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News Release

SIU Concludes Investigation into Injuries Sustained by Man in Windsor

Case Number: 12-OCI-145

Mississauga (26 July, 2012) --- The Director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Ian Scott, has concluded that there are no reasonable grounds to charge a Windsor Police Service (WPS) officer with any criminal offence in relation to the injuries sustained by 33-year-old Jeffrey Robinson in January of 2006.

This matter came to the attention of the SIU on May 23, 2012, six years after the incident, as a result of the WPS notifying the Unit on the second day of a civil law suit in which the central issue was whether Mr. Robinson’s injuries were the result of excessive use of force by the subject officer, Cst Peter Hladki. 

Once notified, the SIU immediately commenced an investigation.  Cst Hladki declined to be interviewed, as is his legal right, but did provide a copy of his duty notes.  As part of the investigation, the the SIU used information that came from the trial, and interviewed one civilian witness and two witness officers.

The SIU investigation found that the following events took place on January 10, 2006:
• At 5:30 p.m., Mr. Robinson attended a Queen Street residence to do some painting in the basement.  There were a number of people in the residence who he did not know.
• At approximately 8:00 p.m., Mr. Robinson completed his painting and was in the process of cleaning up in the main floor bathroom when he heard a commotion coming from the front of the house. 
• When he exited the bathroom, he was confronted by Cst Hladki, a tactical officer armed with a sub machine gun. The officer ordered him to the floor and he complied with this request.  Mr. Robinson claimed that the officer stomped on his face, and then on his wrist which was protecting his face.
• Mr. Robinson and the other occupants of the house were arrested and charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking. They were handcuffed and taken to the WPS detention unit. By the time he reached the detention unit, Mr. Robinson’s right wrist had swollen.  He was taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with a wrist fracture that required surgery.
• A week later, Mr. Robinson returned to hospital after experiencing pain in his jaw.  It was determined he had a crack in his left jaw bone.

On July 16, 2012, after hearing nine days of evidence, Thomas J. of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice released his decision dismissing the claim that the injuries were the result of excessive use of force by the subject officer.  The judgment is styled Robinson v. Degraaf et al and may be found at 2012 ONSC 3678.

During the trial, Mr. Robinson gave evidence, as did all of the police officers who were designated witness officers in the SIU investigation.  The subject officer also gave evidence.  There was no dispute that the subject officer was present in the building as a result of a valid search warrant.  There was also no dispute that the plaintiff sustained a fractured right wrist and jaw fracture as a result of his interaction with the subject officer that day. However, there was extensive medical evidence called by both the plaintiff and the defendant disputing the mechanism of those injuries. 

The trial judge rejected Mr. Robinson’s explanation for the receipt of his injuries.  He found at paragraphs 93 & 98:

[93] How the injuries to the plaintiff probably occurred is in my view determinative of this action.  While I will now proceed to discuss the proposed mechanisms of the contact between the police and Robinson, I will as well, in a subsequent section, consider the appropriateness of the police use of force in these specific circumstances.

[98] The description provided by Robinson makes it unlikely that the injury could have been caused as he suggested and more probable that it happened in the backward fall when he was pushed by Constable Hladki.  It is difficult to imagine that the wrist could be hyperextended and twisted in a range sufficient to cause the injury with part of the hand in contact with the face and part in contact with the floor.

Thomas J. went on to analyze whether the force used by the subject officer to propel the plaintiff Robinson into the bathroom was unreasonable.  He found at paragraphs 116-120:

[116] The question here is a simple one.  Was the force applied by Hladki with his left hand on Robinson’s chest propelling him backward into the bathroom objectively reasonable particularly considering the rather significant injuries that resulted.

[117] It is important to recall that the ESU was conducting an entry of a residence where crack cocaine trafficking was taking place.  The unit possessed the authority of a search warrant granted under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.  It was granted relying upon sworn evidence of the presence of cocaine, and guns in the residence of a known violent criminal.

[118] Hladki’s task was to secure the second floor of the home as swiftly as possible.  Four occupants had been found on the ground floor.  Without dispute Robinson was exiting the bathroom and partially blocking the stairs going to the second level.  While he appeared to be going to the ground Hladki felt he could not wait to see if that happened and he removed Robinson as an obstacle by the push with his left hand.

[119] The allowable degree of force is to be measured by principles of proportionality, necessity and reasonableness.  Officers engaged in this type of activity should not have their efforts held up to a standard of perfection or be paralyzed in that split second by an attempt to calculate the precise amount of force necessary to effect their purpose, but no more.  While in the tranquility of the courtroom we may take hours or even days to dissect an officer’s decision, a significant portion of that time should also be used to assess the exigencies of the circumstances facing the officer. [reference to case names omitted]

[120] In these circumstances, I find Constable Hladki’s actions entirely reasonable.

Director Scott concluded, “Having reviewed the evidence collected in the SIU investigation and the reasons for decision in Robinson v. Degraaf et al, I find that I am in agreement with Justice Thomas’s findings of fact and, in particular, his assessments around the reasonableness of the force used by the subject officer.  As a result, I will not be causing any charges to be laid in this matter.”

Director Scott further commented, “There was a very lengthy delay in the reporting of this incident to the SIU.  The SIU should have been notified immediately after the injuries to Mr. Robinson became apparent to a member of the WPS on January 10th, 2006.  I trust the new leadership at the police service will continue to work to ensure that failures in the duty to promptly report incidents to the SIU are a thing of the past.”

The SIU is an arm’s length agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault. Under the Police Services Act, the Director of the SIU must

  • consider whether an officer has committed a criminal offence  in connection with the incident under investigation
  • depending on the evidence, lay a criminal charge against the officer if appropriate or close the file without any charges being laid
  • report the results of any investigations to the Attorney General. 

Monica Hudon, monica.hudon@ontario.ca
SIU Communications/Service des communications, UES
Telephone/No de téléphone: 416-622-2342 or/ou 1-800-787-8529 extension 2342