The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which examines cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario, has decided not to recommend charges against a Leeds OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) officer who was involved in a high speed chase in May 2016 that ended in a crash near Smith Falls that killed a teenager in May 2016.
According to the SIU, the officer, who has not been named publicly, saw a vehicle, a Hyundai, allegedly speeding on County Road 17 and turned around to follow it. With the police pursuit the vehicle turned down a dirt road into trees, killing the 18-year-old male driver. A 16-year-old girl who was a passenger in the front seat was not seriously injured. The SIU report suggests that the speeding car was going 100 km on a stretch of road with speed limits varying between 50 km/h or 80 km/h when the officer saw it, and around 170 km/h when it left the road.
SIU director Tony Loparco, who has rather consistently sided with police officers and forces in cases of harm to civilian since assuming his position, did raise concerns about the officer’s speed, reporting that the OPP vehicle reached 165 km/h, and about the fact that the officer did not immediately notify the dispatcher of the pursuit. According to Loparco, each of these may have constituted a breach of the Ontario Police Services Act.
Yet Loparco decided that the officer’s actions did not meet the bar either for dangerous driving or criminal negligence. In his words: “There is no evidence that the [officer’s] driving created a danger to other users of the roadway or that at any time he interfered with other traffic; additionally the environmental conditions were good and the roads were dry.”
This is a curious statement given that the teen driver was driving at speeds less than the officer reached at the time the officer began pursuit. So if even the officer’s higher speed and the road conditions did not pose a threat to the public, why pursue a joy riding teen driving at lower speeds under the same conditions?
Loparco went further, suggesting that there was no causal connection between the officer’s pursuit and the crash. In his words: “I am unable to establish that there was a causal connection between [the officer’s] actions…and the single-vehicle collision that caused the…death.” Yet the stated evidence appears to suggest the teen both sped up and turned off the road in response to the officer’s pursuit and the closing speed of that pursuit.
The SIU assigned eight investigators to the case. Once again it appears the state has protected the state.