2 Interviewed
WO #3 Interviewed
WO #4 Interviewed
WO #5 Interviewed
WO #6 Interviewed
WO #7 Interviewed


Subject Officers

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


Evidence

The Scene

The incident occurred at the intersection of Dufferin Street and 16th Sideroad. The posted speed limit on Dufferin Street was 80 km/h, while the posted speed limit for 16th Sideroad was 40 km/h. The scene was forensically processed by the SIU and measurements were taken for a scale diagram. At the time of the SIU forensic investigators’ (FIs) arrival, there were no involved vehicles left on scene. There were tire tracks leading to a minor impact in a snowbank at the northwest corner of the intersection.

An SIU FI attended PRP 22 Division and photographed all five of the involved police vehicles. There was no visible damage to any of the police vehicles. [1]

Scene Diagram

Scene diagram

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence

The SIU canvassed the area for any video or audio recordings, and photographic evidence, but was not able to locate any.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the PRP:
  • Event Chronology;
  • Involved Vehicle and Owner List;
  • Notes-all WOs; and
  • Occurrence Report for this incident.

Materials obtained from Other Sources

The following materials were obtained from other sources:
  • Ambulance Call Report;
  • Brampton Civic Hospital Medical Record for the CW; and
  • CVH Medical Records for the Complainant.

Incident Narrative

At approximately 11:31 p.m. on January 31, 2020, WO #2 observed a suspicious motor vehicle and he checked the licence plate, which came back as having been reported as missing. He followed the van at a distance while arranging for a uniformed police officer in a marked police vehicle to stop the van. A uniformed officer attempted to stop the van, but the Complainant fled from police. Thereafter, the vehicle was followed by several unmarked police vehicles containing members of the CIB. As the van entered the City of King, the Complainant lost control of the van and drove into a snowbank at 16th Sideroad and Dufferin Street. As the Complainant and the CW attempted to remove the van from the snowbank, CIB officers moved in to arrest them.

The SO dealt with the Complainant, while WO #5 approached the CW. When both parties began to physically resist, WO #7 moved in to assist with the arrest of the Complainant while WO #2, WO #6, WO #1, WO #3 and WO #4 assisted with the arrest of the CW.

The SO grabbed the Complainant, who was standing outside of the van, by the right shoulder of her jacket and pulled her to the ground while telling her that she was under arrest. Once on the ground, the Complainant tucked her hands underneath her chest and refused to give them up for handcuffing, while the SO yelled at her repeatedly to give up her hands. The Complainant was observed to be yelling, screaming, pulling away from the SO, and pushing up with her elbows while the SO was yelling at her to stop resisting.

At the same time, six other officers were dealing with the CW, with WO #6 yelling out that the CW had a knife on his person. The scene was described as dynamic and chaotic. The CW, who also had his hands tucked underneath his body, was kicking with his legs, flailing his arms, and resisting his arrest by the officers.

The SO, who was positioned on the right side of the Complainant on an angle, delivered three hand strikes to the Complainant’s right rib area in order to distract her enough that she would cease to resist and he could get her hands out. The strikes appeared to be effective and the SO, who had his right knee on the Complainant’s lower back, pulled one of her arms out from beneath her body. WO #7 then moved in to assist and both officers were eventually able to secure both her arms and complete the handcuffing process. The Complainant was picked up from the ground and moved away from the van.

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 January 31, 2020, CIB officers from the PRP were following a stolen motor vehicle being operated by the Complainant, with the CW as her passenger, when the Complainant got the vehicle stuck in a snowbank and the police officers moved in to arrest her and the CW. The SO dealt with the arrest of the Complainant, while other officers dealt with the CW.

Following the arrests, and while being booked at the police station, allegations arose that the Complainant’s finger had been injured and the Complainant was taken to hospital. Once at hospital, an X-ray was taken and the Complainant was found to have sustained a broken right-handed finger.

The SIU’s investigation into the circumstances surrounding the Complainant’s injury consisted of interviews with the Complainant and her passenger the CW, the SO, and seven witness police officers. The SIU also obtained and reviewed the medical records of the Complainant and the CW. There were no independent civilian witnesses to the incident, nor were any closed-circuit television recordings located which recorded the incident. From a review of this evidence, and for the reasons that follow, I am unable to find that the force used against the Complainant was excessive and therefore I have no reasonable grounds to believe that the SO committed a criminal offence in relation to the Complainant’s injuries.

Some evidence suggests that after the Complainant collided with the snowbank, she obeyed police commands to get onto the ground by getting onto he knees, after which the Complainant was pushed down to the ground by an officer, presumably the SO, where the Complainant was kicked approximately 20 times in the head and ribs. The Complainant, according to this evidence, put her hands up to protect her head and face, at which time she was kicked in the hand, causing her injury.

The incriminating evidence similarly suggests that the Complainant was screaming during her interaction with police at the snowbank, but that a police officer (presumably the SO) placed his foot on the Complainant’s jaw. This incriminating evidence further alleges that anytime the CW or the Complainant spoke, they got kicked in the face, and that the CW was hit between one to three dozen times, with the Complainant receiving more hits than the CW had received.

Despite the severe police violence that the incriminatory evidence suggests occurred, namely, that the Complainant was severely and brutally assaulted with dozens of kicks to the head and body, I note that her medical records do not support these allegations. The Complainant’s records disclose injuries that are limited to a broken finger. Certainly, had the Complainant been kicked to the head and body by several police officers, each of whom was presumably wearing shoes or boots, I would have expected to see much more serious injuries. Of specific note is that no bruising or other injury to the Complainant was noted by medical personnel. As a result of these inconsistencies, which seriously undermine the reliability of the incriminatory evidence, I find that I am unable to accept this version of events, which portrays the Complainant as voluntarily going to her knees despite the Complainant’s earlier efforts to evade police by speeding away. I find it far more likely, as consistently stated by each of the eight police officers present, that the resistance, which began with speeding off from a marked police vehicle, continued during the apprehension of the Complainant. I also accept that the police officers, following the attempted escape by the Complainant and the CW, would have immediately approached and taken the two parties to the ground forcefully, rather than waiting to see if they voluntarily went to their knees and complied.

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. The SO, acting upon the information that the Complainant was operating a motor vehicle which displayed a licence plate which had been reported as stolen and then, when a uniformed police officer attempted to stop and investigate the vehicle, fled, had reasonable grounds to arrest her for the offence of possession of a stolen motor vehicle. As such, the SO was acting in the course of his lawful duties when he arrested the Complainant.

While the assaultive behaviour described by the incriminatory evidence, if accepted, would be considered to be excessive and would form the basis for criminal charges, I find that it would be dangerous to rely on this evidence as the means to form reasonable grounds to believe that a criminal offence had been committed by the SO, or any of the police officers present for the arrest, as it is patently unreliable.

While it is possible that the Complainant may have sustained her injury when the SO took her to the ground, I am satisfied on the reliable evidence that the level of force resorted to by the SO was reasonably necessary in the circumstances in light of the fact that the Complainant was resistant throughout her interaction with police. I find that taking the Complainant to the ground was not excessive in the circumstances, nor were the three quick strikes to her torso area as she resisted the SO’s efforts to handcuff her. I am, accordingly, unable to form reasonable grounds to believe that the SO committed a criminal offence in connection with the Complainant’s injury. As such, no charges will issue, and this file is closed.


Date: June 1, 2020

Electronically approved by

Joseph Martino
Director
Special Investigations Unit

Footnotes

  • 1) On February 1, 2020, an SIU FI attended JA Towing for the purpose of taking photographs of a Ford Econoline. Upon arrival, it was discovered that the van had been released to the registered owner. [Back to text]