The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has reviewed the facts around the August 2011 injuries sustained by an eight-year-old boy in a motor vehicle collision involving a police cruiser. Ian Scott, the Director of the SIU, has concluded there are no reasonable grounds to believe an officer with Peel Regional Police (PRP) committed a criminal offence in this case.
The SIU assigned three investigators to probe the circumstances of this incident. The subject officer, as is his legal right, declined the SIU’s request to be interviewed and did not supply his duty notes. One witness officer and three civilian witnesses were interviewed. SIU Forensic Investigators and a Reconstructionist inspected the involved vehicles and obtained photographs of the scene.
• At approximately 9 p.m. that evening, the subject officer was driving his marked cruiser southbound on Erin Mills Parkway. He was not responding to a dispatched call for service and had none of his emergency equipment activated. The posted speed limit on the Parkway is 70 km/hr. As he approached the intersection of Erin Mills Parkway and Sheridan Park Drive, the traffic light was green in his direction and he began increasing his speed from 76 km/h.
• At the same time, the driver of a Mazda traveling northbound on Erin Mills Parkway was beginning to turn left onto Sheridan Park Drive. Her eight–year-old son was seated in the front passenger seat.
• The driver of the Mazda turned in front of the cruiser causing the cruiser to impact with the passenger side of the Mazda. The impact caused the Mazda to spin 360 degrees and come to rest on the south west corner of the intersection.
• Firefighters had to cut the car apart to remove the eight-year-old. He was initially transported to Credit Valley Hospital where he was diagnosed as sustaining a broken collar bone, bruised lung and facial lacerations. Due to the seriousness of his injuries he was transported to the Hospital for Sick Children.
• The driver of the Mazda sustained a neck whiplash, bruises to her body and a chipped tooth. The subject officer was also transported to hospital.
Director Scott said, “According to the accident reconstruction report, the pre-impact speed of the subject officer’s cruiser was 98 km/hr. He was travelling at almost 30 km/hr over the speed limit as he entered the intersection. He was not responding to a dispatched call for service and had not activated his emergency equipment. Accordingly, he does not benefit from the exceptions to obeying the speed limits found in the Highway Traffic Act which permits police officers to speed in the lawful performance of their duties. However, it is unclear whether the officer’s speed was so excessive as he entered the intersection that it would satisfy the Criminal Code’s criteria of a substantial and marked departure from the standard of care of a reasonable person. While the speed was excessive, there were no other classic indicators of dangerous driving such as erratic driving, or distractions such as cell phone use, nor suggestions of alcohol or drug impairment. As a result, I cannot form reasonable grounds that the subject officer committed a criminal offence in relation to this serious motor vehicle collision.
“At the same time, the operator of the Mazda had a duty to execute a left hand turn while affording a reasonable opportunity for any approaching vehicle to avoid a collision under her legal duty as set out in the Highway Traffic Act. Here, it is unclear whether the driver satisfied that duty – she may have reasonably assumed that the subject officer’s cruiser was not travelling above the posted speed limit.”
Director Scott added, “PRP never notified the SIU of this August 12, 2011 incident. This is an apparent violation of the SIU regulation to the Police Services Act. Section 3 of that regulation states that a chief shall notify the SIU immediately of an incident involving an officer that may reasonably be considered to fall within the SIU mandate. The Unit received notification three days later on August 15, 2011 when a newspaper reporter contacted the SIU and made enquiries about the incident. When the PRP SIU Liaison officer was asked about this non-notification, he advised that he was of the view that there was no criminality involved on the part of the officer and for that reason did not notify the Unit.
“In my view, the lack of notification in these circumstances was inappropriate and may well have impacted upon the adequacy of the investigation. SIU investigators did not attend the scene and had to rely largely upon the investigative work product of PRP. As previously outlined, the collision was significant and the injuries sustained by the eight-year-old boy were of a serious nature. Firefighters had to cut open the vehicle to remove the boy and ambulances were called to the scene. When an officer is involved in an incident of serious injury or death, it is not for the police service to predetermine the issue of criminality – that is the function of the SIU. As stated by The Honourable George Adams in his 1998 report leading to the SIU regulation to the Police Services Act:
It is not practical for a police service to attempt to determine the SIU’s jurisdiction in a strict legal sense before notification is effected because of the inherent uncertainty of many incidents. The issue of notification must be treated more like that of calling an ambulance – when in doubt call [emphasis added].
These words are highly applicable to this incident. Until all of the material facts are ascertained and the law applied to those facts, it was presumptuous of PRP to decide the outcome. I have asked the Chief to address this issue with his staff and look forward to working with him to ensure that the SIU is immediately notified of all incidents in which his officers are involved in serious injuries or death so that the Unit can conduct timely and thorough investigations.”
The SIU is an arm’s length agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault. Under the Police Services Act, the Director of the SIU must
- consider whether an officer has committed a criminal offence in connection with the incident under investigation
- depending on the evidence, lay a criminal charge against the officer if appropriate or close the file without any charges being laid
- report the results of any investigations to the Attorney General.