Fired Saskatoon cop Jarett Gelowitz not guilty of assault; union wants him back on force
Court of Queen's Bench Judge says officer justified in use of force
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A Saskatoon police officer has been found not guilty of assault in connection to a 2016 on-duty arrest.
On Wednesday morning, Justice Richard Danyliuk summarized a 50-page written decision on the assault charge against Jarett Gelowitz, saying the case hinged on whether or not Gelowitz used excessive force.
The trial heard about Gelowitz's arrest of Kehler Bear following a high-speed chase back in December 2016. Both legal teams agreed Gelowitz delivered a series of punches, kicks and knee strikes to Bear.
Danyliuk noted how officers used different techniques to try to stop the vehicle they were pursuing, saying "by definition" the chase was a dangerous situation.
Here’s Gelowitz (suit, blue tie) leaving the courthouse with his family this morning. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/yxe?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#yxe</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/saskatoon?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#saskatoon</a> <a href="https://t.co/Bv7rIFhCCL">pic.twitter.com/Bv7rIFhCCL</a>—@gqinsk
"Officers were now thinking on the fly," he told a Court of Queen's Bench gallery in Saskatoon.
Danyliuk said the person driving the car, Bear, was not co-operating with police and did not put his hands up, but the main question is whether or not Gelowitz went too far in applying force.
Citing previous cases, Danyliuk said force must be no more necessary to protect oneself or to subdue the suspect.
He said size, strength, gender and age of those involved must all be considered when asking if this was an instance where force was excessive.
Danyliuk said he was satisfied other officers who testified were telling the truth, saying there was "no thin blue line."
He said the testimony of an expert witness and the video of the arrest were key in his ruling.
He also determined it was clear that Bear was resisting if it took four officers to remove him from the vehicle.
Watch video of the arrest below.
Gelowitz's defence attorney Brad Mitchell had argued his client acted reasonably in a dangerous and urgent situation, while Crown prosecutor Jennifer Schmidt said that Gelowitz's final knee strike to Bear was completely unnecessary.
Call for his reinstatement
A hearing to potentially determine if Gelowitz future with the police force is set to take place in September.
After the judge's decision, the Saskatoon Police Association, the union for local officers, called on Police Chief Troy Cooper to reinstate Gelowitz as soon as possible.
"Cst. Gelowitz has endured very difficult circumstances after being accused of two common assaults and one aggravated assault while on duty and prior to any due process, was dismissed by the police service," according to a statement the association sent CBC News.
The union says it feels reinstatement is only the first step police should take in compensating the former police officer, as the union will argue he should receive back pay since his dismissal and legal fees incurred by the police association should be repaid.
Police chief responds
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Cooper said, "The decision to dismiss the former constable was based on unsuitability for service and not based on criminal proceedings."
According to the police association, Gelowitz's firing came after he received three internal complaints while he was demoted to desk duty in the wake of the assault charges. Those complaints "could be anything from being discourteous to making a mistake on a report," a union spokesperson previously told CBC News.
"There remain matters under The Police Act ... which still have to be resolved and we must let that process take place," Cooper said of the upcoming September hearing into Gelowitz's conduct.
The decision to fire Gelowitz before his court process was completed — instead of suspending him with pay — was criticized Wednesday by the president of the Canadian Police Association.
Example why presumption of innocence exists & should be respected for all canadians including police...Good context 4 those calling 4 "suspension w/o pay"...arbitrary decision to dismiss has incredible impact on officer & his family. Due process & thoughtful decisions important <a href="https://t.co/9rLdnpAweP">https://t.co/9rLdnpAweP</a>—@StamatakisCPA
Two other assault charges against Gelowitz have failed to be proven in court. One was stayed while the other was dropped by Crown prosecutors.