SIU Director’s Report - Case # 20-OCI-350


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Mandate of the SIU

The Special Investigations Unit is a civilian law enforcement agency that investigates incidents involving an official where there has been death, serious injury, the discharge of a firearm at a person or an allegation of sexual assault. Under the Special Investigations Unit Act, 2019 (SIU Act), officials are defined as police officers, special constables of the Niagara Parks Commission and peace officers under the Legislative Assembly Act. The SIU’s jurisdiction covers more than 50 municipal, regional and provincial police services across Ontario.

Under the SIU Act, the Director of the SIU must determine based on the evidence gathered in an investigation whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that a criminal offence was committed. If such grounds exist, the Director has the authority to lay a criminal charge against the official. Alternatively, in cases where no reasonable grounds exist, the Director cannot lay charges. Where no charges are laid, a report of the investigation is prepared and released publicly, except in the case of reports dealing with allegations of sexual assault, in which case the SIU Director may consult with the affected person and exercise a discretion to not publicly release the report having regard to the affected person’s privacy interests.

Information Restrictions

Special Investigations Unit Act, 2019

Pursuant to section 34, certain information may not be included in this report. This information may include, but is not limited to, the following: 
  • The name of, and any information identifying, a subject official, witness official, civilian witness or affected person. 
  • Information that may result in the identity of a person who reported that they were sexually assaulted being revealed in connection with the sexual assault. 
  • Information that, in the opinion of the SIU Director, could lead to a risk of serious harm to a person. 
  • Information that discloses investigative techniques or procedures.  
  • Information, the release of which is prohibited or restricted by law.  
  • Information in which a person’s privacy interest in not having the information published clearly outweighs the public interest in having the information published. 

Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

Pursuant to section14 (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 that 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 (i.e., personal privacy), protected personal information is not included in this report. This information may include, but is not limited to, the following: 
  •  The names of persons, including civilian witnesses, and subject and witness officials; 
  • 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

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

Other proceedings, processes, and investigations

Information may also have 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

Pursuant to section 15 of the SIU Act, the SIU may investigate the conduct of officials, be they police officers, special constables of the Niagara Parks Commission or peace officers under the Legislative Assembly Act, that may have resulted in death, serious injury, sexual assault or the discharge of a firearm at a person.

A person sustains a “serious injury” for purposes of the SIU’s jurisdiction if they: sustain an injury as a result of which they are admitted to hospital; suffer a fracture to the skull, or to a limb, rib or vertebra; suffer burns to a significant proportion of their body; lose any portion of their body; or, as a result of an injury, experience a loss of vision or hearing.

In addition, a “serious injury” means any other injury sustained by a person that is likely to interfere with the person’s health or comfort and is not transient or trifling in nature.

This report relates to the SIU’s investigation into serious injuries sustained by a 32-year-old man (the “Complainant”).

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On December 14, 2020, the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service (SSMPS) contacted the SIU to report an injury to the Complainant.

At 6:43 p.m., the SSMPS reported that, at 2:00 p.m., police officers were called to a domestic dispute at an address on Queen Street. The Complainant, 32 years of age, was arrested for breaching his release conditions and mischief. At 2:05 p.m., the Complainant was handcuffed and taken to the police station. At 2:26 p.m., he was placed in a cell. At 3:30 p.m., when a cell check was made, he was lying on the bench. Paramedics were called at 3:50 p.m. when the Complainant appeared to be in medical distress. He was taken to the Sault Area Hospital where he was released from police custody, admitted, and placed in the intensive care unit (ICU), the result of drug overdose. The Complainant’s condition was not considered life threatening and it was thought he would be released from hospital within 24 hours.

The Team

Date and time team dispatched: 12/15/2020 at 10:55 a.m.

Date and time SIU arrived on scene: 12/15/2020 at 12:34 p.m.

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 3

Affected Person (aka “Complainant”):

32-year-old male, unable to locate

Subject Officials

SO Declined interview and to provide notes, as is the subject official’s legal right

Witness Officials

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

Witness officials were interviewed on December 31, 2020.


The Scene

The Complainant’s need for medical attention was recognized while he was in a cell in the SSMPS facility at 580 Second Line East.

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence

The SIU searched for and/or obtained audio, video and/or photographic records of relevance, as set out below.

SSMPS Custody Video

The SSMPS facility was equipped with closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras. A total of seven video files were received that captured events between 2:13:49 p.m. and 4:09:44 p.m., December 14, 2020. All but one included an audio component.

Sally Port (2:13:49 p.m. – 2:15:25 p.m.):

WO #4 exited his police vehicle and walked out of the sally port with a black bag he retrieved from the trunk. He returned to the sally port, opened the rear passenger door, and assisted the Complainant from the rear seat. WO #1 entered the sally port on foot.

The Complainant exited the vehicle with very little assistance, his hands handcuffed behind his back. He walked slowly, with his head down. There was no overt animosity exhibited between the Complainant and the police officers.

Booking Room (2:16:19 p.m. - 2:28:13 p.m.):

WO #1 and WO #4 escorted the Complainant to the booking desk where the SO informed the Complainant a Justice of the Peace was holding bail court in an adjacent room. He told the Complainant if he wanted a chance of being released, he should not “freak out”.

The Complainant stood calmly and though he spoke it was difficult to hear what he said. WO #1 and WO #4 removed the Complainant’s handcuffs and the Complainant said something about medication. The SO told the Complainant the police had his bag; if his medications were in there, he would be allowed to take them.

The Complainant told the SO he had been punched in the head by one of the police officers and the SO told him that is what happened when you flee police and resist arrest, if you take a strike, you take a strike. The SO told the Complainant he was currently on conditions not to communicate with or be within 25 metres of a woman and the Complainant faced two counts of breach of a release order.

The Complainant’s outer layers of clothing were removed and searched. He had marihuana in his possession. Most of the Complainant’s conversations were difficult to hear but he said he was “going cold turkey” from a medication. The SO requested the police officers check the Complainant’s bag for medication, but the Complainant explained he was supposed to pick the prescription up that morning and he had been on his way to pick it up.

The Complainant rested his head on the booking desk for a short time and when asked if he had any illnesses of injuries, the Complainant explained he had several including pneumonia, damage to his left leg from running from the police, damage to his right kneecap inflicted by the woman he was on conditions to not communicate with, and damage to his face from being punched and thrown to ground by the police. The Complainant was calm and cooperative throughout the booking and while several articles of his clothing were removed. He was given a drink.

The Complainant’s bag was checked for prescription medications, but none were located. The SO informed the Complainant police officers would check with the woman for his medications, and a man’s voice made a radio transmission with that request. The Complainant declined to speak with counsel.

The SO directed the police officers to give the Complainant two blankets because of his sore lungs and legs before the Complainant walked slowly down the hall, unassisted, followed by WO #1 and WO #4, and out of camera view.

Men’s Cell Block (2:25:05 p.m. - 2:47:23 p.m.):

The Complainant limped into the cell block area as WO #1 and WO #4 followed. One police officer carried the blankets. Conversation was indiscernible and the situation was calm. The Complainant was directed to a cell at the end of the hall, just out of camera view. At 2:28:33 p.m., the cell door was closed, and WO #1 and WO #4 exited the cell block.

At 2:44:42 p.m., a man yelled, “Guard,” a couple of times and, at 2:45:01 p.m., a special constable entered and checked the Complainant’s cell. The Complainant asked to speak with a lawyer and the special constable told the Complainant he would return with a list of lawyers for him to choose from. The special constable left the cell block and returned a short time later. At 2:47:05 p.m., the Complainant was removed from his cell and the special constable followed him as he limped down the hall and exited the cell block.

Cell 5 (2:28:14 p.m. – 2:47:08 p.m.):

This video feed had no audio component and monitored cell five.

At 2:28:22 p.m., the Complainant entered cell five, immediately sat on the bench, placed a cup on the floor, then leaned forward, his head down, his hands clasped. Of WO #1 and WO #4, who escorted the Complainant, one of the officers tossed blankets on the bench from the cell door, and the second secured the cell door. The Complainant remained seated as a special constable spoke with him and left.

At 2:46:59 p.m., a special constable returned, opened the cell door and the Complainant exited the cell and walked down the hall behind the special constable.

Booking Room (2:47:17 p.m. – 2:55:26 p.m.):

A special constable entered the hallway, followed by the Complainant who was directed to the lawyers list on the wall.

At 2:48:00 p.m., the Complainant was placed in the cell block phone booth to speak with his lawyer privately. The special constable dialed the Complainant’s lawyer of choice from the hallway, but he was unable to reach that lawyer. The Complainant requested another lawyer be called and, at 2:52:08 p.m., the Complainant spoke with that lawyer.

A second special constable entered the hallway, and the special constables stood by until 2:55:07 p.m., when the Complainant exited the cell block phone booth and limped toward the men’s cell block door, followed by the special constables.

Men’s Cell Block (2:55:11 p.m. - 4:08:20 p.m.):

The Complainant entered the cell block and limped down the hall followed by a special constable, until out of view. They had no conversation.

At 2:55:47 p.m., the Complainant’s cell door closed and the special constable exited the cell block.

Special constables were in and out of the cell block and dealt with other prisoner needs. They lodged and removed prisoners from their cells.

At 3:21:33 p.m., a special constable entered the cell block and performed cell checks at each of the three occupied cells. The special constable stood outside the Complainant’s cell for approximately four seconds before he exited the cell block at 3:22:01 p.m.

At 3:52:56 p.m., the SO entered the cell block and walked to the Complainant’s cell. At 3:53:04 p.m., the SO, from outside of the camera’s view, asked the Complainant, “What’s the matter with you?” The Complainant’s response was indiscernible. The SO responded, “You can’t go to the hospital for two days but now you can’t breathe. Can’t hear ya.” The Complainant’s response was indiscernible. The SO said, “Ok, I’ll have to call an ambulance to come check you out.” At 3:53:32 p.m., the SO exited the cell block.

At 3:54:07 p.m., a special constable entered the cell block, walked directly to the Complainant’s cell, and asked, “What’s going on? Heh, can you breathe? What’s up, can’t breathe? OK.” The Complainant’s responses were indiscernible. At 3:54:29 p.m., the special constable exited the cell block.

At 3:54:46 p.m., the special constable returned, walked directly to the Complainant’s cell, and the cell door was heard opening. The special constable said, “Watch your head, I’m opening the door, what’s up, can’t breathe?’’

At 3:55:16 p.m., the SO entered the cell block with another prisoner for lodging. He then walked down to the Complainant’s cell, told the Complainant an ambulance was coming and to relax. At 3:55:47 p.m., the SO exited the cell block.

At 3:56:32 p.m., a sergeant entered the cell block and went to the Complainant’s cell. Their conversation was indiscernible.

At 3:57:28 p.m., the SO propped the cell block door open and told the sergeant and the special constable an ambulance was on the way in. The sergeant said the Complainant was breathing but the rest of the conversation was indiscernible.

At 3:58:07 p.m., the SO approached the Complainant’s cell, checked the Complainant’s status, and left the cell block. At 3:59:10 p.m., the SO entered the cell block doorway to check the Complainant’s status again and people were heard to say, “Can you hear me?”

At 4:00:15 p.m., the Complainant was told paramedics were there to see him and, at 4:01:28 p.m., the SO escorted paramedics into the cell block and explained the Complainant’s condition.

The paramedics asked the Complainant questions and he responded but his responses were indiscernible. A stretcher was brought into the cell block. The SO, the sergeant and two special constables stood by as paramedics assisted the Complainant.

At 4:06:11 p.m., the Complainant was lifted onto the stretcher by paramedics. The SO inquired after his wellbeing and a paramedic told him she had not found anything wrong with him yet.

At 4:08:10 p.m., the Complainant was transported out of the cell block, on the stretcher, by paramedics.

Cell 5 (2:55:36 p.m. – 4:08:02 p.m.) no audio component:

At 2:55:43 p.m., the Complainant walked into cell five and the cell door was locked by a special constable. The Complainant sat on the bench before he unfolded two blankets, laid down with his head closest to the bars, and covered himself with one of the blankets.

At 3:21:52 p.m., a special constable conducted a cell check. He stood outside the cell for approximately four seconds.

At 3:39:09 p.m., the Complainant sat up, put his feet on the floor, and leaned forward. His head repeatedly moved up and down.

At 3:43:02 p.m., the Complainant placed his hands on the floor and crawled down to the floor. His knees got caught up in the blanket. With the upper part of his body on the ground he lay, faced down, with the back of his head against the cell bars and wall.

At 3:45:29 p.m., the Complainant moved slightly, raised his left arm up against the wall, then reached behind his head, and grabbed the cell door bars with his left hand.

At 3:48:20 p.m., the Complainant repositioned his body completely to the cell floor, his left hand between the cell bars. He moved his feet, legs, and upper body.

At 3:52:30 p.m., the Complainant got to his knees, sat up, and began shaking the cell door with his left hand.

At 3:53:03 p.m., the SO stood outside the Complainant’s cell door. He and the Complainant appeared to be in conversation. The SO leaned down to assess the Complainant. At 3:53:26 p.m., the SO left camera view and the Complainant remained seated, leaned forward toward the cell door, with his left hand on the cell door bars.

At 3:54:12 p.m., a special constable approached the Complainant’s cell, crouched down to speak with him, then left. At 3:54:50 p.m., the special constable returned and gently opened the cell door, as the Complainant’s head rested against it. He leaned down to the Complainant and, at 3:55:27 p.m., the SO attended the cell. He stood behind the special constable as the special constable pulled the Complainant out of the cell. The SO moved in to assist once the Complainant’s upper body was in the hallway. The Complainant moved his legs.

At 3:55:40 p.m., the SO left. The special constable tended to the Complainant. Only the Complainant’s legs and feet were in camera view. His legs and feet moved slightly.

At 3:56:37 p.m., a sergeant arrived but was in camera view for only a short time. The view was limited, the Complainant’s upper body was out of the camera view and the special constable remained at the Complainant’s lower body.

At 3:58:09 p.m., the SO returned, then left camera view again.

At 4:01:35 p.m., three paramedics arrived and assessed the Complainant. At 4:05:57 p.m., the paramedics moved the Complainant out of the camera’s view.

Booking Room (4:08:03 p.m. - 4:08:41 p.m.):

Paramedics moved the Complainant, via stretcher, from the cell block into the hallway and out of the booking area. The SO instructed a special constable to accompany the paramedics to the hospital.

Sally Port (4:08:27 p.m. – 4:09:44 p.m.):

Paramedics moved the Complainant, via stretcher, through the sally port followed by a special constable. The Complainant was loaded in the ambulance (which was out of camera sight).

Materials Obtained from Police Service

The SIU obtained and reviewed the following records from the SSMPS:
  • Arrest booking report;
  • The Complainant’s Arrest Report;
  • Custody record;
  • Custody video;
  • Notes of WOs; and
  • Service Members involved.

Incident Narrative

The following scenario emerges from the evidence collected by the SIU, which included interviews with the officers who arrested the Complainant and video recordings of his time in police custody. As was his legal right, the SO declined to interview with the SIU or authorize the release of his notes. Regrettably, the Complainant, of no fixed address, could not be located for an interview.

In the afternoon of the day in question, officers were dispatched following a call to police from a woman. The woman was the Complainant’s estranged partner. The Complainant had just interacted with her in violation of the terms of a judicial release order.

WO #1 was among the responding officers. He located the Complainant and chased him on foot, eventually catching up with him. The Complainant was arrested for breaching his release order and handcuffed. The time was about 2:10 p.m.

The Complainant was placed in WO #4’s cruiser and taken to the station. While being booked before the SO, the Complainant complained that he had been punched by an officer at the scene of his arrest. [1] When asked about his health, the Complainant indicated that he was without his prescription medication and listed his medical conditions. The SO explained that they would check with his ex-partner for his medications and steps were taken to contact her. The Complainant was lodged in cells at about 2:28 p.m.

At about 3:52 p.m., the SO entered the cell block, approached the Complainant’s cell, and asked, “What’s the matter with you?” The Complainant’s answer was indiscernible in the video recording. The SO then said, “OK, I’ll have to call an ambulance to come check you out.” In the next couple of minutes, after the SO had left, a special constable checked on the Complainant twice, each time asking whether the Complainant was having trouble breathing.

Paramedics arrived at the Complainant’s cell at about 4:00 p.m. At 4:06 p.m., the Complainant was loaded onto a stretcher and taken out of the cell block.

Relevant Legislation

Section 215, Criminal Code - Failure to Provide Necessaries

215 (1) Every one is under a legal duty

(c) to provide necessaries of life to a person under his charge if that person
(i) is unable, by reason of detention, age, illness, mental disorder or other cause, to withdraw himself from that charge, and
(ii) is unable to provide himself with necessaries of life.

(2) Every person commits an offence who, being under a legal duty within the meaning of subsection (1), fails without lawful excuse to perform that duty, if
(b) with respect to a duty imposed by paragraph (1)(c), the failure to perform the duty endangers the life of the person to whom the duty is owed or causes or is likely to cause the health of that person to be injured permanently.

Sections 219 and 221, Criminal Code -- Criminal negligence causing bodily harm

219 (1) Every one is criminally negligent who
(a) in doing anything, or
(b) in omitting to do anything that it is his duty to do,
shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons.

(2) For the purposes of this section, duty means a duty imposed by law.

221 Every one who by criminal negligence causes bodily harm to another person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years

Analysis and Director's Decision

On December 14, 2020, the Complainant fell into medical distress while in a SSMPS cell. He was taken to hospital and spent time in the ICU, reportedly the result of a drug overdose. The SIU was notified and opened a file. The officer with overall responsibility for the care and well-being of prisoners at the time – the SO – was identified as the subject official 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 time in custody.

The offences that arise for consideration are failure to provide the necessaries of life and criminal negligence causing bodily harm contrary to sections 215 and 221 of the Criminal Code, respectively. The former is premised, in part, on conduct that amounts to a marked deviation from a reasonable level of care in the circumstances. The latter is a more serious offence intended to capture conduct that displays a wanton or reckless disregard for the lives and safety of others. It is not made out unless the impugned conduct amounts to a marked and substantial departure from the level of care that a reasonable person would have observed in the circumstances. In the instant case, the issue is whether there was any want of care in the manner in which the Complainant was looked after while in police custody and, if so, whether it caused or contributed to his medical condition and was sufficiently egregious as to attract criminal sanction. In my view, there is insufficient evidence to reasonably establish that the SO transgressed the limits of care prescribed by the criminal law.

The Complainant was lawfully in custody. The police had been contacted by a woman calling to complain about the Complainant breaching the terms of his release order. There were also a number of warrants out for his arrest for breaches of probation.

Once in police cells, it would appear that the Complainant received an adequate level of care. The Complainant had mentioned being without his prescription medication and efforts were undertaken to locate them. Thereafter, in the hour-and-a-half that he was in cells, he gave no indication of being in medical distress until shortly before 4:00 p.m., when it appears his breathing became laboured. In that time, he had been checked by special constables and was seen to be operating under his own strength when removed from the cell to contact a lawyer. Not more than ten minutes elapsed from the moment the SO, apparently alerted to the Complainant’s deteriorating health by a special constable, entered the cell block to check him out until the arrival of paramedics. The Complainant was taken to hospital where he was reportedly treated for a drug overdose and released the following afternoon.

In the result, as there are no reasonable grounds to conclude that the SO conducted himself other than lawfully while the Complainant was in his charge, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges and the file is closed.

Date: March 15, 2021

Electronically approved by

Joseph Martino
Special Investigations Unit


  • 1) As there was no indication that this reported strike caused a serious injury, it was not the focus of the SIU investigation. The allegation, however, has been referred to the police service for investigation. [Back to text]


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.