CENTRE WELLINGTON – The province’s police watchdog has cleared Wellington OPP of any criminal wrongdoing in a March incident where a driver was seriously injured while being pursued by OPP in rural Centre Wellington.
In a news release, Special Investigations Unit (SIU) director Joseph Martino determined there were no reasonable grounds to believe any officer committed a criminal offence during a spring motor vehicle pursuit that saw a 43-year-old man seriously injured.
Shortly after midnight on March 22, officers with the Halton Regional Police Service attempted to stop a black Chrysler 300 that had committed traffic infractions in Caledon with a spike belt but were unsuccessful and stopped pursuit.
When the vehicle entered Wellington County, two OPP officers attempted to stop the vehicle. At approximately 1:45 a.m., the vehicle left the roadway and entered a ditch at Wellington Road 18 and Fourth Line near Belwood.
The driver was taken to Groves Memorial Community Hospital first and then later transferred to Hamilton General Hospital with serious injuries.
The director’s report said a witness officer reported seeing the driver smoking a “large marijuana cigarette” while driving and approached the T-intersection where the collision took place at speeds upwards of 130 km/h.
When officers arrived at the scene, officers used physical force, including four knee strikes and six or seven punches to his upper body, before he was handcuffed.
The report concluded there was cause to pursue the driver as he had proven to be a danger on the roadway — due to driving well over the speed limit, disregarding traffic control signals and travelling on the wrong side of the road — and the force used in the arrest could not be proven to be unwarranted due to the driver’s resistance to being handcuffed.
Though there was some degree of risk in the pursuit, the director’s report noted he was satisfied the officers conducted themselves with due care and regard for public safety and were not close enough to the Chrysler to drive it off the road.
"I am satisfied that the subject officials did not use excessive force or drive dangerously in their dealings with the complainant, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges in this case," the report stated.