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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 19-OCI-235

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 21-year-old man (the “Complainant”).

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On September 24, 2019, at 1:50 p.m., the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) reported that at 11:50 a.m., on September 23, 2019, the Complainant walked into OPS Headquarters at 474 Elgin Street and said he wanted to confess to a murder.

The Complainant was interviewed by the Subject Officer (SO), who soon realized that the Complainant’s story was fictitious. The SO asked the Complainant to leave, but he refused. The SO became involved in a physical struggle with the Complainant and was assisted by Witness Officer (WO) #1. The Complainant was arrested for trespassing and lodged in a cell. At 7:46 p.m., on September 23, 2019, the Complainant was interviewed by another OPS investigator on an unrelated domestic assault matter and complained of a facial injury. The Complainant was taken to the Montfort Hospital and found to have a burst fracture to his right orbital bone. The Complainant was scheduled to have a show cause hearing that afternoon. 
 

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 3

Complainant:

21-year-old male interviewed


Witness Officers

WO #1 Interviewed
WO #2 Interviewed
WO #3 Interviewed
WO #4 Interviewed
WO #5 Interviewed
WO #6 Interviewed
WO #7 Interviewed
WO #8 Interviewed


Subject Officers

SO Declined interview, as is the subject officer’s legal right. Notes received and reviewed.


Evidence

The Scene

The scene was an interview room on the second floor of the police station at 474 Elgin Street, Ottawa.

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence

On October 9, 2019, the OPS provided the SIU with a copy of the two interview room videos related to the Complainant’s injury. The video files were corrupted and, on March 11, 2020, the file was de-bugged and the video played. The following is a summary of the salient portions of the videos:


Video #1

  • 7:23 [1] The SO and the Complainant enter the interview room. The interview room contains a small square table in the center with two chairs, one on either side of the table. The Complainant is seated to the left side of the video, and the SO sits on the right side. At some point the Complainant pulls up his hoodie hat and covers his head;
  • 16:15 The SO gets up to leave the room and the Complainant remains seated. The SO appears to be motioning to the Complainant to leave the interview room; and
  • 17:07 The Complainant leaves the interview room.


Video #2

  •  2:12 The SO and the Complainant return to the interview room. The Complainant sits in the chair to the left and the SO in the chair to the right;
  • 2:29 The SO leaves the interview room and the Complainant is alone;
  • 3:40 The SO returns to the interview room and it appears that the SO and the Complainant are talking;
  • 18:10 The Complainant sits forward and puts his head down onto the table;
  • 19:42 The Complainant sits up momentarily and removes the hoodie from over his head;
  • 20:19 The SO gets up out of his chair;
  • 21:02 The SO moves toward the door;
  • 21:18 A female officer [believed to be WO #2] enters the interview room to assist the SO;
  • 21:43 The Complainant is seated and the SO grabs a hold of the Complainant’s hoodie in the right shoulder area. The SO pulls the Complainant and the chair the Complainant is seated on falls over and the Complainant falls to the floor.
  • 21:49 The SO and the Complainant go off video;
  • 23:21 The Complainant and the SO are back on video and the SO is holding the Complainant up against the wall. WO #2 and WO #3 appear on screen;
  • 26:33 The SO lets go of the Complainant;
  • 28:12 The SO takes a hold of the Complainant’s right forearm;
  • 28:21 The Complainant sits down on the floor;
  • 30:50 A second male officer [believed to be WO #5] arrives in the interview room;
  • 30:54 The SO and WO #5 each take a hold of the Complainant’s arms and attempt to pick the Complainant up;
  • 30:57 WO #2 and WO #3 grab a hold of the Complainant’s feet and the officers attempt to carry the Complainant out of the interview room. The Complainant is struggling and he is rolled from a seated position onto his stomach. The Complainant’s head is towards the back wall;
  • 31:31 An undesignated officer arrives in the interview room;
  • 31:50 The Complainant continues to struggle, and he is spun around with his head closer to the door;
  • 32:33 The Complainant is picked up and is handcuffed behind the back;
  • 32:42 All officers go off screen, and out of the interview room;
  • 36:06 The undesignated officer returns to the empty interview room and retrieves notebooks; and
  • 49:25 The lights in the interview room go off.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the OPS:
  • Computer-Assisted Dispatch;
  • Investigative Action of WO #1, WO #2, WO #3, WO #4, WO #5, WO #6 and WO #7;
  • Narrative Report of WO #8;
  • Briefing of WO #6; and
  • Notes of the WOs and SO.

Incident Narrative

The material events in question are apparent on the weight of the evidence gathered by the SIU, which included interviews with the Complainant and several witness officers who were present at the time of the arrest, as well as a video recording that captured much of the Complainant’s arrest in the police station. In the afternoon of September 23, 2019, the Complainant was inside an interview room on the second floor of the station when he was asked to leave by the SO. The officer had become incredulous of the Complainant’s purported involvement in an alleged homicide and wished to end their interaction. The Complainant had arrived at the station looking to confess to a “murder”.

The Complainant refused to leave the interview room despite the SO’s repeated direction that he do so. WO #2 arrived to assist the SO. Her attempts to have the Complainant leave were similarly ineffective. It was made clear that the Complainant would be arrested for trespassing if he persisted, but still he did not leave. The SO took hold of the Complainant’s jacket, at which point the Complainant fell to the floor and struggled against the officers’ efforts to have him handcuffed. WO #3, WO #4 and WO #5 joined in the struggle. In the course of the altercation, the SO delivered a single punch to the Complainant’s face, following which the Complainant was handcuffed, removed from the room and taken to the basement to be booked prior to being lodged in a cell.

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 September 23, 2019, the Complainant sustained a fracture of his right orbital bone while being arrested in the OPS police station at 474 Elgin Street, Ottawa. The SO, one of the arresting officers, was identified as the subject officer for purposes of 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. The SO, having grown tired of the Complainant’s persistent refusal to talk about the murder he had allegedly come to confess, was entitled to ask him to leave the station. Thereafter, when the Complainant repeatedly refused to do so, the officer was within his rights in seeking to arrest him for trespassing under section 9(1) of the Trespass to Property Act.

The Complainant resisted the officers’ efforts to take him into custody and was met with a measure of force, which, in the main, consisted of the SO and a number of officers wrestling with the Complainant seeking to control his arms so he could be handcuffed. The only strike of any note was delivered by the SO – a punch delivered to the face of the Complainant. I am satisfied that the punch broke the Complainant’s orbital bone. I am unable to reasonably, conclude, however, that it was excessive in the circumstances. By the time the SO delivered the blow, the Complainant’s dogged and protracted resistance had managed to prevent a handful of officers from subduing him sufficiently to affix the handcuffs. Once the blow was struck, the officers were able to secure his arms and complete the process. No further force was used after the Complainant was in handcuffs.

I am cognizant of the allegation that the SO struck the Complainant after he had been handcuffed but am unable to place any weight on it. None of the witness officers who were present at the time indicate that they observed such a blow, and the assertion is belied by an expression of acute pain conveyed by the Complainant during the altercation, strongly suggesting the punch was struck before he was handcuffed.

In the final analysis, as I am satisfied on reasonable grounds that the force used by the SO was justifiable force in aid of a lawful arrest, there is no basis for proceeding with charges against the officer and the file is closed.


Date: June 1, 2020

Electronically approved by

Joseph Martino
Director
Special Investigations Unit

Footnotes

  • 1) Times listed indicate the minutes and seconds into the recording when the event occurred. [Back to text]