SIU Director Finds No Reasonable Grounds for Charges in Collision at Niagara Falls Intersection
Case Number: 15-OVI-144
(19 August, 2016) ---
The Director of the Special Investigations Unit has found there are no reasonable grounds to charge a Niagara Regional Police officer following a collision that injured a 27-year-old man.
Six investigators and two forensic investigators were assigned to this incident.
The complainant (injured person), 11 civilian witnesses, and four witness officers were interviewed. 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 interviews of paramedics who arrived on scene after the collision, speed data from the subject officer’s scout car, collision reconstruction evidence, and traffic signal data from Niagara Public Works.
The SIU investigation found the following:
- Just after 10:00 a.m. on July 7, 2015, a Niagara Regional Police officer was dispatched to a personal injury motor vehicle collision.
- The officer travelled at a high rate of speed westbound on Morrison Street.
- At the intersection with Stanley Avenue, the officer’s scout car collided with a car travelling northbound on Stanley Avenue.
- Both vehicles sustained significant damage. The Scout car struck a pole that hit the traffic control box for the intersection. As a result, the traffic light program for that intersection was disabled and the lights defaulted to a flashing-red light in all four directions.
- The 27-year-old driver of the car was taken to hospital and treated for a fractured left ankle.
SIU Director Tony Loparco said, “The colour of the traffic light is extremely important to my assessment of potential criminality. If the officer entered an intersection with a green light, then neither his speed nor his failure to slow down causes me concern. However, if the officer crossed through a red light or through a flashing red light at a speed 30 kilometres in excess of the posted limit with no attempt to slow down to ensure that the intersection was clear, then his actions would likely constitute a marked departure from the objective norm.
“Six independent civilians witnessed the collision or its immediate aftermath. However, when their accounts are compared and contrasted, material inconsistencies become evident.
“Three of the six principal witnesses state the man’s car was travelling eastbound and making a left-hand turn onto northbound Stanley Avenue when the collision occurred. The accident reconstruction evidence, as well as the accounts of the complainant and his girlfriend, allows me to conclude that these three witnesses are mistaken on this important point. Those same witnesses also recounted with confidence that the traffic light was flashing red prior to the collision as opposed to afterwards.
“A fourth witness was stopped at the intersection just before the collision waiting for the light to change from red. After the light cycled to green, she proceeded eastbound through the intersection before she spotted the cruiser speeding towards her with the emergency lights activated.
“This witness’ account plays three roles in my analysis. First, it serves to undermine the accounts of the three witnesses who maintain that the traffic light was flashing red before the collision occurred. Second, it allows me to confidently conclude that the traffic light was functioning properly prior to the control box being struck. Third, and very significantly, it tends to call into question the proposition that the light controlling northbound traffic was green as the complainant approached the intersection.
“After reviewing all of the evidence, I am unable to say with any degree of confidence whether the light was green or red. Given the uncertainty that I am faced with on a key piece of evidence, I cannot conclude that reasonable grounds exist to lay a charge of dangerous driving. The outcome of this investigation is that no charges will issue.”
NB: The SIU had obtained data from the Niagara Public Works respecting traffic control signals in the region. Due to ongoing construction, the traffic light at Stanley Avenue and Morrison Street was “off-line” on July 7, 2015, and had been since January 2015. This meant that its light cycle was not connected to the system, and the data could not definitively confirm the colour of the light at the time of the collision. All that could be determined was that the light appeared to be functioning normally up until the time that the control signal box was struck after the collision.
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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