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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 20-OCI-111

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 injuries that a 60-year-old woman (the “Complainant”) suffered.

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On May 11, 2020, at 2:29 p.m., the SIU learned that on January 2, 2020, four male Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) officers reportedly arrived at the Complainant’s residence. The Complainant was removed from her home with her hands handcuffed behind her back and taken to hospital. The Complainant was discharged from the hospital on January 3, 2020, at about 4:00 a.m. The Complainant was not charged with a criminal offence and did not require surgery at that time.

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 3

Complainant:

60-year-old female interviewed, medical records obtained and reviewed


Civilian Witnesses

CW Interviewed

Witness Officers

WO #1 Interviewed
WO #2 Interviewed


Subject Officers

SO #1 Interviewed, and notes received and reviewed
SO #2 Interviewed, and notes received and reviewed



Evidence

The Scene

The Complainant’s arrest occurred inside a residence on Bower Street, Acton. No SIU forensic investigators were assigned to forensically examine the scene.

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence

The SIU canvassed the area for any video or audio recordings, and photographic evidence, and was able to locate the following:
  • Photographs of the Complainant’s injuries obtained from the CW.


Photographs of the Complainant’s Injuries Obtained from the CW


The CW provided photographs of his wife’s injuries which she allegedly sustained during her arrest on January 2, 2020.

Police Communications Recordings


HRPS Communications Recordings 911 Call


The SIU received and reviewed audio files relating to a 911 call the Complainant made to an HRPS police dispatcher. The Complainant reported to the call-taker that her husband was abusing her. The Complainant’s speech sounded slurred while speaking with the call-taker. She then made it clear the abuse she was accusing him of was mental abuse. During the phone call, there appeared to be background noise suggesting a television or a radio was on.

The CW came onto the telephone and began speaking with the call-taker, explaining that the Complainant was drunk, high, and suffered from PTSD. During the CW’s conversation with the call-taker, the 911 recording captured the Complainant screaming and yelling profanities at her husband.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the HRPS:
  • Event Chronology;
  • 911 communications;
  • HRPS- Arrest, Search, Release Policies
  • Notes-Both WOs;
  • Notes-Both SOs; and
  • Occurrence Report.

Materials obtained from Other Sources

In addition to the materials received from the HRPS, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials from other sources:
  • The Complainant’s medical records, from the Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital (OTMH); and
  • Photographs of the Complainant’s injuries obtained from the CW.

Incident Narrative

The following scenario emerges from the weight of the evidence collected by the SIU, which included interviews with the Complainant, the CW (her husband and witness to the events in question) and both subject officers. In the evening of January 2, 2020, the Complainant contacted police to report that her husband was mentally abusing her. She and the CW, having smoked marijuana and imbibed a significant quantity of wine together, had started to argue. The quarrel resulted in the Complainant calling 911 to lodge her complaint. She passed the phone to her husband, who explained to the call-taker that the Complainant was drunk, high and suffered from PTSD. Officers were dispatched to the home.

SO #2 and SO #1 arrived at the Complainant’s address on Bower Street, Acton, at about 7:30 p.m. The CW let them into the house and then proceeded into the kitchen where he spoke with SO #2. SO #1 was left to speak with the Complainant in the living room. The CW recounted what had occurred between him and his wife, and explained he did not know what to do about his wife’s behaviour.

In the living room, the Complainant was becoming increasingly incensed with SO #1. She yelled at him to take his boots off in her home, hurled profanity in his direction, and paced unsteadily in the room, forcing SO #1 to step back and make space for her movements. The commotion in the living room drew the attention of SO #2, who entered the room. Within moments, the officers had the Complainant handcuffed and under arrest.

Following her arrest, the Complainant was taken outside, lodged in a cruiser and eventually taken to hospital for examination. The Complainant was ultimately seen at the OTMH, where she was examined and transferred back into the custody of police. Following her hospital stay, the Complainant was released by the police, whereupon she took a cab ride back to her home.

A week later, the Complainant was diagnosed with tears to her shoulder tendons.

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 January 2, 2020, the Complainant was arrested inside her home in Acton by HRPS officers. She subsequently underwent surgery in hospital for tears to her shoulder tendons. The arresting officers – SO #1 and SO #2 – were identified as subject officers for the purposes of the SIU investigation. On my assessment of the evidence, there are no reasonable grounds to believe that either subject officer committed a criminal offence in connection with the Complainant’s arrest and injuries.

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 required or authorized to do by law. In my view, there is insufficient evidence to reasonably conclude that SO #2 and SO #1 acted outside the scope of legal justification when they arrested the Complainant.

I accept that SO #2 and SO #1 had a lawful basis to arrest the Complainant. The officers explained that they did so to prevent a breach of the peace. Considering the Complainant’s level of intoxication, state of agitation in her dealings with the officers, and belligerence toward her husband, I am satisfied that the officers harboured a legitimate concern that the Complainant’s behaviour left unattended would likely result in an escalation of the conflict between her and her husband.

With respect to the propriety of the force used to effect the arrest, the reliable evidence indicates that minimal force was used by the officers to overcome the Complainant’s physical resistance, bring her to the floor and handcuff her arms. Thereafter, the officers placed their hands under the Complainant’s armpits to support her as she gained her footing, following which she was escorted from the house.

Whether the Complainant suffered one or more of her injuries at the hands of SO #2 and SO #1 is not altogether clear. Given the nature of the injuries, the date they were diagnosed, and other factors, there is a distinct possibility the officers had nothing to do with the Complainant’s tendon tears. Be that as it may, there is no indication on the reliable evidence that the officers used more than minimal and proportionate force in effecting the Complainant’s lawful arrest. Accordingly, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges in this case, and the file is closed.


Date: November 9, 2020

Electronically approved by

Joseph Martino
Director
Special Investigations Unit