No charges against Kentville officers involved in SIRT investigation

Published on August 1, 2014
Kentville Police Service

Kentville police officers have been cleared of any wrongdoing in a struggle with a man this spring that resulted in a brokem limb.

The province’s Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) released its report Aug. 1 regarding the May 23 arrest of a 31-year-old man.

Shortly before 7 a.m., two Kentville officers responded to a 911 call the man made from his workplace in the Kentville Industrial Park.

He asked for “you guys” to come to where he worked, but would not say why the police were needed, nor would he give his name, saying he couldn’t tell the dispatcher that.

Police initially attended, but did not enter the building due to misinformation about the address. The man called 911 again at 6:57 a.m. and said, “send your people”. He was frustrated that police had not come into the building. By that time the KPS dispatcher had contacted man’s supervisor, who confirmed man had made the call. Police returned to the business and the supervisor brought the man outside to meet them.

The man, the report says, is very well liked by his co-workers and a good worker. His co-workers were aware he had mental health issues and was overheard making the call to police by four colleagues. They asked him if he was OK and he said he may be “a little crazy,” just before he left the building to meet with police.

When they met the man outside the business, his comments and behaviour, together with information about the nature of his 911 call, led them to conclude he was suffering from a significant paranoid crisis. 

The man told police that after he was in custody, he had a “plan.” With police present, he intended to read a poem to his co-workers, then check their phones to show which one of them was a drug dealer. He was very concerned, the report says, that he was in danger from drug dealers who were out to kill him.

The four-page SIRT report says the two unnamed officers tried for four and a half minutes to convince the man to go voluntarily to hospital for help, but he refused. The officers decided to take the man into custody under the provisions of the Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Act.

The man resisted, however, and struggled with police, including placing one officer in a headlock. The man’s supervisor described the incident as the 31-year-old manhandling the police at one point, according to the report, as did another employee.

The two other colleagues, a male and a female, both confirmed many of the same details, including that man was strong and unco-operative, but felt the police might have talked to him more, and that it may have helped if they had been able to speak to man.

One of the officers told the SIRT investigators that they had been able to calm the man down at one point, but as they talked about going to the hospital, he became agitated and yelled, “why do you guys always want to take me there?” and clenched his fists.

The 31-year-old was able to resist their efforts to control him for about 35 seconds, until the police used a conducted energy weapon, more commonly known as a taser. The man was then placed in the police vehicle and taken to hospital.

When police arrived at Valley Regional, it was noted that the man was limping and it was discovered he had a mildly displaced fracture in his leg at the top of his tibia.

The SIRT investigation determined the officers had reasonable grounds under the IPTA to place the man in custody and the right to use reasonable force to do so. The video of the incident confirms the force they used was not excessive, and the use of a taser-style weapon was justified as the man was stronger than they could manage. As a result, no charges are warranted against either police officer.

The incident was reported to SIRT at 11:25 a.m. the same day as the incident. The investigation began at that point and concluded July 16. It included interviews with nine civilian witnesses, as well as the 31-year-old man, whose medical records and the police file were also reviewed. Additionally, the 911 and police communication recordings were reviewed, as was video surveillance from the business, which had filmed the incident. Both officers also provided statements to the investigators, although they aren’t required to do so. 

The report states, “Based on the video and civilian evidence, both officers acted professionally, and did not use excessive force. (The man’s) leg suffered the fracture during the altercation, as a result of his refusal to cooperate with police, brought about by his mental illness. There was no intention by police to cause injury.”

SIRT is responsible for investigating all serious incidents involving police in Nova Scotia. Investigations are under the direction and control of independent civilian director Ron MacDonald, who is solely responsible for decisions respecting the laying of any charge.

MacDonald says that while there have been a few files involving Kentville Police in the past, this is the first incident that has warranted a full investigation.