SIU Concludes Investigation into Custody Injury in Sault Ste. Marie
Case Number: 08-OCI-106
On June 11, 2008 at approximately 3 a.m., police responded to reports of two men stealing from cars and garden sheds in the area of Promenade Drive. Officers, assisted by the Canine Unit, commenced a track and searched the bushes and streets in the residential subdivision near Park Place Drive and Lake Street on the northeast side of the city. They spotted two males on bicycles, one of whom dropped his bike and fled on foot into the dense bush and trees. The other man was arrested riding his bike on Village Court.
Held on a lead by his police handler, the police service dog located the man who had laid down in the darkness. There was no artificial light or moonlight at that time.
Officers trained their flashlights on the man and saw that the dog had a hold of him by the neck. The handler threw himself on top of the dog, grabbed the animal's jaws and pried
the dog's mouth open. Twenty-year-old Justin Landry was rushed to the Sault Ste. Marie Health Centre where he was initially treated for his neck injury. He was later transferred by air ambulance to St. Michael's hospital in Toronto for specialized treatment of injuries to his throat and larynx. He will undergo follow-up surgery to determine the extent of damage to his trachea.
Mr. Cornish noted: "I am satisfied in the circumstances that the subject officer - the dog handler - was justified in his decision to commence a track of the male. There is also no suggestion in the evidence that the subject officer was criminally negligent in directing and handling the police dog. The officer kept the dog on a lead at all times and ensured that the lead remained taut. The only time the lead slackened was when the dog came upon the male. It should also be noted that the officer took immediate action to remove the dog from the male when he saw that the dog had bitten the male's neck."
During its investigation, the SIU reviewed the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service communication tapes and the Service's policy on Use of the Canine Unit, training and equipment. The policy states that police dogs are trained to "bite and hold" but not specifically trained to bite above the shoulders; however, in this case, the man was laying down when the dog located him.
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.