Family of man shot by Hamilton police frustrated by wait for SIU decision

Tony Divers' siblings say they are frustrated that they still haven't heard a decision on the officer's actions from the province's police oversight body, the Special Investigations Unit.
"These things have been talked about in these meetings for a few years," Edward Divers told the police board in January. "And we're talking about the same things." (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

Friday marks the 21st Friday that the family of Tony Divers has been waiting for answers in the death of their brother at the hands of Hamilton police.

Tony Divers' siblings put up a memorial to their brother on a pole near the Hamilton Go station, which is close to where he died. (Yvonne Divers Alexander)
Divers' siblings have set up a memorial near the place on James Street South where their 36-year-old brother died after being shot by a police officer on Friday, Sept. 30.

Their brother was struggling with mental health issues when he was shot, they say.

"Every time I pass by there, I know exactly where he was laying on the ground," said Edward Divers.

They say they are frustrated that they still haven't heard a decision on the officer's actions from the province's police oversight body, the Special Investigations Unit.

The SIU is investigating Divers' death, which happened several blocks away from an assault that cops were called about. 

The family believed based on a conversation in December with a representative of the SIU that the forensics work and toxicology tests were completed and it was just up to the director to make his decision.

In January they heard from another representative who was apologetic about how long it had taken, they said. But that rep said it could still be two or three months before they hear anything.

"Every day I'm on pins and needles – 'today's going to be the day,'" said Divers' sister, Yvonne Alexander.

Alexander said the waiting has been excruciating and has caused her to lose sleep and miss work.

'Difficult to say how long'

The SIU says that the investigation into Divers' death is ongoing.

"It is difficult to say how long any investigation will take because each case has its own requirements and procedures," said SIU spokeswoman Monica Hudon. "While our investigators attempt to close investigations as quickly as possible, the priority is to conduct a thorough investigation."

Ontario's police watchdog is investigating after a man was shot and killed by Hamilton police in September. (Andrew Collins/CBC)

Scrutiny and protests after police shootings has led to an independent review of all three branches of police oversight in the province, including whether or not information from SIU reports should be made public. A final report from Justice Michael Tulloch on police oversight in the province, including SIU, is expected in March.

Karyn Greenwood-Graham, whose son was killed by Waterloo Police nearly a decade ago, said she hopes the Tulloch review sparks a change in what she says is "police culture" that pervades the SIU.

"What we have seen is a lack of support, a lack of respect, a lack of acknowledgement to the families who have lost a loved one, a son, a brother," she said. Her Affected Families of Police Homicide group provides moral support and solidarity for families in the Divers' situation. 

Hamilton police board: Families shouldn't have to wait so long

Coun. Lloyd Ferguson, who chairs the police services board, has said the board has pushed the province to quicken the time period before a decision is released.

Yvonne Alexander, Tony Divers' sister, criticized Hamilton police board's delay in testing lapel cameras. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

After a meeting when Edward Divers and Yvonne Alexander challenged the board to implement lapel cameras on front-line officers, Ferguson said the board and the police chief care about the family's grief.

He also said he doesn't feel the family should have to wait so long to get the SIU report.

The SIU said that when the call came in about the assault on Catharine Street North before Divers' death, there were reports the man who hit the woman had a gun. Neither police nor the SIU said where those "reports" originated.

Neither local police nor the SIU have said if the man who was shot was found to have a gun. A bystander witness said the man he saw did not appear to have a gun.

While police aren't talking about what might have gone in to the fatal interaction, details from interviews and court records reveal Divers was known to police and had a history of violence and resistance to being arrested.

kelly.bennett@cbc.ca | @kellyrbennett