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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 20-OCI-038

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

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On February 14, 2020, at 3:50 a.m., the Peel Regional Police (PRP) notified the SIU of an injury a man suffered during his arrest.

According to the PRP, on February 13, 2020, at 9:00 p.m., a PRP officer observed a stolen vehicle in the area of Highway 10 and Queen Street in Brampton. The officer began following the vehicle and arranging for other units to assist. The vehicle turned onto Park Hill Court, which is a dead-end street, and struck a parked civilian vehicle. The PRP advised the stolen vehicle also struck the rear of a police cruiser at some point. The driver was arrested and removed from the vehicle with force. He was taken to Brampton Civic Hospital and found to have suffered a broken nose.

At the time of the notification, the driver had been released from hospital and was at the PRP 22 Division station.

The PRP identified the driver as the 46-year-old Complainant. The Complainant had a female passenger, identified as Civilian Witness (CW) #2.

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 #1 Interviewed
CW #2 Not Interviewed [1]

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
WO #9 Interviewed
WO #10 Interviewed


Subject Officers

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


Evidence

The Scene

Wellington Street West is oriented in a southwest orientation, branching off the south side of Main Street in downtown Brampton. Park Hill Court runs off of the north side of Wellington Street West. Park Hill Court is a very short street that ends in front of the Park Hill Apartments, on Park Hill Court. Travelling from Wellington Street toward the apartment building, approximately half-way down Park Hill Court there is a small traffic circle, allowing vehicles to turn around.

A Chevrolet Cobalt parked on the west side of Park Hill Court had significant impact damage along the driver side, the side exposed to Park Hill Court. The front of the SO’s fully marked Dodge Charger police cruiser was on the east boulevard, the rear of his vehicle was on Park Hill Court. There was collision damage to the driver side of the rear bumper.

The Honda Civic operated by the Complainant was located south of the SO’s police vehicle. The suspension on the front driver side of the vehicle was clearly damaged, as the tire was perpendicular to the vehicle’s direction of travel. Tire marks indicated the damage to the suspension system occurred as the Honda Civic struck the rear of the SO’s police cruiser. The force of the collision caused the SO’s police cruiser to rotate, leaving a tire mark associated with the driver’s side’s rear tire of the police vehicle.

There was a police vehicle parked at the front bumper of the Honda Civic.

On the asphalt outside of the driver’s door of the Honda Civic there were deposits of blood. There were also deposits of blood on the rear driver side of the Honda Civic, consistent with the Complainant being placed against the vehicle while his nose was bleeding.

Scene Diagram

Scene diagram

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence


Video Recordings – Park Hill Court


Due to issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the apartment building at Park Hill Court was not canvassed. The building manager for that address was contacted and he agreed to post notices in the building, asking that witnesses to the incident contact the SIU. The building manager later reported a tenant in the building had recorded the Complainant’s arrest on their mobile phone.

On May 13, 2020, the SIU received two video recordings from the superintendent of the apartment building. The building superintendent advised that the individual who recorded the videos did not wish to be identified or become involved in the investigation.

The first video began with the Honda Civic, operated by the Complainant, and the SO’s police cruiser positioned in the same positions they were later documented by the SIU. There were no other police vehicles on scene at the start of the video. The SO was standing at the rear passenger door of his police cruiser, with his handgun pointed at the Honda Civic. The trunk lid of the SO’s police vehicle was raised, resulting in a diminished ability to see the activities occurring in proximity to the police cruiser.

Another police cruiser (sedan) arrived and parked nose-to-nose with the Honda Civic. A police supervisor’s SUV immediately followed and pulled up on the passenger side of the police cruiser that had just arrived. An additional police sedan pulled up behind the supervisor’s SUV.

Two police officers exited the cruiser that had parked in front of the Honda Civic. The officer from the passenger side of that vehicle [WO #9] walked up to the Honda Civic and kicked the driver’s door window. The police officer who had been driving the cruiser [WO #1] walked up to the passenger side of the Honda Civic, took out his baton, and started striking the passenger door window.

WO #9 opened the driver’s door of the Honda Civic and the SO pulled the Complainant out of the vehicle. The SO pulled the Complainant down onto the ground, assisted by WO #9. The supervisor [WO #6] was standing near the driver side front fender of the Honda Civic as the Complainant was pulled from the vehicle. The open trunk lid of the SO’s police cruiser obstructed a view of the manner in which the Complainant was grounded.

WO #9 appeared to holster his firearm or baton, and his arm then moved downward in what might have been a strike to the Complainant. Another police officer [identified by the SO to be WO #2] walked up to where the Complainant was being handled on the ground and assisted in controlling the Complainant.

On the passenger side of the Honda Civic, WO #1 continued to strike the passenger door window several times with his baton. Another police officer [WO #3] approached the passenger door and kicked at the door window. The police were yelling for the passenger to open the door.

WO #6 then reached into the Honda Civic and pulled CW #2 out of the vehicle through the driver’s door. She was put on the ground next to the Complainant.
Other police officers arrived and assisted in controlling the two arrested parties.

CW #2 was stood up and escorted toward Wellington Street. The Complainant was stood up and placed against the rear driver side of the Honda Civic. The video ended while the Complainant was being held against the Honda Civic.

The second video recording started after the fire department and paramedics had arrived. The video did not assist in developing an understanding of the mechanism of the Complainant’s injuries.

Police Communications Recordings

The SO reported he was behind a vehicle displaying a stolen marker (licence plate) at Wellington Street and Main Street. He reported the plate number of the vehicle. He asked for another unit to assist, as he was planning to stop the vehicle. He reported they were westbound, stopped for a red traffic signal. The SO reported there were two occupants in the vehicle.

The SO then reported they were approaching George Street and had again stopped for a red traffic signal. He reported the driver of the suspect vehicle was making no attempt to flee.

WO #6, an Acting Sergeant that evening, instructed the SO to provide updates on speeds and direction. WO #6 instructed the SO he could attempt to contain the vehicle but there was to be no pursuit.

The SO reported the vehicle had just pulled in at Wellington Street and Park Hill Court. He stated he had just activated his emergency lighting and the vehicle sped away. WO #6 acknowledged the report and again instructed that there was to be no pursuit.

The SO reported the vehicle had stopped. He then excitedly reported the suspect vehicle had smashed into his car. The SO stated he was not going to approach the vehicle. He asked that the first vehicle to arrive on scene park in a position to block the suspect vehicle, which had a damaged tire.

WO #1 and WO #9 reported there were two people in custody, and everything was okay. WO #6 reported he was on scene.

Later, WO #6 asked the dispatcher to send an ambulance, as a precautionary measure, for the arrested male.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the PRP:
  • Event Chronology;
  • The notebook entries of the WOs; and
  • A copy of the related radio communications.

Materials obtained from Other Sources

In addition to the materials received from the PRP, SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials from other sources:
  • The Complainant’s medical records from Brampton Civic Hospital;
  • The Ambulance Call Reports from Brampton Civic Hospital; and
  • Video Recordings – 15 Park Hill Court.

Incident Narrative

The material events in question are relatively clear on the weight of the evidence collected by the SIU, which included interviews with the Complainant, the SO, CW #1 and several WOs. The investigation also benefitted from a video recording of the incident captured by a civilian. At about 9:00 p.m. hours on February 13, 2020, the SO started following a stolen motor vehicle in his marked cruiser along the streets of Brampton. The Complainant and an acquaintance, CW #2, were the occupants of the vehicle – a black, Honda Civic. The SO radioed that he was behind the vehicle west on Wellington Street West and stopped for a red light at George Street. In his next transmission, the SO indicated that he had activated his emergency lights as the vehicles pulled onto Park Hill Court, but that the Honda had not stopped.

The driver of the Honda, the Complainant, realized he was being followed by the police. Once on Park Hill Court, the Complainant maneuvered his vehicle around a roundabout and brought it to a stop facing south on Park Hill Court. In front of him was a vehicle that was parked along the west curb of the roadway and the SO’s cruiser stopped with its driver’s side at a right angle to the Honda; the officer had reversed his cruiser into that position intending to block the Honda’s path of travel. Within moments, the SO exited his cruiser and approached the Honda with his firearm drawn and pointed at the Complainant. The SO ordered the Complainant to step out of the vehicle, but the Complainant refused. Instead, believing there was enough space between the parked vehicle and the cruiser’s rear, the Complainant accelerated forward.

The Complainant was unable to clear the vehicles. The Honda broadsided the driver’s side of the parked vehicle and then struck the rear driver’s side of the cruiser, inflicting serious damage on the Honda’s front driver’s side tire and disabling the vehicle.

The SO radioed that there had been a collision and asked for assistance. From a position of cover behind his cruiser, the officer pointed his firearm at the Honda as the vehicle continued to rev its engine.

WO #1 and WO #9 were the next officers to arrive on scene. WO #1 pulled their cruiser nose-to-nose with the Honda, whereupon both officers exited to assist the SO. WO #9 and the SO approached the driver’s side window of the Honda and repeatedly ordered the Complainant to open the door. Finding the door locked, they punched and kicked at the window to break it but were unsuccessful. When they tried the door handle again, it was unlocked. The SO and WO #9 grabbed a hold of the Complainant and threw him to the ground outside.

The SO and WO #9 grappled with the Complainant as he refused to surrender his arms to be handcuffed. In the course of that struggle, each officer delivered a single punch to the Complainant’s torso, after which they were able to wrest control of his arms and secure them in handcuffs behind his back.

Following the Complainant’s arrest, he was taken to hospital from the scene and diagnosed with a fractured nose.

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 February 13, 2020, the Complainant suffered a broken nose in the course of being arrested by PRP officers. The SO was among the arresting officers and 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. When the SO first came across the Honda vehicle, he ran a check on the licence plate on a police database and learned that it had been reported stolen. In the circumstances, I am satisfied that the SO was within his rights in seeking to stop the Honda to investigate a possible theft. Thereafter, when the Complainant refused to stop and instead drove his vehicle into a roadblock, striking and damaging an uninvolved third-party vehicle as well as the SO’s cruiser, he was further subject to lawful arrest for dangerous driving. The issue turns to the propriety of the force that was used by the officers in the Complainant’s apprehension.

The struggle on the ground was preceded by a forceful takedown of the Complainant by the SO and WO #9, who grabbed the Complainant and yanked him to the ground. In my estimation, the tactic was necessary in the circumstances. The Complainant had made clear his intentions that he was not about to peacefully surrender to the police and had used his Honda to violently strike a couple of vehicles in an attempt to escape. The officers could reasonably expect further resistance from the Complainant and were entitled to meet that threat by grounding him at the first opportunity; with the Complainant on the ground, the officers would be in a better position to deal with any further aggression on the part of the Complainant. The Complainant continued to resist on the ground, refusing to release his arms to the officers, and was met with a single punch apiece by each of the SO and WO #9. Those punches struck the Complainant’s torso and do not appear to have caused any injury. In the context of the vehicular collisions that had just occurred, and the Complainant’s continued resistance once extricated from the Honda, I am unable to reasonably conclude that the strikes constituted excessive force.

Some evidence indicates that the Complainant was kicked three or four times to the back of his head and the Complainant did not resist his arrest on the ground, but I am unable to lend this account much credence on these points. This same account further suggests that the Complainant was kicked by an officer while being searched following his arrest at the side of the Honda, but a video recording of the incident would appear to belie that suggestion.

In the result, while I accept that the Complainant’s nose was fractured in his encounter with police officers during his arrest, most likely the result of being thrown to the ground, I am satisfied on reasonable grounds that the SO and the other officers acted lawfully throughout the encounter. Accordingly, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges in this case, and the file is closed.


Date: July 13, 2020

Electronically approved by

Joseph Martino
Director
Special Investigations Unit

Endnotes

  • 1) The SIU made several attempts to contact CW #2, but was unable to locate her. [Back to text]