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Lone policeman identifies colleague charged with assault in G20 arrest

A handout photograph showing the arrest of Adam Nobody during G20 protests in Toronto.


After nearly six months, several videos and a showdown between Toronto's police chief and a provincial watchdog that played out in front of the national media, an officer has been charged with beating a man during the G20 demonstrations.

And ultimately, it was a lone policeman who identified Constable Babak Andalib-Goortani as one of the officers alleged to have injured Adam Nobody during his arrest last June, the Special Investigations Unit said.

Const. Andalib-Goortani faces a charge of assault with a weapon. Earlier this year, lawyers in a different case accused the 30-year-old of excessive use of force when he kicked a man and hit him with a baton during an arrest. A judge dismissed those concerns.

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Critics said that Mr. Nobody's case - one of the most closely-watched probes in the SIU's 20-year history - showed that the police force is unable to compel its officers to help SIU investigate fellow officers.

The watchdog said on Tuesday that out of 16 officers identified as possibly being in the area during Mr. Nobody's arrest at Queen's Park, only one provided the agency with the information it required to lay a charge, prompting fresh questions from the injured man.

"What I still don't understand is how 12 police officers who were around me when I was arrested aren't able to identify anyone," Mr. Nobody said. "I hope that something can still be done about this."

The 27-year-old stage builder was at Queen's Park on June 26 when he was wrestled to the ground by a group of officers, an incident videoed by a bystander and posted on Youtube. Mr. Nobody suffered a broken nose and cheekbone.

Last month, the SIU ruled that he had probably been the victim of excessive use of force, but could not lay charges because it could not identify the officers involved. Toronto police chief Bill Blair labelled Mr. Nobody "a violent, armed offender" and said the video was doctored. He retracted the statements, but they prompted the SIU to re-open the investigation.

In the weeks that followed, several more people submitted photos and videos. Police identified 16 officers believed to have knowledge of the incident and provided their names to the SIU, which classified three of them as suspects and the others as witnesses. One of them, a Toronto officer, pointed to Const. Andalib-Goortani; the others could not identify anyone allegedly responsible, the SIU said.

Few details about the charged officer were immediately available, other than that he worked out of suburban 31 division and has been with the force for approximately five years.

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Const. Andalib-Goortani's use of force was questioned in a different case by lawyers for a man arrested on a drug possession charge in the early hours of July 18, 2008, in the Jane-Finch area. According to court documents, the officer testified he kicked the man in the abdomen three or four times with his heel to get him into a police cruiser and later hit him with a baton outside a hospital when he tried to flee. A judge ruled that the use of force was justified as the man was struggling, but said some of the officer's actions that night were "troubling."

"The defence also points out that [Const. Andalib-Goortani]arrived carrying a shotgun, and told one of his colleagues to detain and handcuff an elderly black man carrying a stick, that had no apparent connection to the [incident]" Justice Wilson wrote.

The head of the police union, meanwhile, said the officer's lawyer would not be making any comment on the case, but defended police conduct at the G20.

"They were professional, they did an admirable job given the difficult set of circumstances," said Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack. "I'm concerned that our officers are being judged by what's been in the media - by a snapshot or a video clip of a more fulsome event."

Those videos were key in attracting public interest in the case, said critics, who questioned why it took a media firestorm for the SIU to get the evidence it needed. Some suggested the agency could have done a better job of soliciting videos and photographs from the public earlier in the investigation or pressing police harder to help identify officers.

"It took an awful lot to get [SIU director Ian Scott]to lay a charge here," said lawyer Peter Rosenthal, who has dealt with SIU-related cases in the past. "I think the SIU, in general, has to be more vigorous in their investigations."

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SIU spokesman Frank Phillips said the agency reviews every case to see if it can learn anything. The police declined to comment on Mr. Nobody's case, but have said previously they worked hard to identify officers involved.

Others, meanwhile, said the unusual profile of the case may simply be a function of events surround the summit, which saw the largest mass arrests in Canadian history.

"Everything has been thrown up into the air by the G20," said John Sewell, a former Toronto mayor and police critic. "I don't think we're going to get over it for quite a while."

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