Police watchdog clears Clarence-Rockland OPP officers who broke man’s nose during arrest

The Special Investigations Unit has cleared two police officers after a man's nose was broken during an arrest in Clarence-Rockland, Ont., last November. Global News

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has cleared two OPP officers in Clarence-Rockland after a man’s nose was broken during an altercation outside the eastern Ontario police station last November.

The SIU, a civil agency tasked with probing incidents of serious assault involving police, invoked its mandate in November 2020 after a 26-year-old man was injured while in OPP custody.

Provincial police said that the man in question, called the complainant in the SIU report, was arrested for allegedly driving impaired and taken to the Clarence-Rockland police detachment around 3 a.m. on Nov. 1.

According to an SIU narrative of events, the man was about to be released from police custody but officers asked him to wait for a ride before leaving in the middle of the cold November morning.

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The complainant had a cigarette in the parking lot in the meantime, according to the report. While outside, he reportedly started to threaten one of the officers involved in the arrest.

“The complainant said he would blow the officer’s brains out if he ever saw him off-duty in downtown Ottawa,” SIU director Joseph Martino wrote in his report.

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SIU director speaks 1-on-1 with Global News anchor Farah Nasser

The two officers on duty then attempted to place him back under arrest and the SIU report claims the man took an “aggressive posture.”

The first officer involved took hold of the man and forced him into the asphalt ground “face first,” the report said. Both officers then struck the man with multiple blows to his head in an attempt to subdue him.

The complainant was eventually put in handcuffs and lifted to his feet, his face bleeding from the altercation.

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An ambulance was called to take the man to the Civic hospital in Ottawa where he was diagnosed with a fractured nose. According to a review of police communication with the ambulance dispatcher, the officer who was subject to the threats said the man was resisting arrest.

“He was released from custody for impaired driving, while waiting for his ride, he threatened, he uttered death threats to me, and say no more … So, we arrested him, he resisted arrest,” he told the dispatcher, according to the SIU transcripts.

The SIU interviewed two other witness officers and the officer who was subject to the threats but the second involved officer declined an interview or to provide his notes from the night. Investigators also interviewed the complainant.

No surveillance footage was available from the OPP detachment, the SIU said, and the scene was not examined by forensic investigators.

Martino said the force the officers used during the arrest did not constitute a criminal offence, based on his review of the evidence.

He said there were some signs of “excessive force” used by the officers but added he is “unable to place much if any weight” on that evidence.

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Martino conceded that two officers striking an unarmed man when he was already on the ground is a “source of concern” but given that the complainant continued to struggle after the punches, he said he couldn’t conclude that the force was “outside the range of what was necessary.”

“While I accept that the complainant’s nose was broken when he was forced to the ground or punched in the face, I am not satisfied on reasonable grounds that the injuries were the result of unlawful force,” Martino wrote.

“There is, accordingly, no basis to proceed with criminal charges in this case, and the file is closed.”

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