Ontario SIU not involved in investigation into Thunder Bay altercation caught on video
Conflict does not meet threshold of 'serious injury' say watchdog and city police
Ontario's Special Investigations Unit is not involved in the ongoing investigation into an altercation caught on video between a Thunder Bay police officer and a First Nations teenager.
Similarly, the Ontario Independent Police Review Director has confirmed that, while it has been made aware of the incident Saturday night, it has not received a formal complaint from a member of the public and, consequently, does not have the authority to investigate.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation publicly called for an independent probe into an incident Saturday night, which was caught on video, that shows a female Thunder Bay police officer striking a 17-year-old girl from Nibinamik, and forcefully pushing downward. The teen is restrained on a stretcher.
The officer is on medical leave, according to city police.
The local force has begun an internal investigation into the incident.
The SIU is an arm's length agency which investigates reports involving police where there has been death, allegations of sexual assault or "serious injury." It can lay criminal charges against officers.
Ontario's Independent Police Review Director can also direct that disciplinary hearings under the Police Services Act be held.
According to its website, the SIU defines a serious injury as one that is "likely to interfere with the health or comfort of the victim and is more than merely transient or trifling in nature."
"In this case, it did not meet that threshold," said Thunder Bay police's communications director Chris Adams. "The chief [of police] became aware of [the altercation] and initiated an investigation pretty quickly, actually."
Police services are legally obligated to notify the SIU when it needs to become involved, the agency says. A number of other parties, including complainants or their families, lawyers and coroners can also notify the watchdog.
It has not been confirmed why the teenager in the video, who is in Thunder Bay to study at the Matawa Learning Centre, was originally on the stretcher and about to be sent to hospital. City police said that is part of their internal investigation.
Police said they were called to assist paramedics with an injured woman at a home on Egan Street when they found the teenager, who was allegedly intoxicated.
Indigenous leaders representing dozens of First Nations have criticized the officer's actions, as has Ontario's Child and Youth Advocate.