Ample grounds for HTA charges but not criminal charges in OPP collision: SIU

( Jan 9, 2018 - Kingston, ON ) The Director of the Special Investigations Unit, Tony Loparco, has found an Ontario Provincial Police officer operated her motor vehicle “in a careless manner” following a crash on Highway 401 near Gananoque in October 2016.  The evidence, however, is insufficient to rise to the level required for the laying of criminal charges, according to the SIU.

The report states that shortly after 2:00 p.m. on October 6, 2016, the injured driver and a civilian witness were driving their white Hyundai eastbound on Highway 401 near mile marker 643, two kilometres west of Highway 32, near Gananoque. A second civilian witness was driving his Jeep Cherokee immediately in front of the Hyundai. There was construction up ahead, and the driver of the Jeep Cherokee had almost stopped, and the driver of the white Hyundai was slowing to a stop. Suddenly, the white Hyundai was struck from behind by the police officer’s OPP Dodge Charger. At the point of impact, the Hyundai was travelling at 12kmk/h and the Jeep Cherokee at 9km/h. The OPP cruiser, however, was travelling at 75 km/h, which pushed the Hyundai forward at a speed of 53 km/h, causing it to collide with the Jeep Cherokee. Extensive damage was caused to the rear of the Hyundai and the front of the Dodge Charger. The driver of the Hyundai was transported to hospital by ambulance, where it was determined that he had sustained a fractured thoracic vertebrae and several rib fractures.

The SIU report states that at 2:08 p.m., the OPP officer reported to the OPP Provincial Communications Centre (PCC) in Smiths Falls, that she had been involved in a personal injury motor vehicle collision on Highway 401 eastbound just west of mile marker 643. She reported that a black SUV, possibly a Chevrolet Tahoe with a Quebec marker, the number of which she was unable to obtain, had cut in front of her and cut her off. She said the driver had his head down, was wearing a ball cap and may have been texting. At 2:18 p.m., she said that there had been no contact between the unknown SUV and her vehicle. At 2:20 p.m., she reported that the unknown SUV “may” have made contact with her vehicle and that it “may” have damage on the driver’s side rear quarter panel, according to the report. Although a search of the area was conducted by OPP no SUV was located.

As part of the investigation, the officer's work cell phone was seized at the scene by another attending OPP officer. On request this was provided to the SIU. An examination of the history on this cell phone showed no text messages and no incoming or outgoing calls around the time of the collision. There were also no mechanical deficiencies found in any of the three vehicles which could have contributed to the collision. Loparco concluded that while there were "ample grounds to believe that the SO was driving her motor vehicle in a careless manner without reasonable care and attention, contrary to s.130 of the Highway Traffic Act...that evidence is insufficient to rise to the level required pursuant to the Criminal Code." It is not yet known whether the officer has been charged under the Highway Traffic Act. 

The SIU investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault and, under the Police Services Act, considers whether an officer has committed a criminal offence in connection with the incident under investigation. Depending on the evidence, it may lay a criminal charge against the officer if appropriate or close the file without any charges being laid.

The Director’s Report was delivered to the Attorney General, as is required by law under the Police Services Act. The Attorney General has directed that the document be posted online. It can be found here in its entirety.