SIU clears Kingston Police for collision after police pursuit

The Director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) says he has found no reasonable grounds to believe that a Kingston Police officer committed a criminal offence after a 31-year-old man was seriously injured in a collision that followed a pursuit last November. 

According to SIU Director Joseph Martino’s report, in the early morning hours of Friday, Nov. 11, 2022, a group of Kingston Police officers were operating a seatbelt compliance checkpoint in the area of 734 Montreal Street. At about 1:15 a.m., one of the officers observed a vehicle, a Volkswagen Tiguan, that had been travelling south towards the checkpoint when it came to a stop about a hundred metres north of his location. With the use of his flashlight, the officer signaled at the driver to resume his travel towards the checkpoint.

According to the report, the operator of the vehicle continued south at moderate speed toward and then past the checkpoint, after which he picked up his speed.

The officer entered his cruiser by the side of the road and accelerated after the Tiguan with his emergency lights activated. When the officer had closed in to about 30-50 metres from the Tiguan, he activated his siren. The driver continued to accelerate on Montreal Street. In the area of the Joseph Street intersection, the police officer gave up the chase, shutting off his emergency equipment and slowing.

The driver, meanwhile, continued on Montreal Street, failed to negotiate a right-hand turn onto Queen Street, and crashed into the wall of a business at 46 Montreal Street, on the southwest corner of the intersection. 

Two other Kingston Police officers in the area of the collision were the first officers at the site of the crash. They arrested the driver and placed him in a police cruiser. Shortly thereafter, the driver was taken from the scene in an ambulance to hospital, and where he was diagnosed with a collapsed lung.

“On my assessment of the evidence, there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the SO committed a criminal offence in connection with the Complainant’s injury,” Director Martino stated in his report. “The offence that arises for consideration is dangerous driving causing bodily harm contrary to section 320.13(2) of the Criminal Code. As an offence of penal negligence, a simple want of care will not suffice to give rise to liability. Rather, the offence is predicated, in part, on conduct that amounts to a marked departure from the level of care that a reasonable person would have observed in the circumstances. In the instant case, the issue is whether there was a want of care in the manner in which the SO operated his vehicle, sufficiently egregious to attract criminal sanction, that caused or contributed to the collision. In my view, there was not.”

“The (officer) was in the lawful execution of his duties when he attempted to pull the Complainant over at the checkpoint and then pursued him when he failed to stop,” Director Martino continued. “Motorists are under a legal obligation to stop when directed to do so by a police officer by virtue of section 216(1) of the Highway Traffic Act. The officer had cause to believe that the Complainant had committed an offence under the Act, and was within his rights in deciding he would attempt to stop him for the infraction.”

Additionally, Director Martino found that, in the course of the brief pursuit that followed, there was “no indication that the (officer) failed to comport himself with due care and regard for public safety.”

“While the officer accelerated to a speed of about 110 km/h to catch up to the Complainant, he did so with emergency equipment on and over a short period of time. Moreover, there is no evidence that the (officer)’s speed endangered other users of the roadway. Within a reasonable amount of time, when it became clear that the Complainant was not going to stop, the (officer) acted prudently in discontinuing the pursuit and decelerating. By that time, the officer had travelled a total distance of no more than about 650 metres. He was well back in time and distance at the time of the collision.”

As part of its investigation, the SIU was able to review GPS data from the responding police cruisers, as well as video footage from an address on Montreal Street which captured the vehicles involved in the incident.

The footage showed the Volkswagen Tiguan southbound on Montreal Street at a high rate of speed at around 1:21:54 a.m., according to the report, and the Tiguan passed the video frame in two seconds, which was estimated at more than double that of the six unrelated vehicles captured prior. 

At 1:21:57 a.m., footage captured the officer’s police cruiser southbound on Montreal Street following the Volkswagen Tiguan. No emergency lighting was activated and the vehicle was travelling at a speed slower than the Tiguan.

At 1:22:25 a.m., a second KP vehicle was filmed travelling southbound on Montreal Street, also with no emergency lights activated, and, shortly thereafter at 1:22:28 a.m., a third Kingston Police vehicle was filmed travelling southbound on Montreal Street with no emergency lights activated.

The SIU also reviewed Kingston Police officers’ audio recordings with Kingston Police dispatch.

All of the reviewed evidence corroborated the officers’ narratives that the pursuit of the Volkswagen was terminated shortly after it began, said the report, and that the driver of the Volkswagen continued to drive at an accelerated rate after the brief pursuit had been ended.

“In the result, as there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the SO transgressed the limits of care prescribed by the criminal law in his engagement with the Complainant, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges in this case,” concluded Director Martino.

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