Peel police not facing charges after woman’s finger broken during arrest: SIU

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The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) says that Peel Regional Police officers will not be facing charges in connection with an arrest that left a 31-year-old woman—who alleged she was kicked approximately 20 times in the head and ribs—with a broken finger.

The SIU report says that at approximately 11:30 p.m. on January 31, 2020, an officer observed a suspicious vehicle that had previously been reported as missing. According to the report, a uniformed officer attempted to stop the van, but the driver fled from police. As the van entered the City of King, the woman who was eventually injured lost control of the van and drove into a snowbank at 16th Sideroad and Dufferin Street. 

The report says that as the woman and her passenger attempted to remove the van from the snowbank, officers moved in to arrest them. The report says both parties resisted arrest.

According to the report, an officer grabbed the woman, who was standing outside of the van, by the right shoulder of her jacket and pulled her to the ground while telling her that she was under arrest. The SIU says that once on the ground, the woman tucked her hands underneath her chest and refused to give them up for handcuffing.

The report says the woman was "observed to be yelling, screaming, pulling away from the [officer], and pushing up with her elbows while the [officer] was yelling at her to stop resisting." The report also says that six officers were dealing with the passenger, who allegedly had a knife and was also resisting arrest. 

The report says an officer delivered "three hand strikes" to the woman's right rib area to prompt her to release her hands.

The SIU says two officers were subsequently able to handcuff the woman. 

The report says that while being booked at the police station, the woman complained of an injured finger and was taken to hospital. An x-ray confirmed that the woman suffered a broken finger on her right hand. 

Joseph Martino, director of the SIU, says he does not believe that officers used excessive force during the arrest based on the medical records of the woman and the passenger. 

The SIU says there were no independent civilian witnesses to the incident, nor were any recordings of the incident. 

"From a review of this evidence, and for the reasons that follow, I am unable to find that the force used against the [woman] was excessive and therefore I have no reasonable grounds to believe that the [officer] committed a criminal offence in relation to the [woman's] injuries," Martino writes in the report.

Martino says that some evidence suggests that after the woman collided with the snowbank, she obeyed police commands to get onto the ground by getting onto her knees, but was pushed down to the ground by an officer and "kicked approximately 20 times in the head and ribs." 

Martino says this evidence suggests the woman put her hands up to protect her head and face, at which time she was kicked in the hand and her finger was broken as a result.

"The incriminating evidence similarly suggests that the [woman] was screaming during her interaction with police at the snowbank, but that a police officer placed his foot on the [woman's] jaw. This incriminating evidence further alleges that anytime the [passenger] or the [woman] spoke, they got kicked in the face, and that the [passenger] was hit between one to three dozen times, with the [woman] receiving more hits than the [passenger] had received."

Martino says the woman's medical records do not support allegations that she was assaulted by officers. 

The [woman's] records disclose injuries that are limited to a broken finger. Certainly, had the [woman] been kicked to the head and body by several police officers, each of whom was presumably wearing shoes or boots, I would have expected to see much more serious injuries. Of specific note is that no bruising or other injury to the [woman] was noted by medical personnel," Martino writes. 

"As a result of these inconsistencies, which seriously undermine the reliability of the incriminatory evidence, I find that I am unable to accept this version of events, which portrays the [woman] as voluntarily going to her knees despite [her] earlier efforts to evade police by speeding away." 

Martino says that while the assaultive behaviour described by the incriminatory evidence would be considered excessive and justify criminal charges, he believes it is "patently unreliable." 

"While it is possible that the [woman] may have sustained her injury when the [officer] took her to the ground, I am satisfied on the reliable evidence that the level of force resorted to by the [officer] was reasonably necessary in the circumstances in light of the fact that the [woman] was resistant throughout her interaction with police."

Martino says no charges will be issued and the file is closed.

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