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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Police win round 2 vs. O'Sullivan

January 11, 2011

Former Canadian Olympic boxer Shawn O'Sullivan once again has his back against the ropes.

O'Sullivan is considering his options after Ontario's Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) ruled in favour of Belleville police, which determined O'Sullivan's complaint of police brutality was "unsubstantiated."

O'Sullivan's lawyer, Bill Reid, said according to the OIPRD, the test on review of the report submitted by Belleville police in September is based mainly on "reasonableness", not "correctness."

He said without deciding the correctness of the decision filed by Belleville Deputy Police Chief Paul VandeGraaf, the review panel essentially held that it was not unreasonable.

Reid called the findings "interesting" but not "surprising."

He said it is something he would like to "explore" because the ruling indicates that the OIPRD's "hands are tied" in that the review panel seems to be saying it is not its mandate to rule if VandeGraaf made the correct decision.

"I'm not sure if that's correct," the lawyer said in an interview.

Reid has been adamant the report from VandeGraaf didn't disprove the fact "excessive force" was used in arresting his 48-year old client.

"It's a bit disappointing when you think the Belleville police were the ones who investigated themselves," he said.

O'Sullivan can now appeal the ruling at the divisional court. He can also file a civil lawsuit against the Belleville police, Reid said. "I think he's stepping back and considering all his options," Reid said. "Another option is just to let it go." He went on to say that, "there's not a clear and compelling case here. It's a question of credibility."

Police arrested O'Sullivan on Nov. 28, 2009 following a scuffle with a neighbour. Though criminal charges of mischief and assault were withdrawn May 13, O'Sullivan agreed to a six-month peace bond preventing him from contacting the man.

Police and O'Sullivan have both said publicly he was shocked by a Taser or similar stun-gun device during his arrest. But the Olympic silver medallist claims he was also beaten by police and, contrary to police reports, did not resist arrest.

Reid filed an official complaint May 27 with OIPRD which then forwarded it to city police for review. Following the internal review, VandeGraaf ruled O'Sullivan's complaint was "unsubstantiated."

Reid said there were "inconsistencies" in the statement provided by the officers on scene regarding O'Sullivan's conduct. "If you match those inconsistencies, I think there is a strong argument that what Shawn was saying actually happened," he said, noting that there was also some evidence of unreasonable force. "Their (police) evidence was conflicting on certain parts. There was certainly room to make that point."

Reid said it is difficult for a review panel to decide what side of the evidence to go with when analysing the investigation done and conclusions drawn by the police. "There were clearly some mistakes; the question is how significant were they in the decision," he said. "The OIPRD felt they didn't render the decision unreasonable."

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