TORONTO — A disciplinary hearing will be held for a Toronto police sergeant after a civilian oversight agency found there were grounds to believe he used excessive force in stomping on and repeatedly Tasering a handcuffed man during an arrest earlier this year.
The Office of the Independent Police Review Director says Sgt. Eduardo Miranda was not justified in deploying his stun gun six times on a man who, on most of these occasions, was “prone face down on the ground and being physically controlled by four officers.”
In a report into the January incident, the agency says Miranda’s decision to stomp on the man’s leg was “equally not justified as a response.”
It further says there are grounds to believe the sergeant engaged in discreditable conduct when he directed other officers to interfere with a witness who was recording the arrest on his phone.
The report says there are grounds to believe two other officers engaged in misconduct when they threatened to confiscate Waseem Khan’s phone and behaved in a manner meant to intimidate him, and that all the officers involved neglected their duty by failing to turn on their cruisers’ cameras and microphones.
The investigation was triggered after Khan, who captured much of the incident on video, lodged a complaint with the oversight agency.
Khan’s lawyer, Selwyn Pieters, says the findings against Miranda automatically require a disciplinary hearing, which has been scheduled for Sept. 26. It is unclear whether the remaining officers will also face a hearing, since they are accused of lesser offences, he said.
Pieters said his client is pleased that the report confirmed his feeling that “something wasn’t right with what was taking place” that day.
“It just shows the importance of what Waseem did on that day, to take his camera out on his cellphone and record that incident,” Pieters said. “Had he not done that, it would have been this civilian versus the police with no objective evidence.”
The cellphone video shows several police officers standing by a man who is lying face down on the street. Khan can be heard saying an officer used a stun gun on the man. The video appears to show the same officer stomping on the back of the man’s leg.
The video then shows the same officer looking in Khan’s direction and asking his colleagues to “get that guy out of my face please!”
“I’m a witness,” Khan is heard saying. “I’m not obstructing the arrest. I’m not involved in the investigation.”
A female officer walks toward Khan and says: “If you’re a witness, then we’re going to be seizing your cellphone.” A male officer also approaches Khan, looks at the camera and says, “he’s going to spit in your face, you’re going to get AIDS.”
Toronto police apologized for the AIDS comment after the video surfaced.
Khan has said he felt intimidated by the officers and offended by the comment about AIDS.
The officers who approached Khan told the OIPRD they did not mean to intimidate him, with one officer saying he believed he had the authority to seize the phone, the report says.
Miranda, meanwhile, said the man on the ground was “displaying aggressive behaviour” and that the Taser, combined with the blows to the upper leg, were appropriate responses, the document says. He told the agency the man being arrested had tried to bite one of the other officers, but recognized the officer was not injured and that the man did not appear to be moving in the video.
The sergeant also denied trying to intimidate Khan, saying he was “concerned” for him, though he estimated Khan was about three metres away from the action.
Toronto police could not immediately be reached for comment.
Pieters said the officers’ behaviour raises concerns about the administration of justice.
“How do you deploy a Taser six times within a space of minutes on a person who was, from the video, semi-conscious or unconscious, and then say the person was resisting arrest and was assaultive?” he said.
“Certainly the video, together with their allegations against the man, brings the administration of justice into disrepute. It shows that the police will say whatever they want to put a man, to put a person before the courts.”
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press