‘Rare’ guilty verdict for cops in police brutality case

Two Toronto Police constables have been found guilty of assault causing bodily harm, which legal observers say is extremely unusual.

“It’s very, very rare,” said Barry Swadron of Toronto, who has been a lawyer since 1963.

Swadron is the lawyer for Richard Moore, 60, who suffered fractured ribs and a gash to his scalp that required stitches back in 2009, after he was arrested for allegedly being drunk in public by Const. Edward Ing and Const. John Cruz in Cabbagetown.

Ing and Cruz were each found guilty on Tuesday of assault causing bodily harm by Justice Elliott Allen in a provincial courtroom in Brampton.

The outcome is notable because such accusations rarely hold up in court, said Paul Bailey, former president of the York Regional Police Association.

He estimated that 95 per cent of accusations of assault against on-duty police officers do not end in guilty verdicts.

“The vast majority of officers are either found not guilty or the charges are stayed or withdrawn,” said Bailey, a past administrator with the Police Association of Ontario.

The charges against the officers were laid by the Special Investigations Unit, a civilian police watchdog that investigates allegations of excessive use of force by police.

A Star investigation in the fall of 2010 found that it is very rare for charges to be laid against police officers at all, and even rarer for them to be convicted.

When the SIU has laid charges, the investigation found, one of every four officers sees the charges dropped before trial, many others are acquitted, or, as has happened at least 10 times, an officer is found guilty before a judge who spares him jail time. Some guilty police officers walk out of court with their record wiped clean.

Ing and Cruz were transferred Tuesday to administrative duties pending their court case. They will remain on administrative duty until they are sentenced; no date has been set.

They will not face the possibility of Police Act charges — which carry the threat of being kicked off the force — until all of their legal appeals are exhausted, said Toronto Police spokesperson Tony Vella.

Both officers declined to comment after hearing the verdict. Their lawyer, David Butt, said it’s far too early to talk about possible appeals, since the case is still before the courts for sentencing.

“It’s far too early to think of those issues,” Butt said.

The trouble started back on April 24, 2009, when the Ing and Cruz were questioning a drunken man on George St., near Gerrard E. and Jarvis Sts.

Cruz told court that Moore walked by and said: “You’re the rich man’s army. Why don’t you take on some real gangsters.”

Seconds later, Moore was running to the doorway of his nearby rooming house with the officers in pursuit.

While delivering his verdict, Justice Allen acknowledged that Moore was verbally abusive to the officers that night, but said that they didn’t have probable grounds to arrest him for being drunk in public.

Tests in hospital later revealed that Moore had no alcohol in his system. The charges of being drunk in public that he faced were later thrown out in court.

The judge also rejected the officers’ testimony that they were trying to protect Moore from wandering out into traffic on Gerrard St. E.

“His (Moore’s) injuries are consistent with being struck constantly,” Judge Allen said.

“The preponderance of evidence suggests he was making venomous remarks upon his arrest.”

Moore was not present in court for the verdict. Reached by telephone, he said he was surprised and gratified by the verdict but is still afraid to leave his home.

“I’m still scared of them (police),” Moore said. “I don’t go out at night. . . I don’t want to get caught out there.”

Moore that he has suffered persistent headaches since the beating. He suffered from migraines, hepatitis C, and a chronically bad back before the incident.

“I’m generally not in good health,” said Moore, a 5-foot-8, 160-lb former printer and ironworker. He said he hasn’t touched alcohol in a decade.

Calls to the SIU weren’t returned Tuesday.

Swadron said he doubts the charges would have been laid if he hadn’t written directly to Ian Scott, the SIU’s director.

Swadron, who is also pursuing a civil action against the officers and the force on Moore’s behalf, said he still hasn’t seen any use of force reports filled out by the officers regarding the beating.

He fears other assaults by police that go undetected because officers don’t fill out use of force reports and victims don’t complain to the SIU.

“It’s a definite gap in the system,” Swadron said. “There has to be some monitoring of persons who are injured. . . There should be someone from the SIU who monitors these things.”

Vella said no statistics immediately available on the number of Toronto Police officers facing assault charges were immediately available.

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