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Toronto cop cleared in crash that seriously injured 2 people, but SIU raises concerns about officer’s speed

A Toronto cop who was driving to a break-and-enter call last year when he crashed into a civilian vehicle and seriously injured two people has been cleared by the province’s police watchdog, but concerns are being raised about the speed at which he was travelling on the way to the scene.

In a decision released April 19, the director of Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, Joseph Martino, found there was “no basis” to lay criminal charges against the cop, identified only as subject officer (SO), following the collision near Bayview and Sheppard avenues on Dec. 23.

However, Martino noted there were aspects of the officer’s driving leading up to the crash that could “fairly be characterized as dangerous,” specifically the cruiser’s speed and the fact that the vehicle was going southbound in the northbound lanes before it collided “violently” with a Toyota Camry.

Emergency crews were called to scene of the collision at approximately 7:55 p.m. When they arrived, the report notes, they found a man and a woman suffering from serious injuries. Their two “small” children were also in the vehicle at the time of the crash but not seriously injured. All four individuals were removed from the car and transported to hospital.

The officer, as well as their partner, were not injured in the crash and exited their vehicle to help render assistance to the passengers of the Camry, the report noted.

What happened?

At 7:50 p.m., the police officer and their partner were parked on Leslie Street north of Finch Avenue when they were dispatched to a break-and-enter call in North York.

According to the cruiser’s GPS, the officer was recorded travelling at a maximum speed of 136 km/h on Finch Avenue, where the speed limit is 50 km/h. When the officer turned south onto Bayview Avenue, where the speed limit is also 50 km/h, they were clocked at a max speed of 125 km/h. The cruiser’s lights and sirens were on at the time.

As the vehicle headed southbound on Bayview Avenue, the officers encountered heavy traffic and travelled into the left-turn lane and eventually the northbound lanes to get to the scene faster.

The report noted that officers travelled to the scene without incident until they approached the area of Bayview Avenue and Teagarden Court, where a civilian vehicle was attempting to make a U-turn from the southbound lanes into the northbound lanes — a prohibited manoeuvre at that intersection, as marked by signage on the nearby raised centre island.

That’s when the cruiser collided with the driver side of the Camry, the report noted.

At about 0.6 seconds before impact, the report notes the police officer had applied the brake pedal and the vehicle slowed from about 97 km/h to 79 km/h and the Camry had slowed from about 12 km/h to 8 km/h. 

A Toronto police cruiser which was involved in a collision with a civilian vehicle on Dec. 23, 2023 is seen in this image. (SIU)

In his decision, Martino noted that the risks associated with the officer’s speed leading up to the crash were “exacerbated” by the weather, which was wet and rainy at the time.

“I accept that there are aspects of the manner in which the SO operated his cruiser, particularly in the moments leading to the collision, that could fairly be characterized as dangerous. Entering onto an oncoming lane of traffic at speed as the SO did is bound to risk public safety. I am unable, however, to reasonably conclude that the officer’s conduct departed markedly from a reasonable standard of care in the circumstances,” Martino wrote.

“Of course, had the SO lowered his speed as he approached and then overtook the southbound traffic in the northbound lane, he might have been able to react to Complainant #1’s vehicle by stopping ahead of a collision. That indiscretion, however, weighed in the balance with the mitigating considerations, falls short of transgressing the limits of care prescribed by the criminal law.”

Martino also noted that police officers are exempt from speed limits while performing the “lawful performance” of their duties under the Highway Traffic Act. While the provision does not allow officers to speed “carte blanche,” Martino wrote, it does “reflect a recognition in the law that police will of necessity have to speed on occasion in the discharge of their duties.” 

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