SIU Director’s Report - Case # 20-OCI-335
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Mandate of the SIU
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.
Special Investigations Unit Act, 2019Pursuant 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 ActPursuant 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, 2004Pursuant to this legislation, any information related to the personal health of identifiable individuals is not included.
Other proceedings, processes, and investigationsInformation 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.
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 the injury a 38-year-old man (the “Complainant’) suffered during an interaction with the police.
Notification of the SIUOn December 3, 2020, at 1:28 p.m., the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service (SSMPS) notified the SIU of an injury to the Complainant. The Complainant lived at an address in Sault Ste. Marie and had no phone.
According to SSMPS, that morning at 6:00 a.m., SSMPS police officers responded to a man walking a motorcycle on Wellington Street East. When police officers arrived, they found the Complainant sitting on the motorcycle. A CPIC (Canadian Police Information Centre) check revealed that the Complainant was wanted on an outstanding warrant for a domestic incident. The Complainant struggled during the arrest and was taken to the ground. He was also found in possession of ammunition, [fn]1[/fn] which he was prohibited from possessing. The Complainant was taken to the Sault Area Hospital and diagnosed with a collapsed lung.
The TeamDate and time team dispatched: 12/03/2020 at 2:05 p.m.
Date and time SIU arrived on scene: 12/03/2020 at 2:47 p.m.
Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 2
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 0
Affected Person (aka “Complainant”):38-year-old male interviewed on December 3, 2020
Civilian Witnesses (CW)CW #1 Interviewed
CW #2 Interviewed
CW #3 Interviewed
CW #4 Interviewed
The CW interviews were conducted between December 7 and 10, 2020.
Subject Official (SO)SO Declined interview and to provide notes, as is the subject official’s legal right. He did provide a copy of his will statement.
Witness Officials (WO)WO #1 Interviewed, notes received and reviewed
WO #2 Interviewed, notes received and reviewed
WO #3 Interviewed, notes received and reviewed
The WO interviews were conducted on December 8, 2020.
The Scene The scene was located on the south sidewalk of Wellington Street East just west of Pilgrim Street in Sault Ste. Marie.
The location was between a single dwelling located at 727 Wellington Street East and a commercial business located at 721 Wellington Street East. There was a paved asphalt driveway on the west side of 727 Wellington Street East and a long paved asphalt entrance into 700 Wellington Street East [fn]2[/fn] directly beside and to the west of the driveway.
Wellington Street East was a four lane roadway with two paved lanes for east and westbound vehicular traffic. There was a small raised curb, pavement strip, then a concrete sidewalk on each side of the roadway. There was a chain link fence just south of the sidewalk at 721 Wellington Street East.
A police officer told the dispatcher that there would be further charges on the Complainant for obstruct and narcotic-related offences.
A police officer requested another police officer attend to look after the dog and the tow of the motorcycle.
The Complainant was transported to the police station, under arrest, in a police vehicle.
Materials Obtained from Police Service Upon request, the SIU received the following materials and documents from SSMPS between December 7 and 15, 2020:
- Booking and Cell Video;
- Communications Recordings;
- Use of Force Policy;
- Arrest Policy;
- Arrest Booking Report;
- Arrest Report;
- Computer-Assisted Dispatch Report;
- Crown Brief Synopsis;
- Custody Record;
- Notes-WO #3;
- Notes-WO #1;
- Notes-WO #2, Cst;
- Use of Force Training – the SO;
- Use of Force Training – WO #3;
- Use of Force Training – WO #1;
- Use of Force Training – WO #2;
- Witness Statement – the SO;
- Witness Statement – WO #3;
- Witness Statement – WO #1; and
- Witness Statement – WO #2.
The SO approached the Complainant, asked if the motorcycle was stolen and then ran his name against a police database. The search indicated that there was an outstanding warrant out for the Complainant’s arrest. The officer advised the Complainant he was under arrest and asked him to come off the motorcycle. The Complainant refused to do so, indicating he wanted to first drop the bike and his dog (attached by leash to the motorcycle) at his home before being arrested. The SO again informed the Complainant that he was under arrest and again directed that he dismount the motorcycle.
As this conversation was happening, WO #1 and WO #2 arrived to assist the SO. When the Complainant continued to insist that he would not get off the motorcycle, the SO and WO #1 forcefully pried his hands off the handlebars and brought him to the ground. The Complainant landed on his backside but quickly transitioned into a prone position, refusing to release his arms from under his torso. The officers wrestled control of his arms and brought them behind his back where they were handcuffed.
The Complainant was taken to hospital after his arrest and diagnosed with fractured ribs and a collapsed lung.
Section 25(1), Criminal Code -- Protection of persons acting under authority
(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,
Analysis and Director's Decision
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. Given the existence of an outstanding warrant for the Complainant’s arrest, I am satisfied that the officers were within their rights in seeking to take him into custody.
Thereafter, I am unable to reasonably conclude that the SO and the other officers used more force than was reasonably necessary to effect their purpose. The Complainant had made it clear he was not about to surrender peacefully into custody and gripped onto the handlebars of the motorcycle tightly. In the circumstances, the officers acted reasonably in forcibly wresting his hands from the handlebars and bringing him to the ground. The takedown, which does not appear to have been overly forceful, would better position the officers to manage any further resistance by the Complainant. Indeed, the Complainant continued to struggle with the officers on the ground, flailing his limbs and, at one point, kicking WO #1 in the chest. The officers responded by pinning the Complainant on the ground, including with the use of their knees, and exploiting their greater numbers to overpower him and take control of his arms. At no point was the Complainant struck with a punch, knee or kick. On this record, I am satisfied that the force used by the officers was commensurate and proportional to the Complainant’s resistance, and fell within the range of what was reasonably necessary at the time.
There remains a distinct possibility in the evidence that the Complainant was injured prior to his altercation with the officers. A witness had seen him topple over his motorcycle, pick himself up and hold his midsection moments before the officers’ arrival. Be that as it may, as there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the SO and his colleagues acted other than lawfully in their engagement with the Complainant, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges in this case. The file is closed.
Date: March 15, 2021
Electronically approved by
Special Investigations Unit
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.