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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cops 'on dirty side'

October 19, 2008

Patrick Quinn is the first to tell you that he's been on the wrong side of the law for too long, feeding a ravenous drug habit with a steady diet of petty crimes.

But approaching his 35th birthday, with a baby on the way and a girlfriend who gave him an ultimatum to get clean or she'd walk, the roofer decided it was finally time to turn a new page.

"It took me longer to grow up and get my act together than most people," he says sheepishly, as his newborn son, Patrick Jr., sleeps in a corner of their new apartment. "I didn't want to lose her or my son."


He is a wiry man with a small beard on his chin and sweat pants that hang on his thin frame, but the former crack addict says he's been clean now for 14 months with the help of addiction counselling. "My life was changing," Quinn insists. "Finally, things were falling together for me."

His past, though, would not let him go.

It was this past Jan. 15, the day before his birthday, when he was pulled over in Mississauga by Peel police. He wasn't surprised when they arrested him -- because of a "miscommunication." He had missed signing in with his probation officer and knew there was a warrant for him.

It's what followed that he claims left him not only in shock but battered, bruised and burned after more than 12 hours of what he alleges was absolute "torture" by four rogue cops in 12 Division who were intent on beating and Tasering him until he was willing to cough up dirt on criminals he used to know.

On Tuesday, Peel Regional Police and dozens of unnamed officers and the Peel Police Services Board were served with a $9-million lawsuit claiming Quinn was beaten and Tasered in the police station and the assault was covered up by others. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

"We did recently receive the claim," confirms Staff Sgt. Taufic Saliba. "The matter is now before the court and we cannot comment."

Quinn knows his tale of police brutality sounds like something out of an American movie. "These cops are on the dirty side," he claims. "I don't want to sound like a New York TV show, but they are bending rules and breaking rules to whatever suits their needs."

According to his statement of claim, Quinn was beaten by three male and one female officer in an interrogation room at 12 Division after he refused to make a deal to swap freedom for information about former acquaintances dealing guns.

It is the same police station where Sean Reilly, 42, was Tasered and later died during a struggle with four officers in the cell area last month.

While he did grow up with "Twinkie," a Caribana shooter doing time for murder, Quinn told the police he didn't know his friends or their criminal activities. Unconvinced, his interrogators began putting on their black gloves and Quinn says he immediately knew what was coming.

He was pummelled until he could hear his ribs cracking, he says, and was left broken on the floor, vomiting and fighting for breath. More than five hours later, he says they finally agreed to take him to hospital.

On his way to Trillium Health Centre, he says he saw a text message on the patrol car's computer to the effect, "Quinn is an idiot if he thinks it's good for him to go to the hospital." He was warned that he was only making it worse for himself.

He says doctors told him there was too much swelling to determine if his ribs were broken. He was prescribed pain and anti-inflammatory drugs as well as medication for his epilepsy, but never received anything from the police.

Still, he thought his night of hell was over. Instead, he says it was just beginning.

He was taken back to the interrogation room where he says the original four officers were waiting. "Cut the lights," one said. And Quinn claims the beating began anew.

"I'm in the corner and they have me semi-circled and there are boots coming at me. I remember being shocked that she was the first one to kick me square in the face," he alleges of the female officer.

Then one pulled out a small Taser, he says.


"I lost track after they Tasered me about 10 times," he claims, pointing to burn scars that remain on his arms. "You see blue flashing lights, your knees give out, your ankles give and your marbles go jiggly for a while."

He says he was so swollen and bruised by the time he was remanded to Maplehurst Detention Centre that guards took photographs when he arrived so they couldn't be later accused of assault.

His lawyer, David Shiller, is now in the process of getting those photos as well as hospital and police records from that night which he believes will corroborate Quinn's stunning allegations. Because right now, it's just a former criminal's word against that of a respected police service, something his lawsuit claims they knew was in their favour:

"The officers assaulted and tortured Mr. Quinn thinking that because he was a drug addict and career criminal without any credibility, nobody would believe him."

But he refuses to be intimidated, not when he is turning his life around and building a new family, with a newborn sleeping in a bassinet beside him and his new roofing business in the midst of its biggest contract ever.

"It's the principle of the whole thing," Quinn insists. "The police are not supposed to beat people up to get information out of them. It just wasn't right."

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