The province’s police watchdog has cleared an Elgin OPP officer of criminal wrongdoing in connection with the death of a 28-year-old man in 2018.
According to the Special Investigations Unit, a woman called police just after 12:30 p.m. on the afternoon of June 9, 2018, to report she found her brother hanging in his residence in Port Stanley.
EMS and fire responded and the SIU director says the police officer at the centre of the SIU investigation — who was en route to the scene — told the OPP dispatcher, “If the male’s been there for a while if we can have the ambulance not, instruct them not to cut the male down that would be fantastic. Obviously, that depends how long he’s been there.”
Firefighters arrived first and reported the male was vital signs absent and they would not cut him down but when EMS arrived they reported that there were signs of life, cut him down, administered CPR, and then transported him to St. Thomas Elgin County hospital where he was placed on life support and pronounced dead on June 13, 2018.
The SIU reports that the OPP officer should have been clearer that firefighters should cut the man down unless he was “obviously dead” and not just vital signs absent.
However, the SIU found that the officer wasn’t entirely responsible for the confusion over his words and it was not enough to constitute criminal negligence. The SIU also noted that emergency personnel who responded before police were “duty-bound to take steps to save a life if they believed that was possible.”
The SIU says the officer’s conduct wasn’t perfect, but he had a legitimate basis for asking that the man not be cut down if he was dead “so as to preserve a viable investigation for potential criminality.”