Toronto police have launched an internal investigation to determine how a suspect was able to carry a concealed gun into a cruiser and access it while handcuffed in the back seat, the force said Tuesday.
Chief Mark Saunders announced the probe by the Professional Standards unit shortly after security footage shot in the back of the cruiser was leaked to CTV News.
Saunders confirmed the authenticity of the footage and provided more details about the incident, which he said raises questions about core aspects of police protocols.
“The safety of our officers and the public is of paramount importance to the Toronto police,” Saunders said in a statement. “...the officers conducted a search of the accused and the gun was not detected. The incident is under investigation to assess if this is a training or disciplinary matter.”
Saunders said the incident took place on Sunday when officers were called to the city’s downtown core after receiving reports of an allegedly impaired driver.
A statement chronicling the incident said police found the man seated behind the wheel of a vehicle and arrested him on suspicion of multiple alcohol-related offences. Police patted the man down before loading him into a cruiser for transport to a nearby police station, the statement said.
But while en route, police said officers heard an item fall on the floor at the back of the vehicle. They stopped the cruiser and discovered the item that fell was a semi-automatic pistol.
Grainy footage released by CTV News appears to show the moments before the gun hit the ground. The video first shows a man wearing a white top repeatedly shifting back and forth in his seat. A later image depicts a black object poking out of a pocket on the man’s top.
Saunders said the release of the video will also be part of the internal probe, describing the leak as a “clear breach of protocol and procedure.”
The chief said officers on the scene secured the pistol and carried it on to the station. The 38-year-old suspect from Mississauga, Ont., is now facing nine charges including operation of a conveyance while impaired, carrying a concealed weapon and unauthorized possession of a firearm.
Saunders said the force issued a safety notice regarding the way the pistol was concealed in this case, but declined to provide further details on what the notice contained.
He did not provide an estimated timeline for the force’s internal investigation.
Toronto Mayor John Tory described the incident as “disconcerting,” saying he welcomed the police investigation and looked forward to hearing recommendations on how such situations can be avoided.
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