No Charges Warranted in Case where Police Cruiser and Milk Truck Collided
Case Number: 16-PVI-189
Other News Releases Related to Case 16-PVI-189
(27 January, 2017) ---
The Director of the Special Investigations Unit, Tony Loparco, has determined there are no reasonable grounds to lay criminal charges against an Ontario Provincial Police officer who was operating a vehicle that collided with a milk truck, resulting in injuries to himself and to his passenger, a fellow police officer. The incident happened in July of 2016 in Odessa.
Three investigators, one forensic investigator and two collision reconstructionists were assigned to this incident.
The SIU interviewed the complainant, four civilian witnesses and six witness officers. The notes of an additional 11 witness officers were obtained and reviewed. The subject officer did not participate in an SIU interview and did not provide a copy of his duty notes, as is his legal right.
The Unit’s investigation also included the review of forensic evidence gathered from the scene, the collision reconstruction report and the Airbag Control Module (ACM) data from the involved police cruiser.
The SIU investigation found the following:
- In the afternoon hours of Wednesday, July 20, 2016, the subject officer was operating a subdued marking OPP police cruiser. He and another officer, who was also seated in the front, were travelling to a business located on County Road 4, north of Highway 401, to apprehend an individual who had an outstanding warrant. County Road 4 is a two lane north-south paved roadway with a speed limit of 80 km/h.
- As the officers exited Highway 401 onto County Road 4 and drove northward, they noticed a man walking on the off ramp toward County Road 4. The man generally fit the description of the man they were looking for. The officers continued to drive northbound to the business they had initially set out to visit, but the man they were looking for was not there. The officers proceeded to drive southbound on County Road 4, crossed the Highway 401 overpass and saw the man who they had spotted earlier. He was in a car pool lot situated on the east side of County Road 4, seated in the passenger side of a vehicle.
- Meanwhile, the driver of a milk truck hauling thousands of litres of milk in a stainless steel trailer was also traveling southbound on County Road 4. The driver moved from the southbound to the northbound lane to move around the subject officer’s cruiser.
- The police vehicle then abruptly turned left across the northbound lane of County Road 4 to enter the car pool parking lot via the exit lane. Despite the driver of the milk truck applying his brakes, the truck skidded and struck the driver’s door of the cruiser, pinning it against a sign at the south end of the parking lot entrance.
- After the collision, the driver of the milk truck exited his vehicle and was observed to be in a state of shock. Nevertheless, he quickly got back in his truck to back it up and free the pinned and badly damaged cruiser. This allowed other civilians to extricate the officers from the car. The milk truck driver also immediately called 911 for assistance.
- Both police officers suffered serious injuries in the collision and were taken to hospital.
The accident reconstruction data indicated that the milk truck was travelling at a speed of approximately 75-85 km/h as it was heading south on County Road 4, and as it crested the overpass the OPP cruiser was approximately 64-73 metres away. The body of evidence revealed that the cruiser was slowing down prior to the collision and had its brake lights illuminated for at least five seconds prior to the collision. The speed of the cruiser was about 15 km/h at the moment of impact having come down from 46 km/h five seconds prior to the collision. Evidence also showed that the left turn signal was not activated at the time of the collision, and the impact occurred in the northbound lane of County Road 4 near the centre of the exit lane of the car pool lot. Finally, the steering wheel was turned hard to the left approximately 2.8 seconds prior to impact, confirming that the police cruiser made an abrupt left turn 4.5 to 6 metres directly in front of the approaching milk truck.
Director Loparco said, “It is my belief on the basis of all of the evidence, that both officers were exclusively focused at the moment just before impact on observing and thinking of investigating the man in the car pool lot, perhaps believing him to be the man they were looking for. In my opinion, this distracted the subject officer from his surroundings and resulted in his making an abrupt left turn, without signaling, directly into the path of the milk truck.
“In this context the offence that arises for consideration is dangerous operation of a motor vehicle pursuant to s. 249 (1) of the Criminal Code. Liability under this section is premised on conduct that amounts to a marked departure from the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised in the circumstances. By all witness accounts, which is amply supported by the forensic evidence, there is no evidence that the officer’s conduct amounted to anything more than a momentary lack of attention which does not meet the test of a marked departure from the reasonable care standard necessary to attract criminal liability. Accordingly, I am satisfied that there are no reasonable grounds to believe that a criminal offence has been committed and no charges will issue.”
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.
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Monica Hudon, firstname.lastname@example.org
SIU Communications/Service des communications, UES
Telephone/No de téléphone: 416-622-2342 or/ou 1-800-787-8529 extension 2342