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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Niagara Regional Police taser case decision expected in May

March 10, 2009
TONY RICCIUTO, Niagara Falls Review

Niagara Regional Police officers “had no right whatsoever” to pull over a vehicle on Lundy’s Lane, arrest Michael Parsons, or use a Taser on him, lawyer Margaret Hoy said in her closing arguments Monday in Welland court.

“These officers were out to teach Michael Parsons a lesson, after the lesson was taught, they charged him,” said Hoy, noting the traffic stop was illegal because the officers had no grounds. It was only conducted because her client had yelled out “Hey, baby” to some officers who were standing by the side of the road.

The incident happened on the evening of Dec. 18, 2003, on Lundy’s Lane in Niagara Falls.

Parsons, 30, is suing Niagara Regional Police and five individual officers for $50,000. He claims the officers used excessive force while making the arrest during which time he was Tasered 10 to 15 times.

The five named officers are Michael Woodfine, James Tallevi, Dino Cirillo, Todd Priddle and Darrin Forbes.

The civil lawsuit, which began last week in the Superior Court of Justice in Welland, is for negligence, false arrest, assault, malicious prosecution and breach of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Hoy said an officer’s notes are an important part of any case. In this instance, none of the officers mentioned in their notes that Parsons was hanging half out of the window when he yelled the comment, but that’s what they testified to while giving their evidence in court as to the reason why the vehicle was pulled over in the first place.

While police maintain that Parsons was only Tasered three times, Hoy said the actual number is not really known because marks are not left in each instance, especially when just the electrical shock is administered as opposed to the darts which can be fired.

“The Taser was not appropriate in these circumstances,” said Hoy, noting there was no weapon, no punches were thrown, and there was only a struggle. “The level of force used was excessive to control the situation,” said Hoy.

During the trial, there was conflicting evidence as to what happened once the vehicle was stopped. Parsons claimed he remained in the vehicle and was using his cellphone to call his lawyer when a police officer reached in and pulled him out of the vehicle. Const. Tallevi said Parsons exited the vehicle and was ranting, raving and yelling next to the Jeep that had been pulled over by police. Parsons had a silver object in his hand that the police officer thought might be a weapon.

Police lawyer Terry Marshall said police don’t record everything in their notes. Some officers write more, others write less, but that doesn’t mean something didn’t happen.

If someone is hanging out a car window, he added, it’s reasonable for police to pull that vehicle over for a routine traffic stop.

Marshall said the “Hey, baby” comment had nothing to do with the vehicle being pulled over.

Once Const. James Tallevi and Michael Parsons ended up in the ditch, Const. Michael Woodfine used his Taser because he saw an officer who was not able to control a suspect.

Marshall said the doctor who examined Parsons at the hospital testified he may have been Tasered three times at the most. That is in line with what the police have said rather than the 10 to 15 times claimed by Parsons.

Also, there is no medical report to suggest there was any ongoing medical problems that resulted from this incident.

Judge Raymond Harris has reserved his decision until the end of May. The judge said he is involved in a number of other cases and there is a bit of a backlog.

“We’re looking at something at the end of May,” he told the court.


Anonymous said...

The NRP is one of the most corrupt police forces in Canada, what else can you expect.

Anonymous said...

The above statement is as close to being the truth as one can get. The NRPS have a lot of angery young men that use their job to act out their aggressions on the public and the force itself is so disconnected from the job they should be doing favouring spending money on frills. They went to a digital radio system to hide the illegal acts they were doing not to provide better service to the public. The list goes on and on while tax payors money is used to hide the truth. The NRPA does not represent its members properly, just like the police service doesn't serve properly because like anywhere else they all want a better pension rather than expose all the wrong doing that is going on. Most of them think it is funny to see people at their mercy on the recieving end of a taser without regard for life safety.