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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 20-PVI-080

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

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On April 12, 2020, at 7:02 a.m., the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) notified the SIU of an injury to the Complainant.

The OPP advised that on April 12, 2020, at about 5:00 a.m., the OPP received a call about a suspicious man [now determined to be the Complainant] checking out cars in Minesing Township. The Complainant was seen getting into a pickup truck and driving off on Highway 26.

The OPP set up a spike belt across Highway 26 near George Johnston Road. The driver of the stolen pickup truck avoided the spike belt but lost control and struck a light standard near George Johnston Road. The Complainant was injured as a result of the collision and transported by ambulance to Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) in Barrie where he was diagnosed with having suffered facial fractures.

The OPP advised that RVH would not release the Complainant due to his elevated state of inebriation. The Complainant was to eventually be released to the OPP for a bail hearing.

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 3
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 1

Complainants

Complainant: 24-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


Subject Officers

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


Evidence

The Scene

The scene of the collision was on Highway 26 at George Johnston Road in Minesing. There was a black GMC Silverado pickup truck on the north side of the intersection with severe front-end damage next to a damaged traffic light pole. There were tire marks leading from George Johnston Road across the intersection to the position of the Silverado. A Total Station was set up and the scene was measured completely.

An SIU reconstructionist attended at the OPP Detachment in Minesing to examine two OPP police cruisers. Cruiser one was a Chevrolet Tahoe (assigned to WO #3) and cruiser two was a Ford Taurus (assigned to the SO). There was no obvious damage to either cruiser, both of which were photographed.

Investigators attended the Alliston OPP Detachment to examine two more OPP cruisers. Cruiser one was a Dodge Charger (assigned to WO #1) and cruiser two was a Chevrolet Tahoe (assigned to WO #2). There was no obvious damage to either cruiser, both of which were photographed.

Scene Diagram

Scene diagram

Forensic Evidence


Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) data from the SO’s Police Cruiser


On April 12, 2020, at 2:47:50 a.m., the SO’s police cruiser, was stopped at Huron Street and Adams Avenue in Minesing. At 2:48:01 a.m., her cruiser was going 130 km/h northwest on George Johnston Road heading towards the intersection at Maple Avenue East. At 2:48:08 a.m., the SO’s cruiser continued northwest on George Johnston Road doing 159 km/h heading towards the intersection at Ronald Road. At 2:48:15 a.m., her police cruiser was now heading northeast on George Johnston Road towards Highway 26. The cruiser had slowed to a speed of 100 km/h. At 2:48:20 a.m., the SO’s cruiser continued heading northeast on George Johnston Road approaching the intersection at Highway 26. At that point her cruiser had slowed to 97 km/h. At 2:48:29 a.m., the SO’s cruiser was stopped at the intersection of Highway 26 and George Johnston Road - the scene of the collision. The SO remained on scene until 7:30 a.m., on April 12, 2020.

GPS data from WO #1’s Police Cruiser


On April 12, 2020, at 2:43:28 a.m., WO #1’s police cruiser was going 100 km/h heading east on Highway 90 approaching George Johnston Road. At 2:43:35 a.m., the cruiser stopped at the intersection of Highway 90 and George Johnston Road.

At 2:43:38 a.m., WO #1’s cruiser turned left onto George Johnston Road and headed north towards Highway 40 doing 60 km/h. At 2:43:48 a.m., his cruiser continued northbound on George Johnston Road doing 126 km/h. At 2:43:56 a.m., WO #1 was still headed north on George Johnston Road doing 126 km/h. At 2:44:09 a.m., his cruiser was northbound on George Johnston Road doing 153 km/h. At 0:244:41 a.m., WO #1’s cruiser had crossed Highway 40 as it continued northbound on George Johnston Road. At 2:45:33 a.m., the cruiser remained northbound on George Johnston Road as it approached Seadon Road. At 2:47:05 a.m., WO #1’s cruiser continued northbound on George Johnston Road doing 132 km/h as it approached Willow Creek.

At 2:48:51 a.m., WO #1’s cruiser slowed down to 21 km/h and continued northwest on George Johnston Road as it approached Highway 26. At 2:48:52 a.m., WO #1’s cruiser came to a full stop at the intersection of George Johnston Road and Highway 26. The cruiser remained stationary on scene until after 3:15:00 a.m.

Expert Evidence


Reconstructionist’s Conclusions


The SIU collision investigation yielded the following conclusions.

On April 12, 2020, at around 2:48 a.m., the Complainant was driving a GMC Silverado northbound on George Johnston Road in Minesing. Skies were clear and the roads were dry. The speed limit on George Johnston Road was 50 km/h.

From Huron Street in Minesing, the Complainant was pursued by the OPP’s SO, who achieved a top speed of 160 km/h. While braking moderately, and at a speed of 66 km/h, the Complainant entered the intersection of Highway 26 and attempted a right turn. Driving just below the critical curve speed for the intersection, he continued more to the north into the “T” intersection and crossed the westbound lane of Highway 26. The right front corner of the GMC Silverado impacted the traffic signal pole, on the northeast portion of the intersection, just below 35 km/h, damaging the Silverado and the pole.

The driver’s frontal airbag and seatbelt pretensioner were deployed. After the collision, the Complainant opened the driver’s door and rolled into the ditch. At the time of the collision, the location of the SO’s cruiser as well as the two cruisers of the other OPP police officers who were following were unknown. The pursuit lasted for less than one minute and one kilometre.


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.

Police Communications Recordings


OPP Communications Recordings


The recordings were made on April 12, 2020, and captured the following:
  • At 2:19:52 a.m., the OPP received a complaint about two men on foot going through parked vehicles on Berwick Crescent in Angus;
  • At 2:37:06 a.m., a suspect vehicle described as a black Chevrolet was going northbound on County Road 10;
  • At 2:38:59 a.m., a police officer reported that the suspect vehicle “took off”. A police officer advised he was following the suspect vehicle and not in a pursuit at that time;
  • At 2:40:15 a.m., a police officer reported that the suspect vehicle slowed and was going eastbound on Highway 90;
  • At 2:43:20 a.m., a police officer reported that the suspect vehicle was dark in colour and going 160 km/h;
  • At 2:44:06 a.m., a police officer reported that a truck was heading into the Huronia area travelling on George Johnston Road;
  • At 2:44:23 a.m., the dispatcher advised that the Township of Oro-Medonte’s OPP were given the heads-up about the incident;
  • At 2:45:15 a.m., a police officer reported that the suspect truck was still three kilometres in front of the police heading north on George Johnston Road;
  • At 2:45:45 a.m., the PCC sergeant was made aware of the chase;
  • At 2:47:05 a.m., a police officer reported to dispatch “no pursuit” and a spike belt was required;
  • At 2:47:29 a.m., WO #5 advised he had deployed his spike belt and, at 2:47:40 a.m., he reported the spike belt was ineffective;
  • At 2:48:07 a.m., the SO told dispatch that she was in pursuit with the suspect truck;
  • At 2:48:42 a.m., the SO reported that the suspect truck had collided with a light post at the intersection of Highway 26 and George Johnston Road; and
  • At 2:49:12 a.m., an ambulance and fire department were requested and, at 2:49:13 a.m., the dispatcher advised that an ambulance had been notified.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the OPP:
  • Computer-assisted Dispatch Report, 12 April 2020;
  • Collision Report, 12 April 2020;
  • Communications Recordings;
  • General Report, 12 April 2020;
  • GPS / Automatic Vehicle Locator data for police cruisers;
  • Notes-all WOs;
  • Notes-the SO;
  • OPP Policy PPC Standard Operating Procedure;
  • OPP Policy Vehicle Theft;
  • OPP Policy Suspect Apprehension Pursuit;
  • OPP Policy Motor Vehicle Collision Procedure;
  • OPP Technical Collision Field Notes; and
  • OPP Scene Photos.

Materials obtained from Other Sources

In addition to the materials received from the OPP, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials from other sources:
  • The Complainant’s medical records from the RVH.

Incident Narrative

The material events in question are clear on the weight of the evidence and may be summarized in short order. At about 2:20 a.m. on April 12, 2020, several OPP officers were dispatched from the Nottawasaga Detachment to investigate two men who were going in and out of vehicles on Berwick Crescent in Angus. Operating separate marked cruisers, WO #1 and WO #2 were among these officers. They were stopped facing north next to each other on Vernon Street when a black pickup truck drove past them proceeding south. The Complainant was driving the truck, which was stolen. He was alone.

The officers turned their cruisers around and started after the pickup. They followed as the pickup turned right onto County Road 10. Just before Mill Street, WO #1, the lead vehicle behind the pickup, activated his emergency equipment. As the procession of vehicles continued north, WO #1 maneuvered his cruiser alongside the pickup and, using his right arm, motioned at the Complainant to pull over. The Complainant increased his speed and pulled ahead of WO #1, whereupon WO #1 radioed that he was in pursuit of the truck.

At a point before County Road 90, about 1.5 kilometres north of County Road 10, WO #1 broadcast over the radio that he had stopped the pursuit. The officer turned off his emergency lights and siren but continued to follow. WO #2, still behind WO #1, did the same.

The vehicles continued north on Mill Street before continuing east on County Road 90. Both officers were well back of the Complainant for most of this time, occasionally losing sight of the pickup. The convoy eventually turned north to travel on George Johnston Road.

Hearing radio transmission of the pickup heading in her direction, the SO, of the Huronia West Detachment, travelled in her cruiser to take up a position on Huron Street facing west onto George Johnston Road. As the pickup approached her location, the SO drove onto the roadway ahead of it with her emergency lights on and watched as it sped past her. The officer radioed that she was in pursuit and accelerated in an effort to catch up with the pickup.

Soon after the SO’s engagement, the Complainant attempted a right-hand turn onto Highway 26, lost control of the pickup and crashed into a traffic control signal pole. He was subsequently arrested by officers arriving on the scene and taken to hospital.

Relevant Legislation

Section 2 (1), O Reg 266/10, Suspect Apprehension Pursuits – Initiating or continuing pursuit

2 (1) A police officer may pursue, or continue to pursue, a fleeing motor vehicle that fails to stop,
(a) if the police officer has reason to believe that a criminal offence has been committed or is about to be committed; or
(b) for the purposes of motor vehicle identification or the identification of an individual in the vehicle.


Section 128(13), Highway Traffic Act – Fire department vehicles and police vehicles 

128(13) The speed limits prescribed under this section or any regulation or by-law passed under this section do not apply to,

(a) a fire department vehicle while proceeding to a fire or responding to, but not returning from, a fire alarm or other emergency call;
(b) a police department vehicle being used in the lawful performance of a police officer’s duties; or
(c) an ambulance while responding to an emergency call or being used to transport a patient or injured person in an emergency situation.


Section 320.13 (2), Criminal Code – Dangerous driving causing bodily harm

320.13 (2) Everyone commits an offence who operates a conveyance in a manner that, having regard to all of the circumstances, is dangerous to the public and, as a result, causes bodily harm to another person.


Analysis and Director's Decision

The Complainant was involved in a motor vehicle accident on April 12, 2020 and suffered a fractured cheekbone in the process. As he was being pursued by the SO at the time of the crash, the officer 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 collision that resulted in the Complainant’s injury.

The offence that arises for consideration is dangerous driving causing bodily harm contrary to section 320.13(2) of the Criminal Code. The offence is predicated, in part, on conduct that amounts to a marked departure from the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised in the circumstances. I am satisfied that the SO’s conduct in her brief engagement with the Complainant did not transgress the limits of care prescribed by the criminal law.

At the outset, it bears noting that the SO was in the lawful execution of her duty at the time of the events in question. The police had reason to believe that the Complainant had stolen the pickup truck. He was in the area where the reports of suspicious activity originated and immediately fled in the vehicle upon being confronted by the police. Accordingly, pursuant to the regulation governing police pursuits in the province – O Reg 266/10 – the SO was within her rights in initiating a pursuit of the pickup truck.

The speeds attained by the SO in the course of the pursuit are of some concern. The GPS data associated with her cruiser clocked her reaching a top speed of about 160 km/h, more than three times the 50 km/h speed limit. At the best of times, speeds in that neighbourhood are inherently risky.

The risks associated with the SO’s speed, however, are tempered by a number of considerations. For starters, the officer was exempt from liability for speeding under section 128(13) of the Highway Traffic Act. While that section does not provide officers carte-blanche to speed as they wish without regard for public safety, it does provide a degree of mitigation in the reasonableness analysis of the SO’s conduct. Moreover, there is no reason to believe that the SO’s speed unduly pushed or contributed to the Complainant’s reckless driving. On the contrary, the evidence suggests that the SO was a fair distance back of the pickup as it neared the intersection of George Johnston Road and Highway 26. Finally, though the officer’s pursuit of the pickup occurred in a residential area, there is no reason to believe that the SO’s driving ever endangered any third party. In this regard, it is important to note that traffic would have been little to non-existent given the time of day the pursuit occurred, the SO’s use of her emergency lights, and the very brief period over which the SO pursued the Complainant - under a kilometre in distance and about half-a-minute in time.

In the result, I am satisfied on the aforementioned record that the SO comported herself within the confines of the law as she briefly pursued the Complainant before the collision. Accordingly, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges in this case and the file is closed.


Date: August 17, 2020

Electronically approved by

Joseph Martino
Director
Special Investigations Unit