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What can I do if I was seriously injured by the police?
The role of the police is to ensure they keep us safe by enforcing the law and to keep social order. But when a police officer misbehaves and treats you in an abusive manner by causing serious bodily injuries, or death, it can be devastating.
To ensure that police don’t abuse the powers they have been given there are independent systems in place to oversee their actions.
The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) investigates police-related incidents across Ontario. The SIU is an independent civilian agency that has authority over municipal, regional and provincial police officers. They have the power to both investigate and charge officials with a criminal offence.
What types of incidents does the SIU investigate?
The SIU investigates the potential criminal conduct of the police, not civilians. By Ontario’s laws, it is the responsibility of the police service to report any incident that may fall under the SIU’s investigative authority. But any member of the public, friends or members of the family of the victim, members of the media, a medical professional or a lawyer - may advise the Unit of a situation they believe may require investigation.
You can report an incident to the SIU if you or someone you know was involved in a police-civilian encounter that resulted in:
- a serious injury
- the discharge of a firearm at a person
- sexual assault
A serious injury is defined in law as an injury that is likely to interfere with a person’s health or comfort. This includes:
- an injury that results in admission to a hospital
- a fracture to the skull, or to a limb, rib or spine
- burns to a significant proportion of a person’s body
- the loss of any portion of a person’s body
- the loss of vision or hearing
NOTE: There is generally no time limit to what the SIU can investigate or when an incident can be filed. You may come forward to report an incident even if the incident happened several years ago, and even if the officer retired or resigned and is no longer with the police service.
How do I file a report to the SIU?
You can file a report with the SIU either by phone, web contact form, or mail.
After the SIU receives the notification, they will conduct a preliminary inquiry to determine whether the case is under the SIU jurisdiction or not. The investigators will ask questions like:
- Who is the civilian and police involved?
- What happened?
- When did it happen – time and date?
- Where did it happen – exact location?
- Why did it happen/
- How did it happen?
The investigators will also ask about the general police activity at the time of the incident: Was the police attending a call at a home or attempting to arrest the civilian?
The SIU’s investigation of an incident begins at the time of notification and entails several steps including:
- Examining and securing all physical evidence
- Seeking and interviewing witnesses
- Monitoring the medical condition of persons that have been injured
- Securing police equipment for forensic testing
- Consulting with the coroner if there has been a death
- Notifying next of kin in death cases
- Ensuring complainants, that is, those who have been seriously injured or are alleging sexual assault, and the families of deceased persons, are kept up to date
The type of evidence that that SIU will collect and examine can include:
- police equipment such as: firearms, duty belts, clothing, and vehicles
- copy of Occurrence Reports containing synopsis of incident, briefing notes, police and civilian statements;
- copy of radio communications tape e.g. 911 calls, police dispatcher communications
- copy of police forensic photographs and video recordings; and ,
- external reports from non-police sources (e.g. from the Coroner or the Centre of Forensic Sciences).
All relevant items from the scene are collected as part of evidence and are properly labeled.
Upon completion of the investigation, the lead investigator will compile the report and submit it to the SIU Director for review.
Under the SIU Act, the Director of the SIU must determine based on the evidence gathered in an investigation whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that a criminal offence was committed. If such grounds exist, the Director has the authority to lay a criminal charge against the official.
There are three options available to the SIU director:
- Terminate the case - the incident does not fall under the SIU mandate
- No reasonable grounds to lay charges - the SIU Director determines there is no basis to lay a charge against the official.
- Charge is laid - the SIU Director determines there are reasonable grounds to believe that an official has committed an offence under the Criminal Code (Canada) and shall cause charges to be laid against the official.
In all non-charge cases, the Director’s Report is posted to the SIU website and a news release is issued.
Presented by: The Special Investigations Unit
For More Information
April 21, 2021