July 3, 2009
Posted By KARENA WALTER, SUN MEDIA
The Niagara Regional Police Service says it will likely provide remedial training to officers slammed in a civil court decision for illegally arresting and Tasering a St. Catharines man.
But the five officers taken to task by a Superior Court judge won't be disciplined by the police service because too much time has passed since the Dec. 18, 2003 incident.
The NRP issued a statement Thursday, reacting to the $50,000 civil decision won by 30-year-old Michael Parsons against the service.
The service said it had the opportunity to review the decision and accepts the findings of the court.
"This civil proceeding served to provide the community with a public airing of evidence that concluded in a judgement against the officers involved," Chief Wendy Southall said in the media release.
"We respect the findings of the court and plan a comprehensive internal response."
Parsons sued the police service and five officers -- Michael Woodfine, Dino Cirillo, Todd Priddle, James Tallevi and Darren Forbes -- for negligence, false arrest, assault, malicious prosecution and breach of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
He was the passenger in a Jeep pulled over on the outskirts of Niagara Falls and testified he was dragged out of the vehicle by police and assaulted.
During the incident, Parsons said he was choked, pulled into a ditch and Tasered 10 to 15 times, including in his genitals and while handcuffed.
The officers claimed Parsons resisted arrest and was not cooperative.
After a civil trial in Welland in March, Justice Raymond Harris released his decision this week strongly condemning the officers involved.
"The events that unfolded at the side of the road that December evening strike me as epitomizing arbitrary and capricious conduct deserving of strong condemnation from this court," he wrote.
The judge said he believed the police engaged in an act of reprisal against Parsons for yelling, "Hey baby," out of the Jeep window at one of the offi-cers.
"This was not a situation where the officers were confronted by an aggressive and assaultive man requiring them to defend themselves," Harris wrote. "The circumstances suggest that the opposite was true."
He called the officers actions "troubling" and "offensive" and didn't find their testimony credible.
"Each of these officers abused their position of authority in a manner which cannot be condoned."
The police service said in its statement yesterday that a public complaint about the officers was not made at the time of the incident.
As a result, an investigation into potential misconduct of the officers was not conducted at the time.
Disciplinary charges against the officers involved would be problematic now, the NRP said, because of time limitations in the Police Services Act as well as "notions of fairness and natural justice."
The statement was released just after 5 p. m. and media relations officer Const. Ken Bettes said no one in the executive office was available to comment further.
Bettes did explain that a disciplinary charge must be laid within six months from the time of an infraction under the police services act.
The NRP said it will use other measures to address issues raised by the decision. It said that is expected to include remedial training for the offi-cers focusing on powers of arrest, use of force and note taking.
In his decision, Harris said that although officers justified pulling over the Jeep because Parsons was hanging out the window, none of them wrote that observation in their notes.
The NRP's policy on Tasers has changed since the time of the incident. Prior to July 2008, a Taser could be used on a suspect "actively resisting" an offi-cer.
Since that time, a suspect must be exhibiting "assaultive behaviour."
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Friday, July 03, 2009
July 3, 2009