Story highlights Every car crash must be investigated.
Investigating them, however, sometimes means opening yourself up to accusations that your heart isn’t in it.
Such was the case for one Ontario officer, who was heavily criticized for concluding a rather well-documented collision in March without calling in a paramedic.
Car vs pedestrian was filmed by a bystander.
By the end of the video, the pedestrian was faced with injuries from the collision, which included the use of a wheelbarrow to stabilize himself against the car.
After lengthy questioning in front of a judge, however, Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, or SIU, concluded that two police officers from the Toronto Police Service were not at fault in the incident.
“My colleagues and I felt that we were investigating a potentially life-threatening situation,” officer Robert Moir told CTV. “It was pretty intense, but we were trying to do the right thing.”
It should be noted that the SIU does not review the initial police action. It exists to sort out the chain of events — what happened, why it happened and to help anyone who may have suffered injury.
“Because of the extremely unique set of circumstances, we determined it was not our responsibility to determine why the pedestrian had been in the roadway in the first place,” SIU Special Investigator Eric Zahra said in a press release.
When we say unique, we mean it. The video that captured the entire incident was filmed by a bystander, in the middle of the street. The pedestrian can be seen standing in the road and waiting for the ambulance, while the officers proceed with their investigation, in the same spot where he was standing, this time clambering into the car.
According to the SIU, the pedestrians were in the road on their own, “confirming that there was no threat to the pedestrian in the roadway.”
Video of the incident circulated online and elicited shock and outrage. Commenters suggested that the officers were committing a “so-called hit-and-run” because they “ran over the pedestrian” and “forgot to give the pedestrian CPR or call for medical assistance immediately.”
Other trolls shared how their own officers neglected them and had repeatedly called them an ambulance, which if true is true.
Others took an even more twisted and cynical approach, claiming it was “typical” behavior for police and pointed to actions such as the one described by the SIU. (A discussion ensued that included a 2015 CNN piece on similar claims against police involving a Florida officer.)
Iain Gillham, a Toronto-based criminal defense lawyer and partner at Nolan and Gillham, was in court at the time of the collision and shared my concern for the officer’s continued employment.
“I was concerned that the officer not only believed that it was in his professional duty to run over the pedestrian in the middle of the street, but also to drive the car into the pedestrian,” he said. “He believed the pedestrian was at fault.”
Attorney David Olmo, who also read the SIU’s report, said that it emphasized that, “there is no way” the two officers could have “begged for the ambulance.”
“He was to be a witness to the accident,” Olmo said. “And if he believes that there is no injury, there is no injury.”
The SIU stated that the officers chose not to call a paramedic “because there was no ambulance to call for them, there was no need to do so and that they believed their actions were in compliance with the provisions of the Highway Traffic Act and had probable cause to believe that they were lawfully engaging in police activity. Furthermore, the officer did not want to spend time, travel to and from the scene with a paramedic and were under the presumption that they would be able to continue their investigation in the future.”
The officers were called to their posts several times before the incident, according to the SIU. However, for whatever reason, they did not call in a paramedic in the initial moments when the fatal collision took place.
“The officers were very apologetic for the situation, but no changes have been made at this time,” said Canadian law professor and criminal defense attorney E.J. McPherson in a press release.
“I would hope that all officers would follow proper protocol, because this potentially could be a dangerous situation, especially if the pedestrian was injured, or was in need of a paramedic.”