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Police Watchdog Says the Toronto Police Service Interfered With an Investigation

Apparent death by bureaucracy for an SIU investigation into alleged police violence.

Earlier this afternoon, the Toronto Police Service sent out one of its weirdest and most succinct press releases, at least in recent memory [PDF]. The headline is: “TPS response to SIU Director Ian Scott’s news release: ‘He is wrong.’” It’s a shot in what seems to be a bizarre turf war between TPS and one of its civilian overseers, Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit.

The TPS press release was in response to another press release issued this afternoon by Scott, who heads up the SIU, a civilian body that investigates incidents where police involvement may have brought about a death, serious injury, or sexual assault. In his release, Scott alleges that TPS torpedoed an investigation into a complaint of police violence against a 27-year-old man named Tyrone Phillips.

According to Scott, TPS refused to provide the SIU with a copy of Phillips’ original complaint, which made it impossible for the SIU to investigate the man’s claims. (Phillips says police beat him into unconsciousness while trying to arrest him in July.) “As a result of the TPS’s refusal to provide a copy of the complainant’s statement to the SIU, I am closing this investigation,” Scott is quoted as saying in the release. “If the TPS chooses to provide that statement to the SIU at a later date, the Unit will reopen and complete its investigation into this matter.”

In its press release, TPS denies that it has the authority to release the complaint. “The document in question belongs to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director,” the TPS release states. “We are not allowed to release a document which belongs to someone else without their express permission.”

Scott’s release, meanwhile, says the OIPRD also refused to supply a copy of the complaint to the SIU, because they only share documents “with the affected police service.” Which presumably would be TPS.

The SIU even got Phillips himself to sign a form authorizing release of the complaint, to no avail.

So TPS can’t release the document because it belongs to the OIPRD, the OIPRD can’t release the document because they only share such information with TPS, and the SIU is left with no option but to leak the whole sad, festering bureaucratic mess to the media in the hopes of disinfecting it with sunlight.

It’s worth a shot.

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