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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Officer used colleague's material for paperwork, taser inquiry hears

July 14, 2009
OLIVER MOORE, Globe and Mail

The officer who arrested Howard Hyde acknowledged Tuesday that he used a colleague's material to prepare paperwork after the mentally ill man was tasered, reversing testimony from yesterday at a fatality inquiry.

Halifax Regional Police Constable Jonathan Edwards said Monday that he had “not accessed” his colleague's supplemental report. He wrote his own supplemental, he said, after accompanying Mr. Hyde to hospital. This was about an hour after Special Constable Gregory McCormick, who actually used the taser on Mr. Hyde, prepared his report.

Questioned about the numerous similarities between their accounts, Constable Edwards suggested Monday it was a coincidence.

On Tuesday, though, he was questioned by police lawyer Sandra MacPherson-Duncan. After establishing that officers aren't graded on their creative writing, and that he wouldn't ever copy a colleague's notes, she returned to the issue of cribbing the other report.

“Are you satisfied now that you did?” she asked.

“Yes,” Constable Edwards said.

During a subsequent break in proceedings the officer said he could not comment further.

Ms. MacPherson-Duncan minimized the reversal, saying that mistakes are made. Perfection cannot be expected of police officers, particularly after such a stressful event, she said.

Earlier Tuesday, Constable Edwards testified Tuesday that he had been mistaken when he said the mentally ill man was warned before being tasered.

Constable Edwards gave a statement to the RCMP on 25-November, 2007, three days after Mr. Hyde died in custody in a Dartmouth jail.

In that statement, he described the booking room fracas that involved Mr. Hyde being tasered repeatedly by another officer and ended with the 45-year-old stopping breathing and having to be revived in a hallway.

Prompted by Kevin MacDonald, the lawyer for Mr. Hyde's sister and her husband, Constable Edwards acknowledged the warning mentioned in his statement was not reflected in surveillance video from the scene.

“I watched the video just before giving the statement. I don't know why I would have said that,” the officer said.

Mr. MacDonald suggested that Constable Edwards had been trying to establish a justification for the tasering, prompting an objection from a lawyer for the local police.

“The proposition is scandalous,” said Ms. MacPherson-Duncan. “There's no suggestion that this interview [with the RCMP] was probing justification for use of force.”

Provincial Court Judge Anne Derrick, who is presiding over the inquiry, allowed the line of questions to continue.

Asked again, Constable Edwards noted that the officers didn't have to give a warning and that he didn't have to justify his actions to the RCMP.

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