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Hamilton police chief reveals OIPRD looking into complaint the night Yosif Al-Hasnawi died

Police are still investigating the disappearance of a 31-year-old Hamilton man who may have been swimming near the Burlington Lift Bridge on Lake Ontario in early September 2019. File / Global News

Hamilton’s new police chief says the service is awaiting direction from a provincial oversight body investigating the conduct of Hamilton police on the night Yosif Al-Hasnawi was shot in 2017.

Frank Bergen told Global Newsradio 900 CHML that the service was advised by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) in March 2018 they would be following up on a complaint they received.

Read more: Hamilton paramedics guilty of failing to provide necessaries of life in death of Yosif Al-Hasnawi

During the trial of two city paramedics — who were accused of failing to provide the necessaries of life to Al-Hasnawi —the chief said they were advised by the OIPRD that the probe would be held in abeyance until conclusion of the proceedings.

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“Once that had occurred, we’ve been advised that it’s back on track,” Bergen said.

Global News reached out the OIPRD and asked if an examination of the Hamilton police service was underway. A spokesperson replying through e-mail said the body could not confirm any investigation due to a “confidentiality provision in the Police Services Act.”

“The director believes that commenting on allegations of police misconduct in the media would compromise his ability to then investigate these allegations in a fair manner,” the OIPRD spokesperson said.

Bergen said with the review, the service will not be conducting it’s own “parallel” investigation citing a possible conflicts with an independent review and a previous Special Investigations Unit (SIU) investigation concluded in 2019.

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“It also would be an error for us to be having an independent review when in fact we’re following legislation that speaks about the afforded rights of a complainant to have the independence of a oversight review,” Bergen said.

“So we will wait that direction and we will participate when called upon to do so.”

Yosif Al-Hasnawi was shot while trying to help an older man who was accosted by two other men outside his Hamilton mosque near Main and Sanford Streets in December 2017.

Earlier this week, a superior court justice ruled that the actions of Hamilton paramedics Steven Snively and Christopher Marchant represented a “departure” of standards of care.

Read more: No charges for Hamilton officer who attended shooting of Yosif Al-Hasnawi: SIU

The pair are set to be sentenced in October.

During the reading of his decision on Tuesday, Justice Harrison Arrell acknowledged “general consensus” from witnesses that none of the first responders, including the accused, were taking the “situation seriously” or with any “urgency.”

“I accept their evidence as reliable on this point and in my view is corroborated by the videos of the scene,” Arrell said.

During the trial, it was revealed that three Hamilton police officers were on scene the night of Al-Hasnawi’s shooting — Const. Michael Zezella, Const. Chris Campovari and Sgt. Nesreen Shawihat.

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One of the officers was the subject of an SIU complaint tied to the incident. It was dismissed by the SIU’s director in 2019 saying the actions of the unnamed officer “were fully in accord with his responsibilities.”

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