Cruiser and motorbikeCruiser accidentRunners
thick blue gradient line

SIU Director’s Report - Case # 19-OCI-273

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 injury that a 46-year-old man (the “Complainant”) suffered.

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On November 17, 2019, at 11:58 p.m., the Peel Regional Police (PRP) reported an injury to the Complainant. The PRP explained that at 6:37 p.m., PRP officers attempted to stop a stolen vehicle by boxing it in. Two PRP vehicles collided with the vehicle that the Complainant was a passenger in. One of the PRP vehicles struck the stolen vehicle head-on, causing the Complainant to strike the windshield. The Complainant was taken to hospital and diagnosed with a fractured nose.

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 4
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 2

Complainants

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


Civilian Witnesses

CW Interviewed

Witness Officers

WO #1 Interviewed
WO #2 Interviewed


Subject Officers

SO Declined to be interviewed and declined to submit notes, as is the subject officer’s legal right.


Evidence

The Scene

The scene was located at the intersection of Main Street and Queen Street in the City of Brampton. Main Street runs in a north and south direction and Queen Street runs in an east and west direction, and both streets are controlled by traffic lights. There were eleven PRP cruisers at the scene and two were involved in the collision.

The black four-door Honda Civic was facing northbound in the southbound lane two. The driver and passenger airbags were deployed. There was a crack on the passenger side windshield. There was extensive front-end damage to the vehicle.

A black four-door Mazda 3 was facing southbound in the northbound lanes, several metres north of the Honda. It had severe front-end damage on the driver’s side of the vehicle.

A PRP cruiser was facing northbound in the southbound lane two. The front passenger corner had minor damage and it was in contact with the Honda.

A second PRP cruiser was facing westbound several metres west of the intersection. It had minor damage to the front right corner of the cruiser.

The items located on the ground outside the Honda Civic were Conducted Energy Weapon (CEW) wires and barbs, a piece of the CEW’s barn doors and several AFIDs (Anti-Felon Identification). It was noted there was blood on the ground on the passenger side of the Honda Civic.

Forensic Evidence

The CEW, (belonging to the SO), was triggered once at 6:45:21 p.m. on November 17, 2019 (resulting in a cartridge deployment and discharge duration of 5 seconds) and arced three times between 6:45:23 and 6:45:29 p.m., resulting in discharge durations of 3, 2 and 1 seconds, respectively.

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence


City of Brampton Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV):


The City of Brampton provided CCTV recordings of the intersection of Main Street and Queen Street for November 17, 2019. A camera was located at Brampton City Hall on the northeast corner of the intersection. The camera captured southbound traffic on Main Street North, north of Queen Street. A second camera located south of the intersection captured northbound traffic on Main Street approaching Queen Street. The recordings did not have a time stamp or audio.

The camera that captured the northbound traffic on Main Street, south of Queen Street, showed, at 4 minutes and 28 seconds into the recording, a black car [now known to be the Honda Civic] travelling north on Main Street in the centre lane of traffic followed by a PRP cruiser [believed to be driven by WO #1] with the emergency lights activated.

The camera that captured Main Street, north of Queen Street, showed, at 3 minutes and 56 seconds into the recording, southbound traffic stopped at a red traffic light. A PRP cruiser [believed to be driven by WO #2] drove south in the northbound lane with no emergency lights activated and then in the southbound centre lane in front of stopped vehicles, where it remained. At 4 minutes and 29 seconds into the recording, the same cruiser drove south into the intersection. At 4 minutes and 36 seconds into the recording, a PRP cruiser [believed to be driven by the SO] drove southbound in the northbound lane with the emergency lights activated and pulled slightly in front of a car [now known to be the CW’s vehicle] that was stopped in the southbound centre lane. At 4 minutes and 38 seconds into the recording, a black car [now known to be the Honda] struck the CW’s vehicle, pushing it back. Several PRP cruisers arrived. Several police officers ran to the black Honda.

PRP Custody Video:


The PRP provided custody video from PRP 22 Division for November 17, 2019 to November 18, 2019. There was no audio. At 11:54 P.M., a police cruiser entered the sally port and two police officers escorted the Complainant into the booking area. At 11:55 p.m., the Complainant was standing at the booking desk and the staff sergeant was talking to him. At 12:10 a.m., the Complainant was escorted to the cell area. He was lodged in cell Y2. He sat on the bench and then went to sleep. On November 18, 2019, at 10:51 a.m., the Complainant was escorted from the cell to a police cruiser.


Police Communications Recordings


Summary of Police Audio Transmissions


At 6:44 p.m., a communications supervisor advised the Duty Inspector that a stolen vehicle was being followed. At 6:47 p.m., a request was made for two ambulances to attend the scene. There were two in custody and both had been “tasered”. At 6:55 p.m., PRP called the ambulance to advise that 15 minutes prior, one of the men had taken fentanyl. At 11:41 p.m., the Duty Inspector called the PRP communications centre to advise that the Complainant had a fractured nose from striking the windshield.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from PRP:
  • Audio Copy Report – Calls;
  • Audio Copy Report – Radio Transmissions;
  • Event Chronology;
  • Involved Officer List;
  • Motor Vehicle Collision Report;
  • Notes – both WOs;
  • Occurrence Details;
  • Photobrief;
  • Procedure – Incident Response;
  • Procedure – Suspect Apprehension Pursuit;
  • Procedure – Stopping and Approaching a Suspect Vehicle;
  • Procedure – Criminal Investigations;
  • Procedure List;
  • PRP Station Video;
  • PRP Radio Calls,
  • Use of Force Report – both WOs;
  • Use of Force Report – the SO;
  • Data downloaded from CEWs used in the incident; and
  • Video Synopsis – the CW.

Materials obtained from Other Sources

In addition to the materials received from the PRP, SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials from other sources:
  • City of Brampton CCTV; and
  • The Complainant’s medical records.

Incident Narrative

Notwithstanding significant dispute in the evidence as to what occurred around the time of the Complainant’s arrest, I am satisfied that the record is sufficient to dispose of the criminal liability issues. At about 6:40 p.m. on November 17, 2019, WO #1, operating a marked cruiser, was following a stolen black Honda Civic. A plan soon took shape in which, with the assistance of other cruisers in the vicinity, officers would attempt a rolling block of the Honda.

With their emergency lights activated, WO #1 and other cruisers pursued the Honda north on Main Street toward its intersection with Queen Street. At the same time, WO #2, traveling south on Main Street, brought his cruiser to a stop ahead of a civilian vehicle – a Mazda sedan – facing a red light in the southbound passing lane. As the Honda moved into the southbound lanes traveling north, looking to get around vehicular traffic that had stopped in front of it, it placed itself on a collision course with WO #2’s cruiser. The officer reacted by maneuvering his cruiser to the left to avoid a collision. The Honda continued past WO #2’s cruiser and came upon the SO’s cruiser, which had arrived at the intersection traveling south in the northbound lanes of traffic. As the vehicles neared, the SO veered into the path of the Honda and the vehicles collided around the same time as the Honda crashed head-on with the Mazda.

Following the collision, the SO approached the front passenger door of the Honda and made demands for the Complainant to exit. The Complainant failed to do so in a timely fashion. Precisely what happened next is a matter of controversy.

Some evidence suggests that the Complainant was punched in the nose by an officer, breaking it in the process, before the Complainant was forcibly pulled from the vehicle, taken to the ground, and subjected to another punch and a CEW discharge before the Complainant’s hands were handcuffed. WO #2, who says he was present with the SO until the Complainant was extricated from the Honda, says that neither he nor the SO struck the Complainant in the car.

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

In the evening of November 17, 2019, the Complainant was a passenger in a Honda Civic involved in a collision with other vehicles at the intersection of Main and Queen Streets in Brampton. The Complainant was arrested at the scene and taken to hospital, where he was diagnosed with a broken nose.

The Honda was being pursued by several PRP officers at the time, who were planning to conduct a rolling stop of the vehicle. The SO was among the involved officers maneuvering to get into position for the stop when the accident occurred. The SO was also the first officer to get to the Complainant and effect the Complainant’s arrest. 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 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. At the outset, I accept that the officers were within their rights in taking the Complainant into custody. The Complainant was a passenger in a stolen vehicle that had fled with reckless abandon from the police and with complete disregard for the safety of others. The real issue is with the propriety of the force used to effect the Complainant’s detention.

With respect to the punch that some evidence suggests broke the Complainant’s nose, I am prepared to proceed on the basis that this evidence reveals what happened. Doing so, however, I am unable to reasonably conclude that the punch constituted excessive force. The Complainant was inside a stolen vehicle that had just blown through a red light and plowed headlong into a civilian’s car. Considered in context, the officers had every right to be concerned that the occupants of the Honda were a danger to the public and bent on escaping police apprehension. In the circumstances, I cannot fault any of the officers for having punched the Complainant and forced him to the ground when the Complainant did not immediately remove himself from the vehicle and surrender.

With respect to the force that was used against the Complainant once on the ground, while I accept that he was shocked by several CEW discharges by the SO’s weapon and punched, I am unable to lend much credence to the suggestion in some of the evidence that the Complainant did little if anything to warrant this kind of force given significant frailties associated with that evidence.

The picture that remains then, based in large measure on WO #2’s account, is of a vigorous struggle on the ground in which the Complainant refused to release his arms to be handcuffed and was met with CEW discharges and one or more hand strikes. In light of the highly charged nature of the event, in which the Honda had just placed at risk the lives of the officers and third-party civilians, and mindful of the common law principle that police officers embroiled in volatile situations need not measure their force to a nicety, I am satisfied on reasonable grounds that the force employed against the Complainant fell within the range of what was reasonably necessary to overcome his resistance and effect his arrest.

In the result, as I am unable on the evidence gathered by the SIU to come to a reasonable belief that the Complainant was subjected to unlawful force, there is no basis to proceed with charges in this case.


Date: June 8, 2020

Electronically approved by

Joseph Martino
Director
Special Investigations Unit