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.