SIU Concludes Injury Investigation in Toronto
Case Number: 13-TCI-122
Mississauga (15 August, 2013) --- The Director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Ian Scott, has concluded that there are no reasonable grounds to charge a Toronto Police Service officer with a criminal offence in relation to the injuries sustained by 35-year-old Karl Andrus in August of 2012. This matter did not come to the attention of the SIU until May 15, 2013 when Mr. Andrus’ lawyer contacted the Unit.
The SIU assigned three investigators and two forensic investigators to probe the circumstances of this incident. As part of the investigation, 10 witness officers and four civilian witnesses were interviewed. As well, several videos were reviewed - imagery was captured on two Sheraton Centre Hotel CCTV surveillance videos, and Mr. Andrus took a video of the incident that was uploaded onto YouTube. The subject officer supplied a copy of his duty notes, but declined to be interviewed as is his legal right.
The SIU investigation found that the following events took place on August 29, 2012:
• In the evening hours, the subject officer and other officers were dispatched to the Sheraton Centre Hotel in response to a guest who had allegedly assaulted one of the hotel’s security staff. Officers arrested the alleged assaulter by taking him to the ground. The arrestee’s father, who began screaming after his son’s arrest, was arrested for causing a disturbance. He immediately started to suffer some kind of medical distress related to his breathing and an ambulance was called. Two female family members of the two men then became upset and attempted to intervene.
• Mr. Andrus was a hotel guest who happened to walk into this arrest scene near the hotel elevators and lobby. He began video recording the events on his cellphone. After about two minutes of recording, he was approached by the subject officer and told that he had filmed enough and was asked to step back to the other side of the elevators. Mr. Andrus remained where he was and continued recording. The subject officer instructed another officer to move Mr. Andrus. The officer faced Mr. Andrus and forcefully said, “I’m cautioning you now for obstruct. Move back. Get back. Or I’m going to arrest you.” He advanced toward Mr. Andrus causing him to back up toward the elevators. The officer then turned away and Mr. Andrus immediately moved back to the spot where he originally stood. This time, the subject officer approached Mr. Andrus and told him to back up. Mr. Andrus backed up while telling the subject officer he was a guest at the hotel and asserting his right to stand where he previously stood to continue recording. On the hotel CCTV video, he can be seen raising his left arm in an upper cut motion in the direction of the subject officer’s upper chest or head area. Immediately thereafter, approximately four officers can be seen subduing Mr. Andrus, taking him to the ground and handcuffing his wrists behind his body. Mr. Andrus was arrested for obstructing the police and assaulting a police officer.
• A later medical examination diagnosed a right rib fracture.
Director Scott said, “The central question in this matter is whether the subject officer had the lawful authority to insist that Mr. Andrus move from the position where he was standing and video recording to a position on the other side of the elevators. In my view, he had the authority to do so. Police officers pursuant to the Police Services Act have the statutory duty to preserve the peace. Further, they have the powers and duties ascribed to a constable at common law. In order to be acting lawfully, an officer must be acting in the course of his or her duties and the conduct in question must amount to a justifiable use of police powers associated with that duty. Here, the police were dispatched to a call where a family member had been arrested due to an alleged assault against a hotel security staff member, causing the remaining three family members to become very upset. The father then lapsed into medical distress. The two remaining female family members became even more upset and would not stay away from the two men under arrest. This chaotic situation was unfolding in an area circumscribed by elevators with numerous hotel guests coming and going.”
Director Scott continued, “In my view, the involved officers had the authority to insist that any onlookers remain a certain distance from this disorderly situation until calm prevailed. Further, the involved officers had to provide adequate space for paramedics to attend to the family member undergoing medical distress. Accordingly, the subject officer had the lawful authority to demand that Mr. Andrus step away from the arrest scene. Therefore, when Mr. Andrus raised his arm in an aggressive manner towards the subject officer who was lawfully removing Mr. Andrus from the arrest scene, the officer had the lawful authority to arrest him for assaulting a peace officer. As well, other officers had the authority to assist in that arrest. Given Mr. Andrus’ resistance, I am of the view that the involved officers did not use excessive force in effecting this lawful arrest. Accordingly, I have no reasonable grounds to believe that the subject officer committed a criminal offence.”
Director Scott added, “I am mindful of the fact that Mr. Andrus takes the view that he was only video recording police involvement in these arrests, and that he had the right to remain where he was to continue recording. I agree with him that he had the right to record this police activity. There is no law that I am aware of that prohibits citizens from recording police activity in public areas. However, the right to record police activity should not be confused with the authority of the police to require citizens to comply with lawful commands to control a disorderly situation. Here, in my view, the subject officer was attempting to control a difficult situation, and had the lawful authority to require Mr. Andrus to step away from the arrest scene whether or not he was video-recording the involved officers’ actions.”
The SIU is an independent government agency that investigates the conduct of officials (police officers as well as special constables with the Niagara Parks Commission and peace officers with the Legislative Protective Service) that may have resulted in death, serious injury, sexual assault and/or the discharge of a firearm at a person. All investigations are conducted by SIU investigators who are civilians. Under the Special Investigations Unit Act, the Director of the SIU must
- consider whether the official has committed a criminal offence in connection with the incident under investigation
- depending on the evidence, cause a criminal charge to be laid against the official where grounds exist for doing so, or close the file without any charges being laid
- publicly report the results of its investigations