Hamilton officer found guilty of 4 police act charges for arrest of journalists

A Hamilton police officer has been found guilty of four charges under the Police Services Act in connection with his arrest of two photojournalists at the scene of a fatal accident in 2017.

Photojournalist Jeremy Cohn says arrest was a 'violation on many levels'

This screen grab from a video shows photojournalist Jeremy Cohn being arrested at the scene of a fatal crash in Waterdown, Ont., in 2017. (Andrew Collins/CBC)

A Hamilton police officer has been found guilty of four charges under the Police Services Act in connection with his arrest of two photojournalists at the scene of a fatal accident in 2017.

Hearing officer Peter Lennox, a retired Toronto police superintendent, shared his decision Thursday, saying there was "clear and convincing evidence" Const. Jeff Todoruck was guilty of two counts of neglect of duty, one count of discreditable conduct and one count of unlawful or unnecessary exercise of authority.

Todoruck was found not guilty of one count of discreditable conduct.

Submissions for possible penalties will be made at a later date.

A spokesperson for Hamilton police said the service will not be commenting as the matter remains before the hearing officer.

WATCH | Photojournalist Jeremy Cohn's arrest:

Journalist arrest caught on tape

5 years ago
Duration 1:23
Video shows one of two cameramen who were arrested at the scene where a young girl died in Hamilton in 2017.

The charges came after a tense incident in May 2017, when Todoruck arrested then-Global News TV camera operator Jeremy Cohn and independent freelancer Dave Ritchie at the scene of a fatal Waterdown crash where a young girl had died.

A video from the scene shows Todoruck pinning Cohn to the ground with his knee and cuffing him with zip ties, then pulling him to a police vehicle.

Cohn was released without charge. Ritchie, whose camera Todoruck put in his cruiser before handcuffing him and putting him in the cruiser as well, was charged with resisting arrest and obstructing a peace officer. Those charges were later dropped.

Cohn, now a videographer on contract with CBC Toronto, said news of the convictions left him feeling relieved.

"One issue throughout this whole process was sort of the lack of remorse and that was made clear during the hearing," he said Thursday. "I think the hearing officer noticed that lack of remorse."

'It's our job to tell these stories'

Cohn said his arrest has had a lasting psychological effect on him.

"Upon arriving at scenes now, for some reason, I still worry any time an police officer approaches me, even if it's just to say hello," he said. "It shouldn't be like that."

Cohn said he feels its unfortunate his arrest diverted attention from tragedy of the crash, noting some people have criticized media's presence at the scene and accused him of profiting off the girl's death.

"We didn't want to become the story that day. We didn't want to be in anybody's face that day," he said.

"I want people to know that we're not there to cover metal on metal and property destruction. We're there because there are people behind these stories."

Cohn also pointed out that while his arrest involved a single officer, he has noticed issues with access while covering other stories.

"I still arrive at scenes sometimes where police see the big camera and they start expanding their crime scene," he said.

"It's our job to tell these stories and to do that you have to talk to people who are involved and you can't do that when you're being held back by police."


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