police complaint update: it's now an investigation

I met with the police again yesterday, and was so dissatisfied that I chose the third option for the complaint: I escalated it to an investigation. I don't think what happened to me warrants an investigation, but no other option was acceptable to me.


Part I: What happened.

Part II: My complaint is "withdrawn".

Part III: The OIPRD calls me.

The day after I received the call from the OIPRD, the complaint coordinator - the female detective who misinformed me - called. She was shocked - shocked! - to hear that I was withdrawing my withdrawal. In all her years in her position, this was the first time such a thing had ever happened. I told her if that's true, perhaps it's because most complainants don't discover the truth.

I related to her what I was told: that a "withdrawn" complaint is indeed withdrawn, and never intersects with the officer's performance evaluations or personnel file in any way.

I told her I believe she intentionally misled me, which gave me serious concerns, not for my complaint, but for what this might mean for the Toronto Police. How many complainants are being steered towards withdrawing complaints, believing they are doing something very different? How many legitimate complaints get buried this way?

She denied this, and denied the OIPRD's explanation of a withdrawn complaint. We set up an appointment for me to come in for another interview. I did this yesterday.

The detective was again very cordial and professional. She reiterated her version of what a "withdrawal" means - that it's the wrong word, that it does stay on the officer's file for two years, that the officer's supervisor will see it, that it is an accountability mechanism.

I reiterated what I was told by the OIPRD: that a withdrawn complaint is marked as "withdrawn" in the database of all complaints, and nothing happens after that - it is simply noted as withdrawn. I told her that if the OIPRD is correct, then I was intentionally misled.

She asked, "But why? Why would I do that?"

I felt like saying, "Isn't it obvious?" Omitting that, I said, "To reduce the number of complaints against the Toronto Police Service. To make complaints go away, to make the police force look better."

She said, "If you do that, it will only come back to bite you in the ass anyway. And besides, I have to look at myself in the mirror. I could not do my job that way."

We agreed it was strange and confusing, as both versions - hers and the OIPRD's - could not be true. She said she wouldn't speculate on the OIPRD representative's motive or how they do their job, but clearly and flatly denied that interpretation of a withdrawn complaint.

We left it at that, and then discussed my other options. The OIPRD representative thought that the informal resolution process might work for me. (Everyone is very careful to say, "I'm not telling you what to do, it's up to you, but this might be what you want...") The detective said I could do that if I want, but this complaint is not really resolved, as the officer believes her actions were justified. But meanwhile, I'm thinking that the third, higher option - investigation - seemed so unwarranted. I didn't have serious injuries, wasn't beaten up or illegally detained. It was a minor incident, I simply wanted it documented and the officer to be accountable.

I was all set to do the informal resolution process, when I asked about the other officer that was on the scene. Would it be possible to find out who that was? The detective shuffled through the papers in my file, and only then did I realize there were statements from all the officers who were present that evening.

The detective read from the male officer's statement. I heard that I darted out into the street (I did not), that the female cop "escorted" me back behind the barricades (interesting word choice!), that I yelled and cursed at the female cop, saying something like "Get your hands off me! Get the hell away from me!"

All lies. I said, "That's it, I've heard enough. We'll do the investigation."

We all know that police officers lie to protect each other. That's a well-known fact. But hearing my own story re-written in such a way just made my blood boil. I never physically attempted to walk in the street - I was arguing with the production assistant, but not getting past her. The cop did not "escort" me behind the barricade - she ran at me with both arms extended, pushed me hard against the barricades, leaned into me and yelled in my face. And I did not resist in any way. The officer seemed so angry and out of control, I was afraid that even looking at her might escalate the situation. While she yelled at me, I froze, and looked down and away from her. I did or said nothing until she released me. My hurt and surprise at my own inaction caused me to write this: "in which i learn the lasting effects of the g20 police brutality".

[An aside: the male officer on the scene noted that in an all-day film shoot, where thousands of people were similarly prevented from crossing the intersection, "the complainant" - yours truly - was the only person who caused a problem by attempting to cross the street. And it was the first time a withdrawn complaint had ever been un-withdrawn. And the first time a Heys Luggage backpack had developed rips in the mesh pockets. I'm the first writer to ever question the terms of a magazine's contracts. I'm the first support-staff employee to ask for a raise; everyone else is completely satisfied. Yes, my complaint is always the first. But I'm no trailblazer. Your complaint will probably be the first, too. It's a kind of indirect peer pressure: no one else is doing it, maybe you shouldn't do it either. Funny, my replacement backpack developed the same rips in only three weeks. What a coincidence.]

I asked the detective if she needed any more information from me. She asked if I would be willing to make a short, taped statement. I told the story into a tape recorder, she asked me a few follow-up questions, and I was on my way. I'll next hear from them in January. After a decision is made, if I am not satisfied, I can appeal to the OIPRD; the next decision of the OIPRD is final. I don't expect anything to come of this, as I didn't sustain serious injuries and I have no witnesses on my side. But at least it will be documented.

As I've said in my previous posts, what happened to me was not very serious. I know this and have acknowledged it from the outset. But if this officer was so aggressive and out-of-control over someone verbally arguing about crossing a blocked intersection, how will she react in a high-pressure situation? If her first response is to grab, shove and yell, what will she do if someone actually does yell back? She said in her statement that she was protecting me from imminent danger. Maybe my little complaint will help protect someone else from danger.

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