Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit announced Wednesday that it has closed an investigation into how a 27-year-old man was injured in an altercation with Toronto police last year because the police have refused to turn over a key document.
That's inaccurate, the police responded.
They say the document – a complaint the injured man filed detailing the abuse he allegedly received when he was being arrested – is not theirs to hand over because it belongs to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, the provincial agency that examines complaints against police.
Tyrone Phillips was arrested in July outside a Toronto nightclub and brought to hospital, where he was diagnosed with a concussion. He has since recovered.
Ten days later he lodged his complaint with the OIPRD, claiming he was beaten into unconsciousness during his arrest.
The matter was referred back to Toronto police in September, and from there the file was passed to the SIU, which probes all police-civilian interactions that result in death or serious injury.
Mr. Phillips did not keep a copy of his complaint, however, which he filed online, and the OIPRD refused to give one to the SIU, citing a policy that only permits it to share information with the police service involved.
So SIU director Ian Scott asked the Toronto Police Service to give the SIU its own copy, saying he can’t conduct a full investigation without it. In a release, Mr. Scott described the situation as “almost comical” and suggested the police may have breached their duty to co-operate with the agency.
Police spokesman Mark Pugash, however, says the TPS is legally unable to release a copy of the complaint, because the original belongs to the OIPRD.
“Director Scott is wrong,” Mr. Pugash wrote in a notice posted on the TPS web site.
“The document in question belongs to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director. We are not allowed to release a document which belongs to someone else without their express permission. If Mr. Scott wants that document, he must get it from the OIPRD.”
But in an interview, Mr. Scott said that under its mandate, his agency can ask the Toronto police to turn over its copy of the complaint, and that Mr. Phillips has consented to them doing so.
If the TPS gives up the document, the investigation will be reopened, he said.
OIPRD spokeswoman Rosemary Parker declined to discuss Mr. Phillips’s case specifically .
In general, she said, the reluctance by her office to supply information directly to the SIU stems from constraints under the Police Services Act.
However, if the complainant gives written authorization, then the OIPRD can release such documents, she said.