SIU Director’s Report - Case # 20-OCI-157

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Mandate of the SIU

The Special Investigations Unit is a civilian law enforcement agency that investigates incidents involving police officers where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault. The Unit’s jurisdiction covers more than 50 municipal, regional and provincial police services across Ontario.

Under the Police Services Act, the Director of the SIU must determine based on the evidence gathered in an investigation whether an officer has committed a criminal offence in connection with the incident under investigation. If, after an investigation, there are reasonable grounds to believe that an offence was committed, the Director has the authority to lay a criminal charge against the officer. Alternatively, in all cases where no reasonable grounds exist, the Director does not lay criminal charges but files a report with the Attorney General communicating the results of an investigation.

Information Restrictions

Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (“FIPPA”)

Pursuant to section 14 of FIPPA (i.e., law enforcement), certain information may not be included in this report. This information may include, but is not limited to, the following:
  • Confidential investigative techniques and procedures used by law enforcement agencies; and
  • Information whose release could reasonably be expected to interfere with a law enforcement matter or an investigation undertaken with a view to a law enforcement proceeding. 
Pursuant to section 21 of FIPPA (i.e., personal privacy), protected personal information is not included in this document. This information may include, but is not limited to, the following:
  • Subject Officer name(s);
  • Witness Officer name(s);
  • Civilian Witness name(s);
  • Location information; 
  • Witness statements and evidence gathered in the course of the investigation provided to the SIU in confidence; and 
  • Other identifiers which are likely to reveal personal information about individuals involved in the investigation.


Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004 (“PHIPA”)

Pursuant to PHIPA, any information related to the personal health of identifiable individuals is not included.

Other proceedings, processes, and investigations

Information may have also been excluded from this report because its release could undermine the integrity of other proceedings involving the same incident, such as criminal proceedings, coroner’s inquests, other public proceedings and/or other law enforcement investigations.

Mandate Engaged

The Unit’s investigative jurisdiction is limited to those incidents where there is a serious injury (including sexual assault allegations) or death in cases involving the police.

“Serious injuries” shall include those that are likely to interfere with the health or comfort of the victim and are more than merely transient or trifling in nature and will include serious injury resulting from sexual assault. “Serious Injury” shall initially be presumed when the victim is admitted to hospital, suffers a fracture to a limb, rib or vertebrae or to the skull, suffers burns to a major portion of the body or loses any portion of the body or suffers loss of vision or hearing, or alleges sexual assault. Where a prolonged delay is likely before the seriousness of the injury can be assessed, the Unit should be notified so that it can monitor the situation and decide on the extent of its involvement.

This report relates to the SIU’s investigation into the injury that a 20-year-old man (the “Complainant”) suffered.

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On June 29, 2020, at 9:08 p.m., the Barrie Police Service (BPS) reported that a 20-year-old man had suffered a serious injury during an interaction with BPS members in the following circumstances.

On June 29, 2020, at 3:42 p.m., BPS police officers responded to an address on Courtney Crescent for a domestic disturbance. As police officers arrived, they were met by paramedics who reported a man [now known to be the Complainant] had jumped from a balcony at the back of the house. Police officers found the Complainant on the ground, complaining of a pain in his foot. He was arrested and transported, via ambulance, to Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) where doctors determined he had fractured a bone in his foot. They applied a cast and told the Complainant to see a specialist in a week. His neighbour, Civilian Witness (CW) #1, witnessed the Complainant’s jump from the balcony.

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 4
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 1

Complainant:

20-year-old male interviewed, medical records obtained and reviewed


Civilian Witnesses

CW #1 Interviewed
CW #2 Interviewed

Witness Officers

WO #1 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary
WO #2 Interviewed
WO #3 Interviewed
WO #4 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary
WO #5 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary
WO #6 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary
WO #7 Interviewed
WO #8 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary


Subject Officers

SO Interviewed, and notes received and reviewed


Evidence

The Scene

The scene was not held for or attended by SIU members. Witness accounts and BPS photographs sufficed to identify the house on Courtney Crescent as a two-storey detached home in an exclusively residential neighbourhood. The house was of brick construction and commonly referred to as back-split in construction. BPS photographs captured the scene, including the deck attached to the back of the home. The deck was wooden and some distance from the ground. There were no stairs to allow access or egress from the deck to the ground.

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence


BPS Video Interview


WO #7 conducted an audio and video-recorded interview with the Complainant while he was in BPS custody. The video predominantly explored the reason for his arrest, not the dynamics of his arrest.

The video captured the Complainant’s lower left leg in a cast. At the six-minute mark of the video recording, WO #7 asked the Complainant how he broke his foot. The Complainant answered that it happened when he was tackled by the police. He did, however, agree that prior to the tackle he jumped from a balcony to the ground. When asked if he thought the jump could have caused his injury, he replied he was up and running afterward so he did not think so.

Police Communications Recordings


911 Call’s Recording


At about 3:42 p.m., a woman called police to report that she could hear within a house on Courtney Crescent a woman crying, saying that she needed to go to the hospital and accusing a male of hurting her, and a male replying that, “[I] can’t.”


Radio Messages


At about 3:56 p.m., a radio transmission indicated that an officer – the SO – had arrived on scene.

At about 3:57 p.m., a further radio transmission by the officer indicated that a male was in custody.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the BPS:
  • Arrest report;
  • Arrest Report-the Complainant;
  • Communications recordings;
  • BPS Interview Synopsis-the Complainant;
  • BPS Interview Synopsis-a civilian;
  • BPS Interview Synopsis-CW #1;
  • BPS-A Contact Report related to a second civilian;
  • BPS scene photographs;
  • BPS video interview-the Complainant;
  • Custody record;
  • Event Details;
  • Interview Synopsis-a third civilian;
  • Notes- the SO;
  • Notes- all WOs;
  • Occurrence Summary;
  • Procedure-Arrest; and
  • Procedure-Prisoner Care and Control.

Materials obtained from Other Sources

In addition to the materials received from the BPS, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials from other sources:
  • Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Incident Report-CW #2;
  • EMS Incident Report-a paramedic; and
  • Medical records-the Complainant.

Incident Narrative

While there is discrepancy in the accounts of the witnesses interviewed by the SIU, which included those of the Complainant, the SO and a couple of civilian eyewitnesses, there is sufficient clarity in the evidence to resolve the criminal liability issues. In the afternoon of June 29, 2020, officers were dispatched to a domestic disturbance call at an address on Courtney Crescent. A neighbour had called the police upon hearing a female crying from the home, saying that she needed to go to the hospital and accusing a male of hurting her, and a male replying that, “[I] can’t.”

From a second-floor balcony at the rear of the house, the Complainant jumped to the ground below and made his way to a wire mesh fence that separated the house on Courtney Crescent from the neighbouring property to the east.

The SO was the first officer at the scene. He was immediately directed to the rear of the property by a paramedic – CW #2 – who had preceded his arrival. The SO ran between the homes on Courtney Crescent and tackled the Complainant to the ground. Within moments, the SO had handcuffed the Complainant and taken him into custody.

There is conflict in the evidence regarding the Complainant’s location when he was first physically engaged by the SO. Some evidence indicates that the Complainant had just placed a foot onto the fence when the SO first made contact with him. The SO, in evidence confirmed by other evidence, says that the Complainant was already on the opposite side of the fence when he caught up with him and took him to the ground.

Relevant Legislation

Section 25(1), Criminal Code -- Protection of persons acting under authority

25 (1) Every one who is required or authorized by law to do anything in the administration or enforcement of the law
(a) as a private person,
(b) as a peace officer or public officer,
(c) in aid of a peace officer or public officer, or
(d) by virtue of his office,
is, if he acts on reasonable grounds, justified in doing what he is required or authorized to do and in using as much force as is necessary for that purpose.

Analysis and Director's Decision

On June 29, 2020, the Complainant reportedly suffered a fracture of the left foot in and around the time of his arrest. The SO was the arresting officer and identified as the subject officer for purposes of the SIU investigation. On my assessment of the evidence, there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the SO committed a criminal offence in connection with the Complainant’s arrest and injury.

Pursuant to section 25(1) of the Criminal Code, police officers are immune from criminal liability for force used in the course of their duties provided such force was reasonably necessary in the execution of an act that they were authorized or required to do by law. Based on information he had received upon being dispatched in relation to an assault in progress, and what he gathered at the scene suggesting the perpetrator of the assault was fleeing police, I am unable to reasonably conclude that the SO did not have a lawful basis for seeking to arrest the Complainant.

I am also of the view that the force used by the SO in effecting the arrest – a flying tackle that took the Complainant to the ground – fell within the limits of the law. Whether the Complainant was on one side of the fence or the other, the fact is he was fleeing from police at the time he was confronted by the SO. In the circumstances, the SO’s choice of tactics would appear to have been a logical and proportionate use of force given the ground he was attempting to make up, the presence of the fence in and around the area, and the need to intercede in quick fashion to bring the Complainant’s flight to an end while preventing any further resistance on his part.

Whether it was the tackle that caused or contributed to the Complainant’s injury remains unclear. There is a distinct possibility raised in the evidence that his fractured left foot was more likely attributable to his descent of some three to four metres from the rear balcony. Be that as it may, as there is insufficient evidence to reasonably believe that the SO conducted himself other than lawfully in his interaction with the Complainant, there are no grounds for proceeding with criminal charges in this case. The file is closed.


Date: November 16, 2020

Electronically approved by

Joseph Martino
Director
Special Investigations Unit

Note:

The signed English original report is authoritative, and any discrepancy between that report and the French and English online versions should be resolved in favour of the original English report.