SIU Concludes Custody Injury Investigation in Peel Region
Case Number: 11-OCI-126
Mississauga (29 August, 2011) --- The Director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Ian Scott, has concluded that there are no reasonable grounds to charge a Peel Regional Police (PRP) officer with a criminal offence in regards to the injuries sustained by 21-year-old Michelle Rosales of Mississauga in June of this year.
Two SIU investigators and one SIU forensic investigator (FI) were assigned to investigate this matter. The SIU FI photographed and took measurements of the scene. Some pertinent documentation was received from the PRP. One officer was designated as a subject officer. He declined, as is his right, to be interviewed by the SIU. Four officers were designated as witness officers and interviewed. Two civilian witnesses were interviewed.
The SIU was notified on July 6, 2011 by counsel for Ms. Rosales that his client had been bitten by a PRP dog, eight days prior on June 28, 2011. The SIU investigation determined that in the evening of June 28th, Ms. Rosales and her friend purchased movie tickets for a midnight screening at a theatre at a local mall. As the film started two hours later they decided to go for a walk in Mississauga Valley Park. They drove to the park and walked down a pathway where they sat on a rock near a creek. The area was dark and there were bushes between them and the path. Unbeknownst to Ms. Rosales and her friend, PRP officers were searching for four males wanted for a recent robbery. Two of the robbery suspects were reported to be armed with knives. The search team included the subject officer, a trained dog handler, and his German Sheppard police dog named Wyatt.
Ms. Rosales saw two flashlights approaching her, and then a voice yelling, "Police! Canine Unit!" She turned to her left and a large dog, later determined to be Wyatt, bit her upper left arm. She started to scream but the dog did not release its grip. Her friend began to hit the dog in an attempt to have it release its grip on Ms. Rosales’ arm. The subject officer commanded the dog to release a number of times before finally it did. Seconds later, the dog again bit Ms. Rosales in the same area of her arm. Ms. Rosales screamed again, and again the subject officer commanded his dog to release, which it did. During the encounter, the subject officer had Wyatt on a long leash.
Ms. Rosales looked at her arm, and there were numerous bleeding bite marks with fatty tissue exposed from the wounds. An ambulance was called and she was transported to the Trillium Health Centre where she was treated for two lacerations, one seven centimetres in length and the other six centimetres.
During the course of the investigation, the SIU learned that the PRP dogs are each assigned to one handler who works with the dog over its working life. In this case, Wyatt has been assigned to the subject officer for a number of years. This led the SIU investigators to request the dog history occurrences in the possession of PRP on Wyatt. More formally, these reports are called the ‘Police Dog Services Search Reports’ and they are completed by the dog’s handler after each use. PRP refuses to produce these reports on the basis that they are authored by the subject officer.
Director Scott said, "In my view, I cannot complete an adequate investigation into this matter. First, PRP did not report this incident to the SIU when it should have been clear that the dog caused a serious injury to Ms. Rosales; she sustained two large lacerations that were serious enough that an ambulance was called to the scene. As a result of this non-notification, the SIU was deprived of a contemporaneous accounting of the incident.
"Second, and more importantly, the police service is refusing to provide the SIU with its ‘Police Dog Services Search Reports’ referable to Wyatt. These reports would be very useful in determining if Wyatt had a prior propensity to bite and not release. Further, they may inform the question of the subject officer’s prior knowledge of the dog’s propensity. PRP’s assertion that it has no duty to provide the Police Dog Services Search Reports because they are authored by the subject officer and therefore protected from disclosure does not square with the wording of the SIU regulation regarding notes of the subject officer. The relevant regulation states:
A subject officer shall complete in full the notes of the incident in accordance with his or her duty, but no member of the police force shall provide copies of the notes at the request of the SIU.
"This regulation prohibits the SIU from receiving the notes of the subject officer relating to the incident under investigation and was never designed to prohibit disclosure of prior records generated in the usual and ordinary course of business of a police service. Without these Search Reports, I am deprived of information relevant to the issue of whether or not the subject officer was criminally negligent in his handling of the dog in these circumstances."
Director Scott concluded, "On the existing information, I do not have reasonable grounds to believe that the subject officer committed a criminal offence in relation to the handling of a dog under his control that caused these serious injuries. However, if the Unit receives these Police Dog Services Search Reports from PRP, I will reopen the investigation."
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.
Frank Phillips, 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