A Niagara Regional Police officer will face no charges in relation to an incident that resulted in a 13-year-old Pelham girl suffering a concussion, Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit has determined.
The incident occurred in the morning on Oct. 2 of 2016 after the girl “threw a dish of food at an employee at her residence, ripped a railing from the wall in a hallway of the home, and then threatened to kill the employee,” says the report, by SIU director Tony Loparco.
As a result of the incident, two Niagara Regional Police officers were called to the residence and confronted the girl in her bedroom, where a witness officer informed her she was being arrested for breaching a prior court-ordered condition.
The report says the girl then broke a plastic coat hanger and tried to cut her forearms using the broken end, and which point both officers pulled her to the edge of the bed and onto the floor out of fear for her safety.
“Once on the floor, the Complainant continued to struggle, kicking at the officers and banging her head on the floor. In an effort to handcuff the Complainant, the SO (suspect officer) delivered an open hand strike somewhere on the Complainant’s head. She was subdued, and arrested and handcuffed,” says the report.
It says the girl also threw herself to the floor in the hallway of the residence, landing on her left side as the officers tried to bring her to the cruiser, as well as banging the back of her head two or three times against a wall.
The girl was transported to the hospital and diagnosed with an acute concussion the next day.
The complainant alleges the suspect officer banged the left side of her head on the floor and punched the right side of her face and upper right cheek after she was taken to the ground,
The suspect officer acknowledged striking the girl “in an effort to gain control and handcuff her,” according to the report.
“The issue, therefore, is whether the SO used excessive force in his efforts to handcuff the Complainant,” the report says.
“At no time during her statement to investigators, however, did the Complainant disclose that she had assaulted or threatened staff members, or damaged property, prior to the police officers’ arrival. Nor did the Complainant mention that she threw herself to the floor after she was handcuffed, or hit her head several times on the wall as she was led through the hallway.”
The girl also gave “a somewhat different version of events” at the hospital, the report says.
Although the suspect officer did not agree to an interview, SIU investigators were able to seize a copy of his notes from the original prosecution brief to corroborate his side of how the events unfolded.
The officer’s report also noted the girl started to bite the roll-bar and the head-rest in the back of the police cruiser.
“Based on all the evidence, there is no doubt that the Complainant was out of control the morning that police were called to, and attended at, the residence. She had assaulted and threatened an employee of the residence, damaged property, and was clearly breaching a court ordered condition. When WO #1 (witness officer) and the SO entered her bedroom, the Complainant was arrestable for several offences, including threatening death, mischief to property and failing to comply with a court condition. It is clear that WO #1 and the SO were lawfully attempting to arrest the Complainant that morning,” the report said.
It continued: “I also have no doubt that the Complainant was resisting the police officers’ attempts to arrest and handcuff her. All of the witnesses are consistent on her squirming and struggling while the officers are trying to handcuff her … And although the Complainant was only 13 years old, she was a large person (approximately 5’9” and 250 lbs) and clearly had significant strength. Given the danger her actions posed both to her own safety and the safety of the attending police officers, WO #1 and the SO were justified in taking the Complainant to the ground and onto her stomach.”
“I have significant concerns about the reliability and credibility of the Complainant’s recollection of the events, given the inconsistencies in the versions she provided to the SIU investigators and at the hospital.”
“Accordingly, I am satisfied that the SO’s strike of the Complainant’s head during his and WO #1’s efforts to handcuff the Complainant was reasonably necessary given her size and violent behaviour towards herself and the police officers once it became clear that she was going to be arrested.”
“The jurisprudence is clear that while police officers’ actions must be commensurate with the task at hand, they cannot be expected to measure their responsive force to a nicety (R. v. Baxter (1975), 27 C.C.C. (2d) 96 (Ont. C.A.)) or to be judged against a standard of perfection (R. v. Nasogaluak,  1 S.C.R. 206). Given that, and the evidence described above, I have no reasonable basis to believe that the SO committed a criminal offence and there are no grounds for proceeding with charges in this case.”
The full report can be found at, ontario.ca/page/siu-directors-report-case-16-oci-297#foot-2.