Ontario’s police watchdog clears Kawartha Lakes police officer after man’s ribs were broken during May arrest

Special Investigations Unit concludes officer used 'legally justified force' after man resisted arrest at Lindsay home

The City of Kawartha Lakes Police Service in Lindsay. (Photo: City of Kawartha Lakes)
The City of Kawartha Lakes Police Service in Lindsay. (Photo: City of Kawartha Lakes)

Ontario’s police watchdog has cleared a Kawartha Lakes police officer of any wrongdoing in a May arrest in Lindsay that broke a man’s ribs.

The SIU is a civilian law enforcement agency, independent of the police, that conducts criminal investigations into circumstances involving police and civilians that have resulted in serious injury, death, or allegations of sexual assault.

At 7:54 a.m. on May 23, the Kawartha Lakes Police Service responded to a call from a home near Colborne Street East and Verulam Road North in Lindsay, with the caller claiming a man was threatening to burn down the house. The occupant of the home said they were concerned for their safety and wanted the man removed from the home.

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One of two Kawartha Lakes police officers who arrived at the home spoke with the man inside the home and eventually decided to arrest him for uttering threats. As the two officers were escorting the man out of the home, they found themselves in a struggle on the living room floor with the man.

The officers eventually handcuffed the man behind his back, lifted him off the floor, and took him outside where he was placed in the backseat of a police cruiser. At the police station, the man complained of pain and was transported to hospital where he was diagnosed with multiple left-sided rib fractures.

“On my assessment of the evidence, there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the SO (subject officer of the investigation) committed a criminal offence in connection with the complainant’s arrest and injuries,” reads a report from SIU director Joseph Martino released on Thursday (September 21).

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“According to the body of evidence proffered by the officers, the Complainant resisted his extraction from the house, eventually falling to the floor in the living room. Once down, he refused to release his arms from underneath his torso to be handcuffed, and kicked out with his legs. The WO (witness officer) controlled the Complainant’s legs as the SO wrestled control of his right arm. The SO then delivered a knee strike to the Complainant’s left side, which assisted in freeing the left arm to be handcuffed. No further force was used against the Complainant.”

Martino states the officer’s knee strike against the man “constituted legally justified force,” as the officer had wrestled the man’s right arm free and had tried to do the same with the left arm (so the man could be handcuffed) before resorting to the knee strike.

“That, in my view, was a proportionate escalation of force that was reasonable in the circumstances,” Martino writes. “It is also alleged that the Complainant was repeatedly punched to the left rib area by the SO while he stood handcuffed by a police cruiser outside his home. The video footage, however, does not capture any such force. Nor was force of this nature observed by a civilian witness to the events in question.”

Martino concludes that, while one or more of the man’s rib fractures “may well be” the result of the officer’s knee strike, “I am not satisfied on reasonable grounds that any part of the injuries are attributable to unlawful behaviour on the part of the officer” and that there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges.