The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario, is investigating after a52-year-old man died of gunshot wounds during an interaction with officers of the Ontario Provincial Police in the village of Douglas. The SIU reports that police were called to a home in the village near Renfrew around 3 PM by someone concerned about a family member. At some point during the police encounter the man suffered a gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Category Archives: Deaths
The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario, is investigating the death of a 44-year-old man during an arrest outside a home in Brampton on October 31, 2017.
According to the SIU, a 911 call was made to Peel Region police at around 8:45 AM. The SIU further suggests that police officers arrived at a residence near Bovaird Drive and McLaughlin Road sometime later. There police reportedly “interacted with a man” who was then taken to hospital where he later died. The SIU statement did not provide any specific detail regarding what the “interaction” entailed, any details of the man’s injuries, or why the 911 call was made in the first place.
The SIU has said in a statement that two officers are under investigation. Details about the victim’s identity have not been released publicly.
Trial for Killer Cop Simon Beaulieu Hears Cops Should Be Given More Consideration Than “Regular” Citizens
Quebec City police officer Simon Beaulieu drove into and killed Guy Blouin on September 30, 2014, backing his police vehicle over the victim who was riding a bicycle at the time. We have already documented the base policing assumptions that led Beaulieu to act in the way that he did in killing Blouin (assuming Blouin was suspicious because he was riding the wrong way on a one way street; assuming he had something to hide because he did not obey an order allegedly given to stop, etc.).
On Monday, October 23, 2017, the court heard, during Beaulieu’s trial on charges of criminal negligence and dangerous driving causing death, that as a police officer he “could not be judged on the same level as a regular citizen” (Page 2017). Said Beaulieu’s defense attorney Maxime Roy: “We can imagine that being on patrol requires more manoeuvres than your average person” (quoted in Page 2017). And Roy concluded that Beaulieu was simply “trying to do his job and apprehend a suspect” (Page 2017). Never mind that the so-called suspect was a product of the officer’s authoritarian privilege and did nothing more than ride the wrong way and, the clincher, disobey a police order (which there is no way of knowing was either given or heard).
It is no surprise that police believe they are better than “regular” members of society and should be treated preferentially in all cases. This is a rather common approach to getting killer cops off in the rare cases in which they are actually brought to trial. That it could be confidently uttered as an element of defense in a killing of a civilian who did no wrong shows the nature of the criminal justice system in the Canadian state context.
Page, Julia. 2017. “Defence Attorney Calls for Acquittal on all Charges Against Quebec City Police Officer.” CBC News. October 23. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/simon-beaulieu-defence-closing-arguments-1.4367741
Letter From SIU Head to Ottawa Police Chief Raises Questions About Transparency and “Old Boy” Favors in Investigations
Two officers of the Ottawa Police Service were involved in a car chase that ended with the death of 24-year-old Alex Cross and an unnamed 39-year-old on April 12, 2016. Cross was killed when a Pontiac G6 plowed into his car on the city’s Vanier Parkway, throwing him and a 21-year-old woman from the vehicle. The woman was seriously injured. The driver of the G6 died in hospital eight months after the crash. The two officers had chased the G6. They have never been named publicly.
Now the Ottawa Citizen has gained access to a letter sent to Ottawa’s police chief, Charles Bordeleau, by the head of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines police harm to civilians, offering a stern rebuke of the two officers and raises significant questions about the training that police officers receive and the transparency of investigations into police.
The “Old Boys” Letter
The letter from SIU head Tony Loparco to Chief Bordeleau, states that the police chase “clearly” broke Ottawa Police Service policy and “likely also ran afoul” of the provincial regulations that govern police chases, specifically of Ontario Regulation 266/10 under the Police Services Act (Shaw 2017). Additionally, the letter points out that the two officers were “long overdue” for their driver training (Shaw 2017).
Notably the letter was dated April 21, 2017, which was about a month before the two officers were cleared of any wrongdoing by the Special Investigations Unit, the very unit that is raising these issues and reporting them, not publicly but only to the chief of the officers’ force. This raises deep concerns and questions about the transparency of the SIU, its insiders practices and friendly relationships with the forces it is supposed to be independently investigating, favoritism toward killer cops, and the lack of public accountability for police and for the SIU.
This letter was only obtained through the efforts of the Citizen and its filing of a freedom of information request. Loparco’s concerns about the force were not communicated publicly, only to police, and did not seem to inform the SIU assessment of the officers’ actions or the SIU’s decision to let them off, odd given the issues raised by the SIU’s own director in his letter.
The “Investigation”: Chasing Training
Four SIU investigators and two forensics investigators were assigned to the case. They interviewed nine civilian witnesses and five witness police officers. On May 17, 2017, thirteen months after the crash, the SIU absolved the two officers of even any suggestion of wrongdoing. Said the SIU news releases at the time: “There is no basis whatsoever to hold either of the two subject officers responsible for the terrible outcomes of the motor vehicle collision” (Shaw 2017).
Yet, this finding is in complete contradiction with Loparco’s own review and assessment of the officer’s actions in this case as communicated to Chief Bordeleau. Loparco’s letter states that, if not for a senior officer calling off the chase, the two officers could have been in criminal jeopardy and this was a “pursuit that never should have occurred” (Shaw 2017).
According to the Ottawa Police Service, its Suspect Apprehension Pursuit policy was developed in conjunction with provincial guidelines that all Ontario police services must follow (Laucius 2017). All officers involved in pursuits are required to have successfully completed a course in pursuit driver training which is approved by the Ontario Police College and they must complete refresher training every two years (Lauicius 2017). Yet the two officers in this case did not follow the policies. Said Loparco, in his letter: “It is my hope that as Chief of the Ottawa Police Service, you will revisit the training that these two subject officers have received” (quoted in Shaw 2017). Yet, really, what does it matter if police disregard policies leading to the deaths and injuries of multiple civilians if they face no negative consequences for their actions?
It is still not known why one officer made the decision to try to stop the Pontiac G6 around 1:15 AM that morning. All that has been said publicly is that it was for “licensing and regulatory” reasons (Shaw 2017). There was no criminal offence suspected. Yet Ottawa police policy only allows for chases in criminal cases, and a handful of other restrictive conditions (Shaw 2017). The officer who initiated the pursuit was not conducting a criminal investigation and already had the license plate number for the G6. Loparco noted that the Ottawa police list of requirements for engaging in a pursuit includes: “an identified criminal offence; no other alternative for apprehension; a threat to public safety; the vehicles involved in the pursuit are marked and the police officers involved have successfully completed police college driver training and refresher every two years” (Lauicius 2017). The first officer even radioed for assistance leading another officer to join the chase. A road sergeant had to make two calls for the officers to end their pursuit.
In Loparco’s words, the road sergeant insulted the officers from charges but he does not say why since the officers did initiate and pursue a chase improperly. Said Loparco:
“I commend him for his commitment to public safety. I am also hopeful that the officers under his command appreciate that his directions insulated them from criminal jeopardy in these circumstances. Their imprudent actions could well have grounded dangerous driving or criminal negligence charges if they had persisted in a pursuit that should never have happened in the first place.” (quoted in Laucius 2017)
Here is the thing. The fact that the chase was initiated in “the absence of a criminal investigation,” as Loparco notes in his letter, means, by definition, that the two officers in pursuit broke both their own force’s rules, as well as possibly violating provincial police chase regulations as established in the Police Services Act.
Why did SIU head Loparco raise these serious issues privately with the chief of the force involved, but never publicly? Why did Loparco identify these serious violations yet absolve the officers in spite of his knowledge, beforehand, of these violations?
While the SIU director often sends a background letter to the chief of police in the jurisdiction where the incident occurred, outlining any concerns the director has about the case, after a case ends, this letter was sent beforehand.
Where there are questions about a police officer’s actions under terms of the Ontario Police Act, a police chief or a victim’s family member can request an investigation by the Office Of Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD). This office is responsible for receiving, managing, and overseeing public complaints about police in Ontario (Laucius 2017).
At present, there is no legislative mechanism for the SIU to notify OIPRD about concerns it has regarding misconduct or neglect of duty involving police (Laucius 2017). In consultations with Court of Appeal Justice Michael Tulloch, who led a recent review of police oversight in Ontario, it has been recommended that the SIU be made a “direct complainant” to OIPRD or the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (Laucius 2017).
This case offers some important insights into the nature of police “oversight” in the Canadian state context. It shows the secrecy of investigations into police and the lack of accountability in even obvious or basic situations of police violations of their own limited regulations. It also shows the friendly “old boys” networking that exists between investigative bodies and the police they are supposed to investigate. The state protects the state and informs its members instead of the public.
Dawson, Tyler. 2017. “Private Letter to Bordeleau Reveals Officers Lacked Training in Night of Horrific Crash.” Ottawa Citizen. October 19. http://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/dawson-training-needed-on-police-pursuit-policies
Laucius, Joanne. 2017. “SIU Director Sent Scathing Letter to Ottawa Chief Over Downtown Chase.” Ottawa Sun. October 18. http://www.ottawasun.com/2017/10/18/siu-director-sent-scathing-letter-to-ottawa-chief-over-downtown-police-chase
SIU Lets Off Cop in 2016 Police Chase Death of Teen, Despite High Speed, Possible Breaches of Police Services Act
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.
The Independent Investigations Office is investigating circumstances that left a 35-year-old man dead after a confrontation with police near Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island.
RCMP claim that officers were called to a highway near Qualicum Beach on the morning of Thursday, October 12, 2017, over reports of a man who had stabbed himself. Police claim they chased the man down the highway and a struggle ensured during which an officer fired a shot. Paramedics apparently arrived to provide medical assistance but the man died of injuries sustained.
Winnipeg police Constable Justin Holz has been charged with impaired driving causing death and failure to remain at the scene after striking and killing pedestrian Cody Severight (23) with his vehicle on the evening of Tuesday, October 10, 2017. According to the Independent Investigations Unit, which is examining the killing, the 34-year-old Holz was located more than seven kilometers away fro the crash scene. Holz is an eight-year member of the Winnipeg police and was assigned as a criminal investigator. He has been placed on administrative leave but is still being paid. Winnipeg police traffic collision investigators assisted the IIU with a breathalyzer but it has not been revealed publicly whether Holz had a blood test to determine alcohol levels.
Holz was apparently working the day shift and would have gotten off work around 4:30 PM. He then allegedly went drinking until the crash at around 8:00 PM. Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth tried to suggest it is not unusual for someone to go for drinks after work. The issue here through is that the cop then apparently decide to get in his vehicle and race home.
Witness Donnie Fizell has reported seeing a car speeding down the street before striking Severight. In his words: “He must have flew 15 feet in the air and his head hit the curb. [Constable Holz] must have been doing 80 [km/h] when he hit that poor boy” (quoted in Bernhardt 2017).
Cody Severight is from the Waywayseecappo First Nation, about 280 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg. He had recently started classes at the Winnipeg Adult Education Centre to obtain his Grade 12. He and his partner were expecting a baby soon (Bernhardt 2017). His grandmother Gloria Lebold describes him: “He was a sweet little guy, always joking around, just being a little fun person” (quoted in Bernhardt 2017).
Severight’s aunt, Nancy Gabriel, spoke honestly about the situation and noted the anti-Indigenous racism that has marked Winnipeg policing. In her view, police are supposed to be protecting people, “not killing people” (quoted in Bernhardt 2017). She continued: “As soon as he struck him he should have stopped straight away, not just keep on driving. You know how that looks, that looks like, ‘Oh that’s just another native.’ He was a good guy” (quoted in Bernhardt 2017).
Cody Severight will be buried next to his mother.
This is the third incident of police harm to civilians that the IIU has had to investigate this week alone in Winnipeg.
Bernhardt, Darren. 2017. “Winnipeg Police Officer Charged in Fatal Hit and Run Allegedly Impaired.” CBC News. October 11. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/pedestrian-cody-severight-dies-1.4349125