Officer cleared after cruiser crashes into civilian car, injures two in Ajax

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Published February 9, 2023 at 5:05 pm

A Durham Regional Police officer has been cleared of wrongdoing after crashing his cruiser into a civilian car and injuring two people in Ajax.

The Special Investigation Unit (SIU) investigates all occasions when a person is seriously hurt or killed during interactions with police. In this case the SIU weighed eye-witness interviews, video footage, and electronic information from the cars in deciding not to charge the officer involved.

The officer, dubbed the Subject Official (SO) in the report, crashed into a civilian car on Oct. 22, 2022. The civilian car, a Lexus sedan, was westbound on Kingston Rd. near Church St. in the west side of town near the border with Pickering at the time.

The driver’s wife sat in the passenger seat and his sister-in-law rode in the back behind him. The driver went to turn into a plaza on Kingston Rd. that contained the Mubay Grill restaurant.

He slowed down in the turning lane and began his turn into the plaza after waiting for an oncoming car to pass.

Meanwhile, the SO was driving quickly in response to a 911 call about a man who had slashed himself with a knife and was threatening suicide. Another officer, dubbed Witness Officer #4 (WO4) was already on scene as the SO rushed to assist them due to their relative inexperience.

The SO was racing to the scene with lights on at roughly 116 km/h in the five seconds before the crash. The area has a speed limit of 50 km/h. However, in the moment before impact, the cruiser’s speed fell to about 96 km/h and was travelling at about 73 km/h.

As the driver straddled the two lanes making his turn, the police cruiser crashed into Lexus’ rear passenger side. The Lexus spun around partially after the impact and stopped pointing northeast.

The SO kept driving for a short ways before stopping near Church St. The driver’s wife suffered multiple broken bones and internal injuries and his sister-in-law suffered broken ribs. The driver was “lucky” to have escaped serious injury, according to the SIU.

The SIU investigated the SO for dangerous driving causing bodily harm after they were informed of the crash. Per the SIU, to charge the SO with this offense they needed to prove the SO’s actions showed a “marked departure from the level of care that a reasonable person would have observed in the circumstances.”

SIU Director Joseph Martino found there are no indication the SO’s action rose to this level of a want of care but he called the SO’s speed, almost two-and-a-half times the limit, “a danger on the roadway.” He additionally noted the SO did not have his siren on only his emergency lights.

This, and the fact that the SO needn’t have rushed that fast to the call, led Martino to believe they were significant factors of the crash.

However, Martino also concluded these actions “fell short of constituting a marked departure from a reasonable standard of care” given the “extenuating circumstances” of the situation.

Officers are exempted from speed limits under the Highway Traffic Act and while Martino noted this doesn’t give them free reign to speed as they please, officers training in high speed driving needs to be considered in such collisions.

Additionally, given the nature of the call, Martino found he was unable to dismiss the SO’s concerns for his fellow officer, a “new officer with little experience dealing with a potentially volatile situation involving a knife.”

As a result Martino found “there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the SO transgressed the limits of care prescribed by the criminal law in connection with the collision [with the Lexus]. As such, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges in this case.”

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