SIU clears Sudbury police officer despite man's injury

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A Greater Sudbury Police officer acted legally when he punched a man who was resisting police following his arrest, the province’s Special Investigations Unit has ruled.

Joseph Martino, interim director of the Special Investigations Unit, said there were no reasonable grounds to lay charges against the officer — referred to as the subject officer in the ruling — even though the man the officer was trying to subdue suffered a fractured orbital bone.

“The complainant, despite being handcuffed, kicked the (subject officer) forcefully and then struggled with (other) officers in what appeared to be an effort to get away,” Martino wrote. “The officers were entitled to respond with force to quell the complainant’s violence and overcome his resistance.

“In my view, the force they used, consisting of (one officer) grabbing hold of the complainant’s legs and a singular punch to the face by the (subject officer), fell within the range of what was reasonably necessary in the circumstances. The (subject officer) was entitled in my view to seek to reassert control over the complainant as quickly as possible and he did not act excessively in so doing.

“In arriving at this conclusion, it is important to bear in mind that police officers confronted with violence are not expected to measure their responsive force to a nicety; what is required is a reasonable response, not an exacting one …

“While I accept that the punch delivered by the (subject officer) was the likely cause of the complainant’s injury, I am satisfied on reasonable grounds that the force used by the officer was legally justified. Accordingly, there is no basis to proceed with criminal charges in this case and the file is closed.”

The incident happened a year ago, on Aug. 7, 2018, when a 37-year-old man sustained a facial fracture in the course of his arrest at Hnatyshyn Park by a Greater Sudbury Police Service officer.

The SIU did not release the names of the officer or the injured man.

The SIU said it relied on interviews with the people involved in the incident, video from cameras monitoring Hnatyshyn Park where the incident took place, and footage from an officer on the scene and recordings between officers and police headquarters.

Martino said the chain of events began in the early evening when the complainant was with acquaintances in Hnatyshyn Park in Sudbury and officers, on bicycle patrol, approached him.

The complainant was inebriated and consuming alcohol in breach of a condition of his probation. The subject officer moved in to arrest the complainant and handcuffed his hands behind his back without incident.

He and the other officers escorted the complainant to the entrance of the park at the intersection of Lloyd Street and Notre Dame Avenue to wait for a cruiser that would take him to the police station.

However, “the complainant became antsy and attempted to pull away from the officers. He was asked to sit down on the cement ledge of a flower planter in the area, and was then made to sit when he refused. Once on the cement ledge of the planter, the complainant laid down, raised his legs and kicked the (subject officer’s) right knee, pushing the officer back.

At that point, the other officer “grabbed hold of the complainant’s legs as it appeared he was still trying to kick the officers. The complainant struggled to get up from the ledge and was punched once in the face by the (subject officer).

“A police cruiser arrived and the complainant was taken in it to the police station. He was subsequently transported to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a fractured orbital bone.”

sud.editorial@sunmedia.ca