Cruiser accidentRunnersCruiser and motorbike
thick blue gradient line

SIU Director’s Report - Case # 19-OCI-278

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 36-year-old man (the “Complainant”) suffered.

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On November 20, 2019 at 10:35 a.m., the Peel Regional Police (PRP) notified the SIU of an injury suffered by the Complainant during his arrest on May 30, 2019.

According to the PRP, on May 30, 2019 at approximately 1:00 a.m., PRP officers located a stolen vehicle in the parking lot of the White Knight Motel, located at 6965 Dixie Road, Mississauga. The police officers boxed the vehicle in, but the driver of the stolen vehicle, the Complainant, rammed an unmarked police cruiser. The officers initiated a gunpoint arrest and after a struggle, in which the Complainant was grounded, were able to take him into custody.

While in custody, the Complainant filed a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), and the Peel Regional Police initiated an investigation. During their investigation it was learned the Complainant had suffered a fractured anterior tip of his nasal bone. At the time of the diagnosis, on June 17, 2019, the injury was deemed to be of indeterminate age.

At the time of the notification, the Complainant was in custody awaiting trial.

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 3

Complainants

Complainant: 36-year-old male interviewed, medical records obtained and reviewed

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
WO #11 Interviewed


Police Employee Witnesses

PEW #1 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed
PEW #2 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed
PEW #3 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed
PEW #4 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed
PEW #5 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed
PEW #6 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed


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 in the parking lot of the White Knight Motel, located at 6965 Dixie Road, Mississauga.

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence


Custody Area Video Recordings


WO #1’s notes stated he informed the Complainant about his Charter rights and he also recorded an utterance from the Complainant, to the effect the Complainant suffered his injuries during an altercation that occurred prior to his involvement with the police. The custody area video recordings showed WO #1 making those notations in his notebook while he was standing at the counter of the booking area.

The booking area video recording did not have audio. As such, the discussions various police officers had with the Complainant remains unknown.

It is readily apparent from those recordings, and from mugshot photos taken at court later that morning, that the Complainant had fresh facial injuries.

Recording of the Complainant’s First Court Appearance


Some evidence suggested that the Complainant made an appearance in court on the morning of his arrest, during which the Complainant told the court that he had been beaten by the police.

The SIU obtained a judicial order to obtain a copy of the audio recording from that appearance. During that First Appearance hearing, the Complainant made no complaint to the sitting Justice of the Peace of being injured by the police. He did not address the court at all. His appearance was extremely short, with the duty counsel lawyer and the Crown agreeing to put the matter over to another date.

Police Communications Recordings

A police officer contacted the communications centre and reported there were officers at the White Knight Motel with one person in custody in relation to a stolen auto. The police officer requested a uniform officer for transport of the prisoner, and also requested a sergeant and tow truck [in relation to the motor vehicle collision between a Mercedes and WO #2’s vehicle]. WO #1 was dispatched to meet with the Criminal Investigation Bureau officers at the motel.

The same police officer asked the dispatcher to query the different name that the Complainant first provided to the police officers.

WO #1 reported he was ready to transport a male prisoner to 21 Division. WO #1 then stated he was still at the motel, as they were just sorting some things out. He then reported he was heading to 21 Division.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the PRP:
  • A copy of the related radio and telephone communications;
  • Audio Copy (summary) Report - Communications;
  • Audio recordings of interviews conducted by the PRP Professional Standards Bureau (PSB);
  • A copy of the PRP Public Complaints Investigation Bureau interview summary (July 30, 2019);
  • A copy of the booking area video recording;
  • Booking information and mugshot for the Complainant;
  • Event Chronology for Incident (arrest of the Complainant);
  • Event Chronology for Incident (disturbance call on Bonnieview Court);
  • Custody Activity Log – the Complainant;
  • Duty Roster – May 29-30, 2019;
  • Email from WO #10 regarding his involvement - February 17, 2020;
  • Email from PRP PSB investigators to PRP officers requesting their notes - August 29, 2019;
  • Involved Officer List;
  • Information regarding a police officer off-duty at time;
  • Motor Vehicle Accident Report;
  • The notes of the designated WOs and PEWs;
  • Occurrence Details Report;
  • Patrol Zone Sheet - May 30, 2019;
  • Person Details Report – the Complainant;
  • Prisoner Details Report – the Complainant;
  • Property List - General;
  • Property Report - Detailed;
  • Summary of PRP PSB involved officers;
  • List of PRP Officer Involvement; and
  • PRP Schedule – Shift 21B - May 2019.

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 the Maplehurst Detention Centre;
  • The Complainant’s admission documents from the Maplehurst Detention Centre; and
  • The audio recording of the Complainant’s First Appearance in Court.

Incident Narrative

While the circumstances immediately surrounding the Complainant’s arrest are disputed, the following broad strokes emerge from the weight of the evidence collected by the SIU, which included statements from the Complainant and two of the three officers who participated in his arrest: WO #2 and WO #6. At about 1:00 a.m. on May 30, 2019, the SO alerted WO #2 and WO #6 that he had located a stolen vehicle in the parking lot of the White Knight Motel at 6965 Dixie Road, Mississauga. The officers were in plainclothes and in unmarked vehicles on the lookout for stolen vehicles.

The Complainant was in possession of the stolen vehicle – a Mercedes-Benz sedan. He had pulled into the parking lot following an eventful evening in which his attempt to rendezvous with a woman at an address in Brampton was met with tools thrown in his direction by the home’s occupants. The Complainant was in the driver’s seat of the vehicle resting when an officer knocked on his driver’s door window to get his attention.

WO #6 was the officer who initially approached the Mercedes-Benz. Moments prior, the officers had convened in the parking lot looking to arrest the Complainant for the stolen vehicle. Startled and panicked by WO #6’s presence, the Complainant reversed his vehicle to get away. He did not get very far as the vehicle collided with WO #2’s Nissan Altima, which WO #2 had positioned behind the Mercedes-Benz to block any attempt at escape. It is at this point that the evidence diverges.

According to some evidence, following the collision, the Complainant exited the vehicle of his own volition and stood with his hands clasped behind the back of his head. The officer who had banged on the window approached the Complainant and handcuffed his arms to the front without incident, following which the same officer pulled him forward and down to the ground face-first. The Complainant avoided injury to his face by using his hands to brace his fall. Once on the ground, this evidence indicates that the Complainant was rolled onto his back, whereupon the officer who handcuffed him and a second officer repeatedly punched his face and chest. Following the assault, a third officer picked the Complainant up and placed him in the rear of an unmarked police vehicle. Some time later, an officer in uniform arrived at the scene and took the Complainant to the station in his marked police vehicle.

While the statements proffered by WO #6 and WO #2 differed in important ways, they each agreed that the Complainant was grounded soon after exiting the Mercedes-Benz. Once on the ground, according to the officers, the Complainant struggled against the officers’ efforts to secure his arms in handcuffs. Without striking the Complainant, the officers were able to wrestle control of his arms and handcuff him to the back. The Complainant was eventually placed in the back seat of a marked police vehicle that had arrived at the scene and transported to the station.

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

The Complainant was arrested by PRP officers in the early morning of May 30, 2019. He was subsequently diagnosed with a nose fracture of indeterminate age. 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 he 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 officers had good cause to believe that the vehicle the Complainant was operating was stolen and were within their rights in seeking to arrest him on that basis. The real issue is with the propriety of the force that was used in effecting the Complainant’s arrest.

Some evidence supports the idea that the Complainant received a beating at the hands of two police officers which, if accepted as the truth, was an unlawful assault. There are, however, frailties associated with this incriminatory evidence which give one pause. This incriminatory evidence was also clear that the Complainant complained of the assault later that morning during his appearance in court. However, a transcript of that proceeding indicates no such utterance being captured on the record. Further, there is the matter of the black eyes that this incriminatory evidence indicates that the Complainant suffered as a result of the assault, which are not apparent on the Complainant’s mugshot after the arrest or a photograph taken of the Complainant’s face on admission at the detention centre. Finally, the incriminatory evidence’s support for the claim that the Complainant was handcuffed to the front seems improbable and implausible, particularly given the Complainant’s attempt at escape during which he struck a police car.

There are also problems of identification in this case. For example, the incriminatory evidence supports the idea that the Complainant was lifted to his feet after his arrest and escorted to an unmarked car, in which he was seated, by a plainclothes officer who had not been among the two officers who had assaulted him. However, the weight of the evidence indicates that it was WO #6 who walked the Complainant to his vehicle, the same officer who, according to the incriminatory evidence, was the one who knocked on the Complainant’s car window and then beat the Complainant. The incriminatory evidence supports the idea that the Complainant was later interviewed at the police station by the same two officers who had assaulted the Complainant, including the officer who had banged on the Complainant’s car door window, whom the weight of the evidence establishes was WO #6. However, it would appear that WO #6 was not among the officers who interviewed the Complainant; rather, those officers would have been WO #2 and the SO.

A charging authority, such as the SIU, must limit its assessments of the strength of the evidence to threshold considerations to avoid usurping the proper role of the court as the final arbiter of factual and legal contests. Were it only for the weaknesses connected with the incriminatory evidence unrelated to issues of identification, the evidence might well have been strong enough to warrant charges against one or more of the involved officers. Coupled with the difficulties in the evidence on the question of identification, however, I am satisfied the incriminatory evidence in its totality is insufficiently cogent to warrant being put to the test before a court.

With respect to what is left of the evidence, I am unable to reasonably conclude that any of the officers involved in the Complainant’s arrest used excessive force in taking him into custody. On this record, the Complainant resisted his arrest and was either grounded after exiting the vehicle of his own volition or forcibly at the hands of WO #2. The takedown, which might well have caused the Complainant’s nose injury, seems a reasonable tactic in the situation that prevailed. The Complainant had just struck a police car with the Mercedes-Benz in an effort to escape and was then refusing to surrender peacefully when outside the vehicle. With the Complainant on the ground, the officers would enjoy a relative advantage in countering any further hostilities. Once on the ground, the officers grappled with the Complainant to secure control of his arms and were able to do so, on the weight of the reliable evidence, without the use of any blows. In the circumstances, I am unable to reasonably conclude that the force used by the officers against the Complainant transgressed the limits of permissible force prescribed by the criminal law.

In the result, whether the Complainant suffered his nose injury as the result of his interaction with the officers on May 30, 2019, [1] I am not satisfied on reasonable grounds that any one or more of the involved officers acted unlawfully. Accordingly, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges in this case, and the file is closed.


Date: July 14, 2020
Electronically approved by

Joseph Martino
Director
Special Investigations Unit

Endnotes

  • 1) The nose injury was diagnosed on June 17, 2019 and was assessed to be of indeterminate age. [Back to text]