Most people in Ontario know that if police intervention leads to serious injury or death, the Special Investigations Unit must be notified – and notified “immediately.” It’s been the law in Ontario for almost 30 years, yet the police in our province will do anything to avoid oversight by the SIU. Absolutely anything. They will twist, turn and stretch the police statute and regulations that create obligations towards the SIU to keep the matter in-house. The cops, from Chiefs of police to Union types, make nonsense of ordinary words with clear meaning as if they were dealing with elastics. All for the self-serving practice of avoiding police accountability.
This last week’s example is just another case of cops playing this game and jeopardizing the search for the truth.
A 19-year-old Dafonte Miller, who is black, may lose an eye in an altercation with a Toronto cop, Const. Michael Theriault, last December 28, 2016. He was off duty, but identified himself as a cop. We’re not sure of what happened but the bottom line, according to his lawyer, is that the cop gave chase and Miller didn’t stop.
Ultimately, Miller was punched, and kicked in the face with a metal pipe, according to his lawyer, and suffered serious injuries. Durham cops attended to the scene and even if Miller suffered from a broken nose, broken orbital bone and the list goes on, the SIU was left in the dark. Durham police promptly charged Miller with a slew of criminal charges and predictably let Theriault walk free.
It wasn’t until April 2017 that the SIU was notified of the incident by the family’s lawyer. Why didn’t Durham Police not notify the SIU immediately upon discovering it was dealing with a Toronto police officer who had caused serious injury?
It appears Durham police took the liberty of re-writing the law that governs such cases. According to the creative minds of this GTA police service, “it is the responsibility of the police service that employs the (involved) officer to contact the SIU.” Oh really? How does that make any sense? Durham was first at the scene and couldn’t resist handing off the case. It showed favouritism toward the Toronto cop by charging the bloodied civilian. This is precisely the reason the SIU exists – to conduct independent, unbiased criminal investigations. The urge to keep control of the case outweighed their duty to follow the law.
While pretending the SIU didn’t exist, Durham apparently notified Toronto Police on December 28, 2016. Mark Pugash, Toronto police’s own version of the bombastic ex-White House spokesperson Sean Spicer wouldn’t even confirm that early last week. He said he “can’t comment on someone else’s investigation. This is the SIU’s investigation.” A not-so-clever play on words by Pugash. The media were asking him to confirm whether Toronto Police had notified the SIU. They weren’t asking for information on SIU’s investigation. Later, Toronto Police spokesperson Meaghan Gray, attempting to give credibility to the fact it had not broken the law by not calling the SIU insisted “an experienced (Toronto Police) SIU Liasion Officer” was notified of the incident but didn’t notify the SIU. Experienced exactly in what ways? Dodging oversight, perhaps.