The Sault Police Service will be setting up a tribunal to hear charges of misconduct against Const. Matthew Keating that resulted from his attempt in March 2016 to arrest Tim Mitchell at his Weldon Avenue home for breach of recognizance.
At least that is what I am surmising after talking with a media spokesperson with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director.
The CBC reported this week that the OIRPD, which for the past year has been investigating Keating’s actions during the arrest, has substantiated three allegations of misconduct – unlawful or unnecessary use of force, discreditable conduct and neglect of duty — under the Police Services Act..
Joel Dubois, a lawyer with the Ottawa firm of Perley-Robertson Hill and McDougall, acting for the Chief of the Sault Ste Marie Police Service, told the CBC that this does not mean a finding of guilt, but rather that a hearing date must be set.
I attempted to contact Dubois for more information regarding the hearing but he did not return my call.
Const. Sonny Spina of the Sault Police Service said the police service couldn’t comment on anything in regard to the OIPRD. He repeated this even when I suggested it concerned one of their own.
Yet in talking with Ruby Chauhan, manager of communications and outreach with the OIPRD, I was told any information along these lines would have to come from police.
She said the OIPRD was forbidden under the Police Services Act from releasing any information about complaints.
Once the OIPRD substantiates or verifies that there is a legitimate complaint, she said it is up to the police service to take it from there and set up a tribunal to hear the case.
So I hope you can understand from the conflicting comments why I am using the term “surmising” that there will be tribunal set up by the police service rather than flat-out saying it.
City police said in February of last year that a review would be conducted into the actions of several of its officers for possible misconduct in the arrest of Mitchell.
I expect that when this is all sorted out it will be looking into the actions of at least one for sure.
Readers will probably recall the genesis of the Mitchell incident, Keating responding to a call from Mitchell’s son that his father was acting erratically.
Keating observed that Mitchell had been drinking, a breach of recognizance that he abstain from alcohol.
With Mitchell balking at being arrested, things escalated to the point that eventually a dozen officers were on the scene..
Mitchell was finally subdued when Keating struck him in the left rib area with a closed fist.
The case was investigated by the province’s Special Investigations Unit and Tony Loparco, its director, issued a report later in 2016 which said no reasonable grounds were found to lay criminal charges against the officer involved (he didn’t name Keating but local media did) in Mitchell’s arrest.
Yet two years later, in dismissing charges against Mitchell, Justice John Condon said the force used by Keating was excessive and had significant physical consequences for Mitchell. He said there were less aggressive options available to the officer, as one would expect with so many officers present..
“The over-aggressive treatment of Mr. Mitchell continued at the police station, even in the presence of a supervising officer, who did not intervene,” Condon said.
He also declared that several officers had the opportunity to advise Mitchell of his right to a lawyer but they did not.
Loparco said in his report that the subject officer delivered a single punch to the man’s left side, just below the armpit, which tests later showed resulted in rib fractures. Once delivered no other force was employed.
A CT scan later found Mitchell had suffered internal injuries, including bleeding and air escaping from his lungs into other parts of his body which resulted in septic shock, acute kidney failure and an irregular heartbeat.
As a result, Mitchell has launched a $6.5 million lawsuit against the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service.
The statement of claim, filed by Toronto lawyer Davin Charney, said several surgeries followed with Mitchell in a coma for about nine weeks and in hospital for three months.
The statement of claim said Mitchell developed serious health problems as a result of the injuries sustained during the arrest, including regular dizzy spells, memory loss, fatigue, reduced vision and hearing and an “irreparable” brain injury.
As I reported in May of last year, some police officers, including Keating, had gone the lawsuit route themselves.
Twelve officers filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against Stephanie Petroni, the former owner and editor of the Northern Hoot, in 2016 claiming they had been libelled by stories she had published on the local news website.
The statement of claim, although dated in June of that year, was not delivered until December, after the SIU report exonerating Keating had come out.
But the suit seems to have disappeared into nowhere land, as well it should since none of the officers was named in any of the stories Petroni published on the Mitchell case and there was nothing in the stories that would have identified any of them.
In any event, it would seem the next news on the Keating issue should be the setting of the dates for the hearing by the tribunal.