SIU Concludes Investigation in Belmont
Case Number: 05-PCI-135
On August 28, 2005, OPP officers arrested a number of people after a Lions Club dance in the town of Belmont. On September 1, 2005, the SIU was notified of an injury to a man who alleged he suffered a fracture to his wrist as a result of his arrest.
The SIU assigned an investigator to probe the circumstances of the injured man's arrest and whether or not the involved officers were criminally responsible for his injury. As part of the SIU investigation, two OPP members were designated as subject officers. In total, over 50 police and civilian witnesses were interviewed.
The SIU investigation revealed that on August 27, 2005, the Belmont Lions Club held a dance at a local arena. The organizers of the dance hired three pay-duty OPP officers. At about 9:30 p.m., four additional OPP officers from the Elgin County detachment arrived to monitor the dance due to concerns arising from a similar event in April. A prisoner van, which is often used in functions where multiple arrests may occur, was parked outside in the parking lot.
Shortly after 1:00 a.m., patrons of the dance party began to leave. There were a number of patrons lingering in the parking lot of the arena while waiting for rides. The officers tried to disperse the crowd by approaching groups of people and telling them to leave. Several civilian witnesses heard officers counting down and warning the patrons they had a certain time to leave the premises. People were arrested for public intoxication and put in the prisoner van.
An officer approached a group of men who were play-fighting with each other and pushing each other around. There was a lot of shouting and swearing between the men and the police, resulting in a physical altercation between one man and an officer. A second officer joined in to try and control the man as they told him to stop resisting. The officers eventually took control of the man, put him on the ground, and arrested him for obstructing police and causing a disturbance. During this time, several other men demanded to know why their friend was being arrested and also became involved in simultaneous confrontations with the officers that had gathered around them. These men were also physically controlled and arrested. Police used pepper spray during some of the arrests.
The group of men was eventually handcuffed and placed in the prisoner van. While the men were inside the van, an officer saw the van rocking back and forth as the men punched and kicked it from within.
Director Cornish noted that in the course of this extensive investigation in which over 50 police and civilian witnesses were spoken to, witness recounts varied greatly. He stated, "The civilian witnesses paint a picture of happy-go-lucky partiers exiting the dance only to be confronted by antagonistic police officers. The police witnesses tell of a huge unruly crowd exiting the dance that they believed could become a danger to the public peace. This investigation focused on the evidence that related to the injuries suffered by the complainant and that exact interplay also varied depending upon the witness."
Based upon the totality of the available evidence, the Director of the SIU concluded, "I believe the officers had a belief that the crowd with which they were dealing could quickly pose a danger to the public peace and they arrested the complainant believing that such an arrest was necessary to prevent the situation from escalating. The amount of force used in the arrest is the matter of some dispute. The injury could have been sustained while the complainant fell to the ground when he was arrested or the injury could have been inflicted by him punching the inside of the prisoner van within which he was lodged in after his arrest. Neither of these scenarios supports the notion that any officer unlawfully caused his injury."
The SIU is an independent government agency that investigates the conduct of officials (police officers as well as special constables with the Niagara Parks Commission and peace officers with the Legislative Protective Service) that may have resulted in death, serious injury, sexual assault and/or the discharge of a firearm at a person. All investigations are conducted by SIU investigators who are civilians. Under the Special Investigations Unit Act, the Director of the SIU must
- consider whether the official has committed a criminal offence in connection with the incident under investigation
- depending on the evidence, cause a criminal charge to be laid against the official where grounds exist for doing so, or close the file without any charges being laid
- publicly report the results of its investigations
Telephone/No de téléphone: 416-622-2342 or/ou 1-800-787-8529 extension 2342