The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that investigates cases of police harm to civilians in Canada, has let off a Brantford police officer for his involvement in a police chase that led to a collision that killed a 94-year-old woman and injured a 71-year-old passenger in November of 2016.
The officer turned on his cruiser’s lights and sirens in a an attempt to stop a Nissan after two men entered it from a house where an assault suspect was believed to be. Notably, the officer did not know one of the men was the suspect. In response to the officer’s actions the driver of the Nissan accelerated to try to get away, drove into an intersection, and collided head-on with a Honda, in which the two seniors were passengers. Investigators on scene later estimated that the Nissan was traveling 131 km/hr in a 50 km/hr zone before the collision.
The 94-year-old became unresponsive at the scene before paramedics arrived and was pronounced dead at hospital. The 71-year-old passenger suffered a broken sternum, a broken bone in her back, and two broken bones in her left hand.
The SIU reports that it was only after the driver was arrested that he realized it was the assault suspect. That raises questions about why the officer undertook the actions taken. As well it might have been assumed that the lights and sirens would provoke a response as the car was leaving a residence and it was not a routine traffic stop. The SIU did conclude that it was the officer’s actions that led to the collision but still decided to let him off.
Said SIU director Tony Loparco in his report: “I find that there is no evidence that the [officer’s] driving created a danger to other users of the roadway.” But clearly his actions did create a danger to others in the roadway as one person was left dead and another badly injured as a result. According to Loparco, the officer “was concerned that might cause a situation dangerous to the public.” Which it obviously did.