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Update:

The confidential informant’s tip was alarming: a Markham convenience store was peddling more than milk and eggs; if you knew to ask a certain employee, he would hook you up with heroin. The informant told Toronto police he had bought some himself. So in the early morning of Oct. 1, 2012, Const. Robert Warrener, a 20-year Toronto police veteran and member of the drug squad, pulled into the Daisy Mart lot, parked where he could see the store and the employee’s grey Toyota, and settled in to watch. His goal was to witness activity that would back up the informant’s claims, in turn providing vital evidence police needed to obtain a search warrant. Warrener later told a court that within a half an hour, he witnessed the target employee leave the store, walk to his car, meet a “black man in a leather jacket,” and make an exchange — an interaction the police officer judged to be a hand-to-hand drug deal. Five hours later, police had court-approved search warrants for the store, the employee’s house and his car. They seized 99 grams of powdered cocaine, bags of heroin and crack cocaine, oxycodone pills, nearly $6,000, 251 rounds of ammunition, and a Taser. They arrested and charged the employee, 35-year-old Pankaj Bedi, with drug trafficking and weapons possession. The only problem? The drug sale that gave the green light for it all never happened, Ontario Superior Court Justice Beth Allen ruled this week.

A case built by police against Pankay Bedi was thrown out after Superior Court Justice Beth Allen found that the evidence presented by Toronto Police Constable Robert Warrener wasn’t credible. Warrener didn’t take any notes of the incident which was presented to a Justice to obtain a search warrant. The story he offered to obtain a search warrant was the same story presented in court in front of Justice Allen. If a witness commits perjury, he/she faces 14 years in prison under the Criminal Code. Toronto Police are now investigating this incident, which could possibly result in a suspension from duty, a demotion or discharge.

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The confidential informant’s tip was alarming: a Markham convenience store was peddling more than milk and eggs; if you knew to ask a certain employee, he would hook you up with heroin. The informant told Toronto police he had bought some himself.

So in the early morning of Oct. 1, 2012, Const. Robert Warrener, a 20-year Toronto police veteran and member of the drug squad, pulled into the Daisy Mart lot, parked where he could see the store and the employee’s grey Toyota, and settled in to watch. His goal was to witness activity that would back up the informant’s claims, in turn providing vital evidence police needed to obtain a search warrant.

Warrener later told a court that within a half an hour, he witnessed the target employee leave the store, walk to his car, meet a “black man in a leather jacket,” and make an exchange — an interaction the police officer judged to be a hand-to-hand drug deal.

Five hours later, police had court-approved search warrants for the store, the employee’s house and his car. They seized 99 grams of powdered cocaine, bags of heroin and crack cocaine, oxycodone pills, nearly $6,000, 251 rounds of ammunition, and a Taser. They arrested and charged the employee, 35-year-old Pankaj Bedi, with drug trafficking and weapons possession.

The only problem? The drug sale that gave the green light for it all never happened, Ontario Superior Court Justice Beth Allen ruled this week.

In a scathing indictment of Warrener, Allen threw out all the evidence against Bedi, saying the Toronto officer had “deliberately fabricated” the drug transaction — “inexcusable deceptive conduct” that led to “unlawful” searches resulting in Bedi’s arrest, she wrote in her ruling, which was delivered on Thursday.

Without the evidence, the Crown had no case. Bedi, who has a prior criminal record for weapon possession, was acquitted Thursday.

In a scathing indictment of Warrener, Allen threw out all the evidence against Bedi, saying the Toronto officer had “deliberately fabricated” the drug transaction — “inexcusable deceptive conduct” that led to “unlawful” searches resulting in Bedi’s arrest, she wrote in her ruling, which was delivered on Thursday.

In a scathing indictment of Warrener, Allen threw out all the evidence against Bedi, saying the Toronto officer had “deliberately fabricated” the drug transaction — “inexcusable deceptive conduct” that led to “unlawful” searches resulting in Bedi’s arrest, she wrote in her ruling, which was delivered on Thursday.

“Taking the shortcut through deception is no replacement for good police work. Time, patience and a more dedicated investigation might have served the police well and culminated in a different result,” Allen wrote.

“I find the nature of this police action to be on the more extreme end of the spectrum of seriousness. The court cannot be seen to condone this conduct and must dissociate itself from it.”

The Star could not reach Const. Warrener for comment. Toronto police have launched a Professional Standards investigation, said police spokesperson Meaghan Gray. If they move forward with the case, the officer could be charged with offences under the Police Services Act, such as deceit or discreditable conduct.

“Depending on the outcome, like with any case, officers can face a range of penalties ranging from deducting a day’s pay to rank reduction to dismissal,” she wrote in an email.

Bedi’s lawyer, James Miglin, said he is concerned Allen’s ruling could point to a larger issue of police conduct in courtrooms.

“Findings like this are extremely troubling, yet there appears to be little, if anything, of substance that is being done about it — nobody appears to be seriously looking into the conduct underlying these findings or doing anything about it,” he wrote in an email. “And in my view, that is completely unacceptable.”

Gray said any time comments such as Miglin’s are made, “they are taken very seriously and investigated thoroughly.”

Property of Ontario Motor Vehicle Tickets

Problems with Warrener’s testimony began after he gave “a very detailed account” of the hand-to-hand drug sale, despite not having written notes about what he saw, Allen wrote.

Among the facts he recounted: which hands each man used, which sides of each hand Warrener saw, and that Bedi had been unloading goods from the rear passenger side of his car just prior to the transaction, which he said took place near the passenger’s side.

Surveillance video showed in court did not capture the transaction Warrener claimed occurred. Allen writes that there is only one window of time when Bedi steps outside of the camera’s scope when the transaction could have happened, and she notes that it is “only a split second.”

The video also illustrated substantial contradictions in Warrener’s account, including that Bedi was unloading goods from the opposite side of the car Warrrener had testified. Faced with the video evidence, Warrener recanted his account about the location of the transaction, saying it instead took place on the other side of the car.

Toronto police have launched a Professional Standards investigation, said police spokesperson Meaghan Gray. If they move forward with the case, the officer could be charged with offences under the Police Services Act, such as deceit or discreditable conduct. “Depending on the outcome, like with any case, officers can face a range of penalties ranging from deducting a day’s pay to rank reduction to dismissal,” she wrote in an email.

Toronto police have launched a Professional Standards investigation, said police spokesperson Meaghan Gray. If they move forward with the case, the officer could be charged with offences under the Police Services Act, such as deceit or discreditable conduct.
“Depending on the outcome, like with any case, officers can face a range of penalties ranging from deducting a day’s pay to rank reduction to dismissal,” she wrote in an email.

“I find it incredible, if Officer Warrener observed a drug deal, that he could vividly recall minor details of an interaction that occurred nearly two years earlier, without having made notes, but to be mistaken about a very important fact — exactly where the drug deal happened.”

She criticized Warrener for shrugging off the mix-up about the side of the car, “as though he made only a minor error.”

“I was actually astounded by Officer Warrener’s underplay of the critical importance of officers being precise about directions and locations when reporting findings to other officers, given the dangers intrinsic to police work. Life or death of fellow officers and the safety of members of the public depend on accurate reporting.”

A recent Star investigation, Police Who Lie, highlighted 100 cases across Canada in which judges suspected police officers had been deceitful on the stand. The resulting probe by Ontario’s attorney general produced rules requiring the Crown to report cases where a judge has found that or suspects that an officer lied.

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Updated:

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Videotaped Beating

CHP Reaches $1.5M Settlement With Woman in Videotaped Beating

This Aug. 10, 2014 file photo shows Marlene Pinnock …

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A woman punched repeatedly by a California Highway Patrol officer on the side of a freeway in an incident caught on video will receive $1.5 million under a settlement, and the officer has agreed to resign.

CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow confirmed the settlement in an emailed statement and an attorney for Marlene Pinnock confirmed the dollar amount for The Associated Press.

The punching occurred after motorists’ 911 calls reported that Pinnock, who is bipolar, was walking along the freeway and the responding officer pulled her from traffic, according to a legal document in the case.

Wednesday’s settlement agreement came after a nine-hour mediation session in Los Angeles.

“When this incident occurred, I promised that I would look into it and vowed a swift resolution,” Farrow’s statement said. “Today, we have worked constructively to reach a settlement agreement that is satisfactory to all parties involved.”

The statement said that Officer Daniel Andrew, who joined the CHP in 2012 and has been on paid administrative leave since the incident, “has elected to resign.”

Andrew could still be charged criminally in the case. The CHP forwarded the results of its investigation of the incident to Los Angeles County prosecutors last month, saying he could face serious charges but none have been filed yet.

The bulk of the settlement will take the form of a special needs trust for Pinnock, the CHP said.

Pinnock’s attorney Caree Harper said the settlement fulfilled the two elements her side was looking for.

“One of the things we wanted to make sure of was that she was provided for in a manner that accommodated her unique situation in life,” Harper said, “and that the officer was not going to be an officer anymore and we secured those things.”

Harper said Pinnock will be interviewed by the district attorney’s office within a few weeks.

The July 1 video of Andrew punching Pinnock was recorded by a passing driver on Interstate 10 west of downtown Los Angeles.

According to a search warrant made public in court documents last month, Andrew had just pulled Pinnock from oncoming traffic and she resisted by pushing him after multiple drivers called 911 to report her walking barefoot along the side of the freeway.

Andrew then straddled her on the ground as Pinnock resisted by “kicking her legs, grabbing the officer’s uniform and twisting her body,” the warrant said. Andrew “struck her in the upper torso and head several times with a closed right fist,” the records say.

The warrant said Pinnock suffered no signs of physical injury and refused medical treatment. She was placed on a psychiatric hold for two weeks.

Pinnock has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had been off her medication for two to three months before the altercation.

In an interview with the AP last month, Pinnock said she believed the officer was trying to kill her.

“He grabbed me, he threw me down, he started beating me,” she said. “I felt like he was trying to kill me, beat me to death.”

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Update: see previous posts – March 14, 2014 Ontario: Distracted Driving – When Can I Legally Pull Over to Answer a Text or Phone Call?, February 26, 2014 – Ontario: Chief Justice Increases Distracted Driving Fines to $280 on March 18, 2014, November 6, 2013 Ontario: Driver’s Talking/Texting Deadlier Than Impaired Drivers, October 24, 2013 Ontario: Liberals Will Increase Sanctions (Demerit Points) Against Driver’s On Their Cells, October 4, 2013 Guelph: Court Rulings Mean Police Will Ticket When Motorist Simply Hold Their Phone, September 27, 2013 Ontario: Highest Court of Ontario Rules Simply “Holding” a Cellphone in Vehicle is Sufficient to Convict, August 16, 2013 Toronto: Motorists Using Phones to Talk,Text,Email Four Years After Law Prohibing It

Former police officer, now Quebec Transport Minister, Robert Poeti is considering tougher sanctions against drivers who are caught texting, including hitting them with four (4) demerit points. Currently, Quebec motorists caught texting can lose three points and be fined up to $100. Statistics provided by the insurance board suggest drivers in Nova Scotia faced the stiffest possible fines in Canada. As of last April, those caught texting and driving in that province face fines that run between $225 and $520, although no demerit points are involved. In Saskatchewan, motorists can lose four points in addition to a $280 fine. Currently the sanction for distracted driving in Ontario is a $280.00 fine, although the Ontario government will be introducing a law increasing the fine to a range between $280 to $1000 and three (3) demerit points.

Former police officer, now Quebec Transport Minister, Robert Poeti is considering tougher sanctions against drivers who are caught texting, including hitting them with four (4) demerit points. Currently, Quebec motorists caught texting can lose three points and be fined up to $100. Statistics provided by the insurance board suggest drivers in Nova Scotia faced the stiffest possible fines in Canada. As of last April, those caught texting and driving in that province face fines that run between $225 and $520, although no demerit points are involved. In Saskatchewan, motorists can lose four points in addition to a $280 fine. Currently the sanction for distracted driving in Ontario is a $280.00 fine, although the Ontario government will be introducing a law increasing the fine to a range between $280 to $1000 and three (3) demerit points.

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Quebec Transport Minister Robert Poeti is considering tougher sanctions against drivers who are caught texting, including hitting them with four demerit points.

Currently, Quebec motorists caught texting can lose three points and be fined up to $100.

Poeti said Wednesday it is difficult to assess the extent of the problem but added that many accidents are caused by motorists using their smartphones while at the wheel.

While it has been illegal since July 1, 2008, to drive in Quebec while holding a cellular phone, the number of motorists who have been nabbed doing so has climbed to 66,089 in 2013 from 11,485 for the last six months of 2008.

A survey conducted for the province’s automobile insurance board in November 2013 suggested that 19 per cent of Quebec motorists who have a cellphone used it to text while driving.

Poeti told a news conference in Quebec City that it’s time for action after various awareness campaigns.

The Quebec highway safety code prohibits all drivers except emergency responders from using a hand-held cellphone at the wheel for any purpose. The law calls for a penalty of three demerits and a fine of $80 to $100. According to the Canadian Automobile Association website, texting drivers in Quebec can actually face a fine of up to $154. The law also bans any portable display screens that may distract a driver, except for GPS navigation tools. Quebec now wants to increase the sanction from 3 demerit points to 4 demerit points.

The Quebec highway safety code prohibits all drivers except emergency responders from using a hand-held cellphone at the wheel for any purpose. The law calls for a penalty of three demerits and a fine of $80 to $100. According to the Canadian Automobile Association website, texting drivers in Quebec can actually face a fine of up to $154. The law also bans any portable display screens that may distract a driver, except for GPS navigation tools. Quebec now wants to increase the sanction from 3 demerit points to 4 demerit points.

“When the regulations first came in for cellphones, smartphones, messaging wasn’t what it is today,” Poeti, a former provincial police officer, said Wednesday.

“We couldn’t predict what was going to happen. But there’s no way of getting around the fact it’s become a real problem in Quebec.”

Statistics provided by the insurance board suggest drivers in Nova Scotia faced the stiffest possible fines in Canada. As of last April, those caught texting and driving in that province face fines that run between $225 and $520, although no demerit points are involved.

In Saskatchewan, motorists can lose four points in addition to a $280 fine.

Poeti said he has already held discussions with the insurance board about increasing the number of demerit points to four so “people really understand it is a matter of safety.”

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Update:

Vodka accompanied by a car key (not the brand of alcohol that Mr. Lee claimed he was drinking after the accident) After being charged by the OPP with Dangerous Driving, it was Mr. Lee's evidence that he consumed alcohol after he drove home following an accident wherein he drove into a sign on the highway. Given that the Crown could not prove that he drove prior to the accident, Superior Court Justice Robert F. Scott overturned his conviction and ordered a new trial.

Vodka accompanied by a car key (not the brand of alcohol that Mr. Lee claimed he was drinking after the accident) After being charged by the OPP with Dangerous Driving, it was Mr. Lee’s evidence that he consumed alcohol after he drove home following an accident wherein he drove into a sign on the highway. Given that the Crown could not prove that he drove prior to the accident, Superior Court Justice Robert F. Scott overturned his conviction and ordered a new trial.

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Minutes after smashing his car into a Highway 401 exit sign, Howard Lee reached for the bottle.

His airbags deployed, the Kingston-area man in his late-50s drove the short distance home and pounded back booze, according to court documents. Now, that decision to imbibe has allowed him to successfully appeal a dangerous driving conviction.

Lee was speeding along the highway late last September, when, according to his appeal decision, he collided with a sign at the off ramp going into Odessa. His lawyer argued that because he got intoxicated after the accident, his breathalyzer results are irrelevant.

Last week, Superior Court Justice Robert F. Scott overturned Lee’s conviction.

“It would be dangerous to conclude that an accused consumed alcohol prior to the event except in rare situations where other strong evidence was present,” Scott wrote in his judgment, ordering a new trial.

Lee’s black Lexus was seen driving at speeds of up to 135 km/hr, on the evening of Sept. 25, 2013, before it lost control, according to the appeal. After parking at home a short while later, Lee’s mother-in-law noticed him downing what she described in court as “probably vodka” from a plastic bottle. When Ontario Provincial Police showed up, they smelled alcohol and demanded Lee take a breathalyzer test, the appeal said. His blood-alcohol readings were .08 and .077, within the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s “warn range.”

 

When Ontario Provincial Police showed up, they smelled alcohol and demanded Lee take a breathalyzer test, the appeal said. His blood-alcohol readings were .08 and .077, within the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s “warn range.” As a result, Mr. Lee was subsequently charged with Dangerous Driving.

When Ontario Provincial Police showed up, they smelled alcohol and demanded Lee take a breathalyzer test, the appeal said. His blood-alcohol readings were .08 and .077, within the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s “warn range.” As a result, Mr. Lee was subsequently charged with Dangerous Driving.

Lee was charged but not convicted of impaired driving, though Scott’s decision said his alcohol consumption factored into the dangerous driving conviction. His appeal hinged on the “bolus” defence, which says his blood-alcohol level spiked because he was drinking just prior to the breath test. There’s not enough evidence, his lawyer argued, to show he was drunk while behind the wheel.

Toronto criminal lawyer Nicholas Charitsis, who specializes in impaired driving cases, told the Star Lee’s defence is not unheard of.

“There are circumstances like this, where people do end up consuming alcohol after an accident,” he said.

“If his lawyer was able to raise a reasonable doubt as to what his client’s blood alcohol concentration was at the time of driving, the judge must … err on the side of caution to find the accused not guilty.”

Charitsis admitted knowledge of the law could result in its exploitation by impaired drivers.

“Had there not been any post-driving consumption of alcohol, it would’ve been a clear-cut case,” he said, adding he would never instruct clients on “how to beat the system.” The bolus defence also applies to drivers who drink right before getting into a vehicle, and later argue the alcohol was still metabolizing while they were driving.

Impairment aside, Justice Scott ruled Lee’s driving, a “marked departure” from the norm, warranted a new trial. The penalty for a dangerous driving conviction is a one-year driving prohibition and a $1,000 fine.

Neither the Crown attorney nor Lee’s lawyer responded to requests for comment.

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Update: see previous posts – September 14, 2011 In-Car Video Cams – Toronto Police, August 30, 2011 Facial Recognition/Biometric Technology – Borders, Airports, Waterways, April 11, 2010 Automatic Licence Plate Recognition Technology (ALPR) Deployed on Toronto Highways, December 3, 2009 OPP begin using ALPR, March 18, 2009 Automatic Licence Plate Recognition (ALPR) in British Columbia, March 15, 2009 Lights, Cameras, Roll’em (April 2009 – Toronto).

The Victoria B.C. police bike patrol have been using helmet mounted cameras since June 2009. Now Toronto Police will be using body cams,as they do in Edmonton and other cities. Police in Europe have been using this technology for over a decade.

The Victoria B.C. police bike patrol have been using helmet mounted cameras since June 2009. Now Toronto Police will be using body cams,as they do in Edmonton and other cities. Police in Europe have been using this technology for over a decade.

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By the end of the year, 100 Toronto police officers are expected to be sporting body-worn cameras as the force launches a one-year pilot project testing the increasingly popular — and at times, controversial — policing tool.

Major details are still being hammered out, including where the cameras will be worn, when the cameras will record, and what the final price tag will be, but the Toronto Police Service plans to equip officers in four areas of the city with cameras by mid-December, according to a Request for Proposals seeking a supplier for the cameras and software.

The pilot project comes after numerous reports and recommendations suggesting that the cameras, usually affixed to an officer’s lapel, glasses or police cap, could improve police accountability and reduce the use of force by officers.

“They have a moderating effect on both the police and the public,” Deputy Chief Peter Sloly said in an interview Monday. “They will protect good police officers and protect good citizens, and they will capture the bad conduct of citizens and the bad conduct of officers.”

Edmonton police have been equipped with body mounted cameras the size of a cellphone.

Edmonton police have been equipped with body mounted cameras the size of a cellphone.

But the president of the Toronto Police Association, Mike McCormack, says numerous concerns will need to addressed before rank-and-file officers get fully on board.

“We want to see sound policies around not only the implementation, but when are they going to be used, what about privacy rights for citizens, what about privacy rights for police officers, and what are we trying to capture with these lapel cameras?” McCormack said.

In his report, Iacobucci cited research indicating the cameras decrease complaints against police, “in part because police have an additional incentive to treat people respectfully, and also because individuals are deterred from bringing false allegations against police.”

Calls for body-worn cameras have increased amid the growing prevalence of citizen-shot video capturing police encounters, partly in the name of protecting police.

Body mounted camera used by police.

Body mounted camera used by police.

The high-profile shooting of teenager Sammy Yatim by a Toronto police officer — and the citizen-shot video that captured the killing, quickly uploaded to YouTube — demonstrated the need for video technology that can capture events from the officer’s perspective, argued Ian Scott, former director of the Special Investigations Unit, Ontario’s police watchdog.

“The policing community should respond by embracing video technology. It is already being used in in-car cameras, booking rooms and cellblocks, and should be expanded to lapel videos and Taser cameras. While video may not tell the entire story, it can often be the best evidence of an incident,” he wrote in an Op/Ed piece at the end of his tenure.

Among the biggest questions Toronto police have yet to answer is how to protect the privacy of both citizens and police officers. Christopher Schneider, a Wilfrid Laurier University associate professor who studies technology and policing, said the force will have to be exceedingly careful about where and when it records.

“If the police are phoned by someone who is a victim of a crime, and they respond, are the cameras then running? And it’s now running inside the home of, presumably, a victim of crime?”

Body Mounted Cameras have been used by police in the United Kingdom for years now.

Body Mounted Cameras have been used by police in the United Kingdom for years now.

McCormack had related questions about the privacy of officers, saying he’s hearing officer concerns that the cameras could be used as a kind of Big Brother surveillance.

“It’s our view that they can’t be used as a management tool. Because that takes away from the legitimacy of what they are trying to sell the public and the police officers on,” he said.

Since the release of the PACER report, Toronto police have been working closely with Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner to ensure that the privacy of officers and the public is respected, Sloly said. Among the questions still being discussed is how best to inform members of the public that they are on camera.

Toronto will not be the first Canadian police force to experiment with the technology. Calgary police launched a pilot in November 2012, and Edmonton, Ottawa, and Montreal are also testing cameras.

Officers in Rialto, Calif., were among the pioneers of body-worn cameras. A study by Cambridge University in Britain found an 88 per cent decline in the number of complaints against police, even though only half of the officers were wearing the cameras at any given time. Meanwhile, use of force by police decreased by 60 per cent; in cases where force was used, it was twice as likely if the officer wasn’t wearing a camera.

The cameras in Toronto will be distributed to officers in four areas of the city: the 43 Division (Scarborough) Community Response Unit, beat officers in the east end’s 55 Division, a selection of traffic enforcement officers and the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) team, a specialized team deployed to areas that need extra policing.

Illinois police body camera mounted charging units.

Illinois police body camera mounted charging units.

Greater police accountability was determined to be among the top ten priorities of 23,000 Toronto Star readers polled as part of the Big Ideas project, seeking innovative solutions to problems in the city.

In August — before Rob Ford (Open Rob Ford’s policard) dropped out of the mayoral race due to his cancer diagnosis — the Star asked the mayoral candidates if they supported body-worn cameras. John Tory and Olivia Chow both agreed they did; Rob Ford did not respond.

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