There have been a large number of incidents of police driving at high speeds and/or in reckless fashion resulting in the deaths of uninvolved civilians over the last few years across Canada. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians has concluded that no criminal charges will be brought against an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer in relation to the high speed police chase that resulted in the death of pedestrian Grace Glofcheskie in Guelph, Ontario in 2015. This despite the SIU investigation finding that the officer’s driving was “objectively dangerous” and his vehicle was in excess of 68 km/h over the posted speed limit at times during the chase.
The officer was pursuing an SUV whose driver was attempting to avoid a RIDE (drinking and driving) spot check on December 13, 2015. The chase went through Guelph’s downtown area. At its conclusion the SUV driver lost control, crossing onto a sidewalk and flipping. Grace Glofcheskie, who was walking home after visiting friends, was struck by the SUV. She was taken to hospital but died of her injuries. The SUV was later identified as stolen.
The SIU reported that it had assigned seven investigators, two forensic investigators, and one collision reconstructionist to the case. Six police officers and six civilians were interviewed for the investigation. The officer being investigated did not participate, nor did he provide a copy of his notes. This is a contentious part of SIU investigations, as police are legally allowed to withhold their notes, one which has been challenged by critics of the SIU and oversight procedures in Ontario.
There are some questions raised by the SIU report. Notably their conclusion not to bring any charges against the officer despite finding that his driving had been “objectively dangerous” in their words and the speeds of more than 68 km/h over the posted speed limit reached by the officer. The SIU explanation is also rather perplexing. It states: “However, the factual context does not allow me to conclude that the driving amounted to a marked departure from the standard of care that a reasonable person in the same situation as the officer would have exercised in the circumstances” (SIU Release). It is hard to see how a civilian driving at such speeds over the posted limit and in an “objectively dangerous” manner would be viewed as so reasonable and would avoid charges. Indeed it is shown time and again that civilian drivers under less dangerous circumstances are charged.
This project has been primarily focused on formal, state, policing agencies and officers and their killings of civilians. Yet more and more policing is carried out by private forces, especially security guard services. And like the state policing forces their members kill. Yet private security is largely unregulated in Canada and have much leeway to act in unaccountable and largely unreported ways.
An Edmonton security guard, Sheldon Russell Bentley (35) is currently seeking bail after being charged with manslaughter and robbery for kicking an Edmonton man, Donald Doucette (51), to death and then robbing him.. Doucette, a culinary chef, was found in an alley next to the Lucky 97 grocery store in the afternoon of July 31, 2016. An autopsy showed Doucette died of blunt abdominal trauma.
Doucette had apparently passed out in the alley in before being approached by two security guards, one of whom was Sheldon Bentley. The charges claim Bentley kicked the passed out victim and stole $20 from him. The guards then simply went back to work.
Doucette’s has been struggling with alcohol for some time, a problem that family members say began in response to the death of his own father. He had been going to Alcoholics Anonymous as well as starting a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. In addition Doucette struggled with epilepsy. His family often worried that that he would fall down and have a seizure in a non-supportive environment.
Security guards exist only to protect private property and profits. They have no special mandate to act in public space.
As a range of private security forces take over urban space (from security guards to business association “ambassadors”) more attention must be given to them. And their actions must be increasingly observed and challenged. Some have taken to Cop Watch like counter-patrols of security guards and private security.
An inquest into the killing of Naverone Woods has begun in Burnaby, British Columbia on March 20, 2017. Woods, a 23-year-old Gitxsan man, was shot and killed by a Metro Vancouver Transit Police officer in Surrey, British Columbia in December 2014. This case has generated much concern and organized protest but few answers for grieving family members. The Independent Investigations Office (IIO), which investigates cases of police harm to civilians in the province, earlier reported that Woods was shirtless and suffering from self-inflicted knife wounds when police, including the transit police officer, encountered him inside a Safeway grocery store in the Whalley neighborhood in Surrey. The transit officer then fired her gun striking and killing Woods. She was cleared by the IIO in may 2016. The Metro Vancouver Transit Police are the first armed transit force in Canada.
The inquest, heard by presiding coroner Brynne Redford and a jury, has no power to attribute wrongdoing or recommend charges. They will examine evidence around the killing of Woods and make recommendations that they have no mechanism to enforce on police.
Family and friends have consistently referred to Naverone Woods as gentle, caring, and helpful.
A 28-year-old man suffered a heart attack and died during an “interaction” with Montreal police on Monday, March 6, 2016. The incident occurred around 2 AM when police attended a residence in Ile-Bizard where they claim the victim was intoxicated and involved in some form of domestic dispute. The man died despite efforts of paramedics to revive him.
Quebec’s Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI, Bureau of Independent Investigations), the unit that investigates incidents of police harm to civilians in the province is examining the case. None of the police claims have been independently verified publicly.
A 20-year-old woman fell to her death from a highway overpass above Highway 407 in Burlington, Ontario on Monday, March 6, 2017. The woman was pronounced dead at hospital. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the body that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario is now investigating.
Police supposedly responded to a call regarding the woman around 3:30 PM. According to the SIU there was some “interaction” between the woman and police officers during which or following which the woman fell to her death. One subject officer and five witness officers have been designated by the SIU. It is believed that the Halton Regional Police Service was the force involved.
A disturbingly high number of civilians in Canada are killed by police officers who are speeding or driving recklessly. In most of those cases they are doing so without cause even on their own broad terms. Such was the case on March 8, 2012 when a speeding Constable Chris Luimes crashed his vehicle into a car driven by 84-year-old Annie Walden, killing her. This assessment comes from a senior officer, Brad Doucette, testifying at a fatality inquiry into the killing of Annie Walden which took place on March 14, 2017, an incredible five years after the fact. The inquiry which was scheduled for two days was completed in under three hours. Only two witnesses were called.
Constable Luimes was driving an unmarked police car at nearly 120 kilometers an hour to what was a non-emergency call. The speed limit on the road on which he was traveling was only 50 km/h. His car smashed into the Volkswagen Jetta driven by Annie Walden on 75th Street turning onto 76th Avenue. Walden died at the scene
Of course a civilian traveling at a rate of speed so much over the limit would be dealt with harshly. Let alone the response if they actually killed someone while doing so. Such is not the case where police speed and/or drive recklessly and kill a civilian. Luimes was charged with dangerous driving but once again a judge moved to ensure the killer officer would be taken good care of. The judge, stunningly, ruled that there was no enough evidence to convict the officer, despite a woman killed by his actions and the fact that he had no justifiable reason for driving the way he did, even by the low police department standards of the day.
One week ago, Luimes was found guilty of discreditable conduct in the incident during a police disciplinary hearing. Incredibly, the outcome was that he was ordered to participate in a video that will be used as part of mandatory police training. Constable Luimes still works with the Edmonton police force.
Vitaly Savin (55) has been identified as the person shot and killed by an Edmonton police officer on March 9, 2017. Savin, a construction worker with an Edmonton home construction company was killed by an unnamed six-year veteran of the force during a traffic stop in southwest Edmonton on March 9, 2017.
Savin’s social media sites show that he worked as a mining engineer in Russia before moving to Edmonton. He had worked as a drill operator with construction company Great Canadian for eight years. Savin had made a post in support of a Russian team in a Europa League game only a half hour before he was killed (CBC News 2017).
A witness to the killing reported hearing the officer fire four shots at the time Savin was killed (Lepage 2017). An autopsy was scheduled for Friday, March 10, 2017.
CBC News. 2017. “Edmonton Man Fatally Shot by Police Identified as Construction Worker.” CBC News. March 10. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/police-involved-shooting-victim-identity-1.4020052
Lepage, Michelle. 2017. “Hunting Knife Found Near Body of Man Shot Dead by Police.” Postmedia. March 10. http://cnews.canoe.com/CNEWS/Canada/2017/03/10/22709725.html