Ontario’s police watchdog has cleared a Halton police officer accused of stomping on a subject’s arm during an arrest in March 2018.
In his decision, Special Investigations Unit Interim Director Joseph Martino ruled that it appeared “reasonable force” was involved in the arrest of a suspect who allegedly damaged a car in downtown Burlington and that it’s unclear how the man’s injury happened.
However, Martino says the “relatively simple” case should not have dragged out for 11 months.
He says the delay was due, in large part. to the Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) members’ failure to co-operate with the SIU.
“Within four months of the incident, SIU investigators had taken statements from the Complainant, two civilian witnesses and eight witness officers, and had received the majority of police records required to complete the investigation,” said Martino. “The investigation was nevertheless at a standstill.”
The SIU report claims a constable, identified as a witness, was not made readily available for the investigation. It goes on to say HRPS chief of police, Stephen Tanner, refused to make the officer available for an interview or to provide the SIU with his notes.
Martino says after several months of correspondence, the chief eventually provided the notes and the officer was interviewed in December 2018.
However, he refused to answer any questions about the Complainant or his injury.
The SIU filed an application with the Superior Court of Justice for a court order compelling both the chief of police and the special constable to co-operate with the SIU in February 2019.
After the application was filed, about eleven and a half months after an interview request, the constable in question finally submitted to an interview where he answered the SIU’s questions.
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The incident in question happened on the evening of Wednesday, March 14, 2018, after officers from HRPS responded to Lakeshore Road and Elizabeth Street in Burlington after a person reported that a man, supposedly panhandling and “under the influence,” damaged her Jeep.
Police officers eventually tracked down the 32-year-old suspect, and a brief chase ensued, resulting in the alleged vandal being grounded in a nearby parking lot, arrested and taken to a police station where he was detained overnight.
The next morning, on his way to a Milton court, the suspect complained of a sore right arm. He was taken to hospital just before noon, where he was diagnosed with a fractured right elbow.
An investigation revealed that after the suspect was handcuffed, he accused an unidentified officer of delivering a deliberate “stomp” to his right arm, causing his injury.
“If a police officer stomped on the Complainant’s elbow while he was handcuffed and not resisting, then I have no trouble finding that the force used was excessive,” Martino said in his decision.
“However, the only evidence of this comes from a source that I do not believe is credible or reliable and whom I am hesitant to accept without corroboration.”
In closing, Martino went on to say that even if his assessment is incorrect, “it is impossible to determine which of these four officers delivered the alleged blow.”