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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 20-PCI-118

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

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On May 21, 2020, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) notified the SIU of an injury to the Complainant.

The OPP reported that on May 21, 2020, at about 1:25 p.m., Witness Officer (WO) #1 and WO #4, and the Subject Officer (SO), attended at an address on Oxford Street, Orillia, for a domestic disturbance. While in a parking lot, the police officers noticed a car and that a passenger in the car had drugs at his feet.

The passenger, the Complainant, was arrested. He ran away and was tackled to the ground. The Complainant began complaining of shoulder pain. He was transported to the Soldiers' Memorial Hospital (SMH) and diagnosed with a fractured scapula (shoulder blade). The Complainant was released from the hospital and brought back to the detachment.

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 3

Complainants

Complainant: 30-year-old male interviewed, medical records obtained and reviewed


Witness Officers

WO #1 Interviewed
WO #2 Interviewed
WO #3 Interviewed
WO #4 Interviewed


Subject Officers

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



Evidence

The Scene

The Complainant was arrested on the grounds of an apartment complex at an address on Oxford Street. While running away from the police he fell and landed on his back on the raised concrete curb of a sidewalk. There was no examination carried out of the scene.

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence


The SO’s personal body camera


The following was captured on the SO’s personal body-worn camera, timestamped per the camera’s data:

At 1:29:33 p.m., people exit from, and are standing near, a car: the driver [known to be Identified Civilian (IC) #1], a female passenger [known to be IC #2], and another passenger [known to be the Complainant]. The Complainant stands at the passenger side hood of the car with his hands on the hood. A police officer [known to be WO #1] is on the passenger side of the vehicle speaking with IC #2 and the Complainant.

The Complainant is searched by WO #1. The Complainant is directed to the back of WO #1’s unmarked sport utility vehicle (SUV). WO #1 opens the driver’s side rear passenger door for the Complainant. He walks toward it and then runs away westward chased by WO #1 and the SO.

The Complainant stumbles on a stone path and falls, landing on his back in the area of his shoulders on a concrete curb. He gets up and continues to run, followed by WO #1 and the SO.

The Complainant is apprehended by WO #2. They struggle and the Complainant tries to pull away. The camera is in close proximity to the Complainant and police officers, suggesting that the SO is in close contact with the Complainant. All are struggling. Police officers are heard telling the Complainant to stop resisting.

The Complainant is face down on the grass. The SO, wearing black gloves, is holding down the Complainant’s right shoulder and right forearm. The Complainant’s arm is bent as though it is being brought behind his back. The Complainant’s right arm is bent at the elbow out from his body as his hand is under his body. The SO struggles to get the Complainant’s right hand out from under his body. A handcuff is now on the Complainant’s right wrist, his hand is behind his back and he is face down on the ground. A police officer asks why he ran away.

The police officers help the Complainant up off the ground. The Complainant is on his right side. The Complainant is walked towards the unmarked SUV and placed into the back.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the OPP:
  • Arrest Report-the Complainant-2020-05-21;
  • Arrest Report-Original Domestic Incident;
  • The SO’s body-worn camera footage;
  • Notes-the SO;
  • Notes-all WOs; and
  • Notes-an Identified Police Officer.

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 SMH.

Incident Narrative

The material events in question are clear on the weight of the evidence collected by the SIU, which included interviews with the Complainant and several witness officers who participated in the arrest. The SO, as was his legal right, declined to interview with the SIU, but did authorize the release of his incident notes. The investigation also benefitted from a review of a video recording of the incident captured by a camera worn by the SO.

In the early afternoon of May 21, 2020, officers with the OPP’s Orillia Detachment were dispatched to investigate a domestic disturbance at one of the residential units located at an address on Oxford Street. One of those officers was WO #1. As WO #1 pulled into the parking lot of the residential complex, he asked the driver of a vehicle that was exiting the parking lot to return to the lot. IC #1 was the driver of the vehicle. The Complainant was his front seat passenger.

Their vehicles parked side-by-side facing west toward the residential complex, WO #1 exited and asked the occupants of IC #1’s vehicle if they had any information about the domestic disturbance. As he did so, the officer observed a crack pipe on the floor in front of the front passenger seat – the Complainant’s seat. The crack pipe had burnt residue on the end of it.

At the sight of the pipe, WO #1 directed the occupants out of the vehicle. WO #1 was now joined by the SO, who was wearing a non-police issued, personal body-worn camera, which was recording. WO #1 advised the Complainant that he was under arrest for possession of drugs and instructed him to enter the rear seat of his vehicle. The Complainant walked a short distance to the driver’s side rear door of the vehicle. As WO #1 opened the door, the Complainant bolted from the scene running west into a courtyard of the residential complex.

The foot pursuit lasted a matter of seconds. After running a very short distance, chased by WO #1 and the SO, the Complainant tripped and fell on a raised curb. The Complainant regained his footing as the officers overshot him on the ground, and turned to run east. He made it no further than a few strides before another officer, WO #2, present at the complex investigating the initial disturbance call, grabbed hold of him. The two fell to the ground and were quickly joined by WO #1 and the SO.

While prone on the ground, the Complainant refused to release his arms and was met with a measure of force by the officers. After a few seconds of struggle, in which the officers wrestled to gain control of the Complainant’s arms, the Complainant’s arms were brought behind his back and handcuffed. No punches, kicks or strikes of any kind appear to have been delivered by the officers.

Following his arrest, the Complainant was lifted to his feet, lodged in the back seat of WO #1’s vehicle and transported to the detachment. While in cells, the Complainant complained of pain in one of his shoulders and was taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with a fractured scapula.

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 May 21, 2020, the Complainant suffered a fractured scapula in the course of being arrested by OPP officers in Orillia. One of the arresting officers, the SO, 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. In light of WO #1’s observation of a crack pipe that appeared to have burnt residue on it, positioned at the Complainant’s feet in a vehicle, there appear to have been lawful grounds for the arrest in question. As for the initial vehicle stop, I accept that it too was lawful as WO #1 does not appear to have had ulterior motives for the stop beyond speaking with the vehicle’s occupants about the domestic disturbance reported at the residential complex.

Once lawfully under arrest, the officers were entitled to maintain control over the Complainant’s movements and were within their rights in chasing after him when he attempted to escape on foot. The Complainant’s flight from police was short-lived. He tripped, fell, regained his footing and was quickly captured by WO #2, the two ending up on the ground as the result of their respective momentum as WO #2 took hold of a fleeing Complainant. Thereafter, the Complainant resisted his arrest on the ground but was quickly subdued by the officers’ superior manpower and taken into custody. On this record, there is nothing to suggest that the forced used by the officers was excessive or unreasonable.

In the result, whether the Complainant suffered his injury when he tripped and fell of his own accord, fell again with WO #2 holding onto him, or was restrained by the officers on the ground, there are no grounds to believe that any of the involved officers acted other than lawfully throughout the engagement. Accordingly, there is no basis for proceeding with charges in this case.



Date: September 8, 2020
Electronically approved by

Joseph Martino
Director
Special Investigations Unit