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Sault Police cleared of wrongdoing in case of elderly man's broken finger

Ontario's police watchdog says 78-year-old 'physically engaged with an officer' and was taken to the ground
2017-04-28 Sault Police Patch DMH-1
File photo. Donna Hopper/SooToday

An elderly Sault man's finger did not get broken as the result of unlawful police conduct, according to the province's Special Investigations Unit.

That's the conclusion of a report by SIU director Joseph Martino, who found no reasonable grounds to believe a Sault Ste. Marie Police Service officer committed a criminal offence in connection with the injury suffered by the 78-year-old earlier this year.

On Jan. 5, officers were called to the man’s residence in the area of Wellington Street West and North Street, to check on his wellbeing as "he was exhibiting violent behaviour", the SIU said in a release.

"During the visit, the man physically engaged with an officer and was taken to the ground by officers. He was apprehended under the Mental Health Act and diagnosed with a broken left finger while in hospital," the SIU said.

That SIU report says that, according to police, they were called after healthcare workers attended the home earlier to check on the man's well-being in relation to his displaying violent behaviour.

"When they arrived, the man punched one of the workers in the face," the report says. That's when police were contacted to assist.

At 4:45 p.m., police arrived, including the mobile crisis rapid response team accompanied by a civilian social/crisis worker. They interacted with the complainant.

"When he shook hands with one of the police officers, he became aggressive and attempted to arm wrestle and punch the officer," the SIU report says. 

The man was subsequently taken to the ground to prevent continuation of the behaviour, and stood up when he calmed. A short time later, he grabbed a chair.

At 5:12 p.m., the police apprehended the man under the Mental Health Act and he was transported by police to the Sault Area Hospital where, at 6:30 p.m., he was admitted on a mental health form endorsed by a hospital physician. 

The man complained of a sore finger, which his wife later reported to police as being fractured.

Martino accepted that the man’s injury was incurred during his interaction with police, but he was not satisfied on reasonable grounds that it was attributable to any unlawful police conduct. 

The SIU is an independent government agency that investigates the conduct of police that may have resulted in death, serious injury, sexual assault and/or the discharge of a firearm at a person.