IIU recommended further probe into officer conduct in fatal hit-and-run of Cody Severight
Breathalyzer technician and traffic unit member were cleared of criminal wrongdoing 2 years ago
Manitoba's police watchdog asked the Winnipeg Police Service to conduct an internal investigation into the conduct of one of its officers assigned to help investigate an off-duty officer's involvement in a fatal hit-and-run two years ago that killed Cody Severight.
This was revealed in the full report on its investigation into two Winnipeg police officers who were accused of "irregular and improper conduct" on the night Severight was killed on Oct. 10, 2017. The report was released Monday.
Severight, 23, was killed when he was struck while crossing Main Street near Sutherland Avenue around 8 p.m.
Justin Holz, a 34-year-old police constable who was off duty at the time of the collision, was charged with impaired driving causing death and failing to remain at the scene of an accident. Last week, Holz was sentenced to 2½ years in jail after pleading guilty to dangerous driving causing death in connection with the fatal 2017 hit and run.
The Independent Investigation Unit looked into allegations about the conduct of two of Holz's colleagues connected to the investigation into Severight's death.
Those officers were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing in 2017, but the IIU had not released its full report on what happened until now, because Holz's criminal charges were still before the court.
Breathalyzer tech, traffic unit officer involved
The report shows the two allegations were against a breathalyzer technician and a member of the traffic unit.
It was alleged the breathalyzer technician refused an order from his supervisor to administer a breath test on Holz, resulting in an unnecessary delay.
According to the report, authored by civilian director Zane Tessler, the breathalyzer technician was assigned to perform a test on Holz by a sergeant with the traffic division. Various witnesses recounted the breathalyzer technician stating he was uncomfortable doing the test for a number of reasons, including the amount of pressure he would be under if charges resulted and he would have to go to court, and that the test should be administered by an officer of a higher rank than Holz.
The sergeant decided to call in another technician instead. He told IIU that he did not order the breathalyzer technician to perform the test. The officer also denied refusing to do the test, and said he only expressed reservations about doing it.
Tessler concluded that while the breathalyzer technician's motivations were not criminally motivated, the Winnipeg Police Service should conduct its own investigation into the officer's conduct, and around competency and training skill sets.
Regarding the traffic unit member, the report says the officer disobeyed the direction of the homicide sergeant assigned to the overall investigation, who had instructed officers to have the vehicle towed to police headquarters and that a search warrant be obtained before touching the vehicle.
It's alleged the member of the traffic unit disobeyed that order and instead tried to obtain information from the vehicle's airbag control module prior to obtaining a warrant.
However, he was told that the traffic unit officer attempted to download data from the vehicle in spite of this order.
The officer's supervisor told IIU that downloading vehicle data would have been standard investigative procedure in the traffic division, and that a search warrant to do so was unnecessary in the circumstances.
Tessler's report determined that the traffic division officer was not aware of the order from the homicide unit sergeant not to touch the vehicle.