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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 20-OCI-143

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 39-year-old woman (the “Complainant”) suffered.

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On June 18, 2020, the Niagara Regional Police Service (NRPS) reported the following:

On June 18, 2020, at approximately 6:58 p.m., two NRPS police officers responded to an address on Preakness Street at the request of the Niagara Emergency Medical Services (EMS), which were experiencing issues with a drug-overdose patient. There were two EMS teams present. They were able to administer a sedative to the woman, who was identified as the Complainant. The Complainant had been cooperative with EMS but suddenly took off running. As the Complainant rounded a corner, EMS observed her leg buckle and she fell.

The two police officers assisted in apprehending the Complainant, who complained of severe pain to her left leg.

EMS transported the Complainant to the Greater Niagara General Hospital (GNGH) where she was diagnosed with a shattered left knee. 

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 3

Complainants

Complainant: 39-year-old female interviewed, medical records obtained and reviewed


Civilian Witnesses

CW #1 Interviewed
CW #2 Interviewed
CW #3 Interviewed

Witness Officers

WO Interviewed


Subject Officers

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


Evidence

The Scene

The Complainant lived in a townhome complex located at an address on Preakness Street. There was a cluster of other townhome complexes around the vicinity and a parking lot area to the northeast of where the Complainant lived. The Complainant fell and broke her left leg in the parking lot.

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.

Communications Recordings


Communication Recordings Between NRPS and EMS


On June 18, 2020, at 6:36 p.m., an NRPS dispatcher requested that EMS attend an address and unit on Preakness Street, after a neighbour [now known to be CW #2] had called and reported a woman [now known to be the Complainant] had fallen and smacked her head on the pavement. CW #2 believed that the Complainant was “high on drug”.


NRPS Radio Communications


On June 18, 2020, at 7:00 p.m., the WO advised that he had arrived at the address on Preakness Street and the Complainant was not cooperating with EMS. The WO requested the assistance of another officer and, sometime later, the WO advised that he was en route to the hospital with EMS.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from NRPS:
  • Call Log;
  • Call printout;
  • Dispatch Report;
  • General Occurrence;
  • General Occurrence (Previous Mental Health Act incident);
  • Historic Occurrence Details-all three pages;
  • Notes-the WO;
  • Scenes of Crime Officer’s (SOCO) Photobrief;
  • Unit History-the SO; and
  • Unit History-the WO.

Materials obtained from Other Sources

In addition to the materials received from the NRPS, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials from other sources:
  • The Complainant’s medical record from GNGH;
  • Niagara Regional Paramedic reports; and
  • Paramedics’ written responses to SIU follow-up questions.

Incident Narrative

The material events in question are clear on the evidence gathered by the SIU, which included interviews with the Complainant, the SO, the WO (who was present with the SO at the time) and several civilian eyewitnesses. At about 6:30 p.m. on June 18, 2020, paramedics were dispatched to a complex of townhomes at an address on Preakness Street, Niagara Falls. CW #2, a resident of one of the homes, had observed another resident – the Complainant – fall and hit her head in the parking lot. Concerned that the Complainant had hurt herself, CW #2 called 911.

The paramedics arrived to find the Complainant on the porch of one of the homes in the vicinity of the parking lot. It was apparent that the Complainant was not of sound mind. Indeed, the Complainant was intoxicated at the time. She refused to be examined by the paramedics, and exhibited strange and irrational behaviour. Concerned with her well-being and level of agitation, the police were called to lend a hand.

The WO was the first to arrive on scene, followed shortly by the SO. The paramedics and officers attempted to coax the Complainant off the porch to be medically assessed, but to no avail. Neighbours in the area also tried convincing the Complainant to go with the paramedics, but she steadfastly refused. When the Complainant’s fiancé, CW #3, learned that she was in distress, he too came to the porch to prevail on the Complainant to leave the area with him.

At about 8:50 p.m., with CW #3, the officers and the paramedics still present in the area, the Complainant suddenly ran from the porch northward toward the parking lot. As she rounded an SUV in the lot, the Complainant was seen and heard to fall. The SO and the WO ran after her and found her a short distance away on the ground with her left leg clearly injured. The officers decided to apprehend her under the Mental Health Act in order to have her examined at hospital.

Relevant Legislation

Section 17, Mental Health Act -- Action by police officer

17 Where a police officer has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that a person is acting or has acted in a disorderly manner and has reasonable cause to believe that the person,
(a) has threatened or attempted or is threatening or attempting to cause bodily harm to himself or herself;
(b) has behaved or is behaving violently towards another person or has caused or is causing another person to fear bodily harm from him or her; or
(c) has shown or is showing a lack of competence to care for himself or herself,
and in addition the police officer is of the opinion that the person is apparently suffering from mental disorder of a nature or quality that likely will result in,
(d) serious bodily harm to the person;
(e) serious bodily harm to another person; or
(f) serious physical impairment of the person,
and that it would be dangerous to proceed under section 16, the police officer may take the person in custody to an appropriate place for examination by a physician.

Analysis and Director's Decision

In the evening of June 18, 2020, The Complainant fractured her left knee while running away from two NRPS officers. One of the officers, the SO, was identified as a 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 injury.

The WO and the SO were in the execution of their lawful duty when they responded to the scene to see if they could assist the paramedics with the Complainant. The paramedics were rightly concerned for the Complainant’s health and safety. She was clearly in mental distress, exhibiting signs and symptoms of drug-overdose, and refusing to be examined.

Once on scene, the WO and the SO acted with tact and professionalism toward the Complainant. There is no suggestion in the evidence, for example, of any force or needless aggression on the part of the officers. On the contrary, the officers were said to have acted with kindness and compassion for the Complainant’s plight at the time.

Upon finding the Complainant injured on the ground, the officers prudently and lawfully placed her under arrest pursuant to section 17 of the Mental Health Act so she could obtain the medical attention she needed.

On the aforementioned-record, I am satisfied that the SO and the WO acted lawfully throughout their dealings with the Complainant. Accordingly, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges in this case and the file is closed.


Date: September 28, 2020

Electronically approved by

Joseph Martino
Director
Special Investigations Unit