A day after saying definitively that he had "never read" a colleague's report, a key police witness at the inquiry into the jailhouse death of a mentally ill man acknowledged lifting material from that report for his own paperwork on the incident.
Halifax Regional Police Constable Jonathan Edwards, the officer who arrested Howard Hyde, also testified yesterday that he erred when he told RCMP investigators that the paranoid schizophrenic man was warned before being tasered.
Constable Edwards acknowledged the warning did not appear in surveillance video from the scene.
"I watched the video just before giving the statement," he testified. "I don't know why I would have said that."
He offered no explanation for cribbing his colleague's material.
The copying was played down by a police lawyer, but counsel for Mr. Hyde's sister and her husband said it calls into question the independence of Constable Edwards's recollection.
The inquiry is looking into events leading up to the November, 2007, death of Mr. Hyde. Suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and off his medication, he was arrested for allegedly assaulting his wife and was tasered repeatedly during a fracas in the booking room at Halifax police headquarters. He died 30 hours later, after a struggle with guards at a Dartmouth jail.
Constable Edwards was part of the altercation at police headquarters and accompanied Mr. Hyde to hospital. He returned to his police station in Dartmouth to write a supplemental report on the incident.
During questioning Monday by Kevin MacDonald, the Hyde family lawyer, Constable Edwards was asked about extensive similarities between that report and one prepared about an hour earlier by Special Constable Gregory McCormick, the officer who actually tasered Mr. Hyde.
"I've never read this before," Constable Edwards said Monday, when looking at his colleague's report.
"In a lot of reports that I've written, I do have similarities with people," he explained after hearing another example of near-identical wording. "I mean, that is pretty exact, but I haven't accessed this supplemental before. I know I haven't."
Late in his testimony yesterday he changed his position. The reversal came while he was being questioned by Sandra MacPherson-Duncan, a lawyer for the police.
"When it comes to the occurrence report, it appears you may have borrowed a couple of sentences, possibly from Constable McCormick," she said, referring to what others have called the supplemental report.
Constable Edwards agreed. Ms. MacPherson-Duncan established that officers aren't judged on their creative writing, and that he wouldn't ever copy a colleague's notebook, before returning to the issue of copying the report.
"While you don't recall that you looked at Special Constable McCormick's occurrence report, are you satisfied now that you did?" she asked.
"Yes," Constable Edwards said.
During a break in proceedings that followed the end of his testimony, the officer said he could not comment further.
Ms. MacPherson-Duncan minimized the reversal, noting that mistakes are made. "Basically what he's saying today is, yes, with this information put in front of me it's clear that I did," she told reporters. "But the key point is that there's nothing untoward in doing that ... there's no guile here, there's no attempt to conceal anything because there's nothing improper in what he did."