Kap cops con­victed of as­sault

Kapuskasing Northern Times - - FRONT PAGE - KEVIN AN­DER­SON ke­an­der­son@post­media.com

Two James Bay De­tach­ment OPP of­fi­cers, who were fac­ing mul­ti­ple charges re­lated to a May 18, 2016, in­ci­dent, were sen­tenced in the On­tario Court of Jus­tice in Kapuskasing on Fri­day.

OPP Cst. Kenny Be­langer, Kenny Be­langer, a six-year-veteran of the OPP who worked out of the Kapuskasing de­tach­ment, had been charged with and pleaded guilty to two counts of As­sault with a Weapon, con­trary to sec­tion 267 (a) of the Crim­i­nal Code of Canada.

OPP Act­ing Sergeant Daniel La­fontaine, a nine-year veteran of the OPP who worked out of the South Por­cu­pine de­tach­ment, was charged with and pleaded guilty to two counts of as­sault, con­trary to sec­tion 266 of the Crim­i­nal Code of Canada.

The facts as ac­cepted by the court were:

- On the morn­ing of May 18, the two of­fi­cers were look­ing for a woman, who was in­volved in a stab­bing in­ci­dent ear­lier in the day with the in­tent of ar­rest­ing her.

- They ini­tially at­tended 118 River­side Dr. and were ad­vised the woman they were look­ing for could be found at 110 River­side Dr.

- The two of­fi­cers at­tended 110 River­side Dr. where they were met by the male vic­tim, who was the boyfriend of the fe­male vic­tim. He di­rected the of­fi­cers to the rear door of the res­i­dence. At that time, Act­ing Sgt. La­fontaine asked the male vic­tim if the woman they were look­ing for was at the res­i­dence.

- The male vic­tim stated on more than one oc­ca­sion that the woman that the of­fi­cers were look­ing for was not at the res­i­dence.

- The of­fi­cers saw a young fe­male at the res­i­dence and asked the male vic­tim who she was. The male in­di­cated the young fe­male was his girl­friend (who, it is worth not­ing, bore the same first name as they woman they were look­ing for).

- The vic­tim was 15 years old at the time, while the woman they were look­ing for was 23 years old.

- The of­fi­cers told the male vic­tim they wanted to check on the well be­ing of the fe­male in the res­i­dence.

- The fe­male vic­tim at­tended at the door with an in­fant in her arms. She was di­rected to hand the in­fant over to the male vic­tim and she com­plied.

- At that point, Act­ing Sergeant La­fontaine stepped into the res­i­dence and grabbed the fe­male vic­tim. Even­tu­ally as­sisted by Cst. Be­langer, they pulled the fe­male vic­tim from the res­i­dence as she ac­tively re­sisted their at­tempts to do so.

- In the mean­time, the male vic­tim went to wake up the fe­male vic­tim’s un­cle, who was rest­ing up­stairs in the res­i­dence.

- The fe­male vic­tim’s un­cle could clearly here his niece re­peat­edly telling the ac­cused she was not the per­son they were look­ing for and could see them bring­ing her to­ward a po­lice ve­hi­cle at the end of the drive­way.

- At this point the male vic­tim at­tempted to in­ter­vene in or­der to as­sist the fe­male vic­tim.

- The of­fi­cers re­trieved their tasers and started yelling, “Get down”.

- The fe­male vic­tim’s un­cle was out­side at­tempt­ing to ad­vise the of­fi­cers that the fe­male vic­tim had a heart con­di­tion.

- With­out is­su­ing a proper taser warn­ing, Cst. Be­langer tased the male vic­tim, who went to the ground and started shak­ing.

- The fe­male vic­tim started run­ning to­ward Cst. Be­langer and he tased her. She fell to the ground and she could not get up. She could be heard cry­ing out: “My Heart!” She was tased a to­tal of three times.

- As he con­tin­ued to try to ad­vise Cst. Be­langer of his niece’s heart con­di­tion, Cst. Be­langer told the girl’s un­cle to back off or he would be next.

- The male vic­tim was even­tu­ally hand­cuffed by act­ing Sgt. La­fontaine, while Cst. Be­langer com­pleted the hand­cuff­ing of the fe­male vic­tim. They were both trans­ported to hospi­tal in or­der to re­move the taser prongs.

- While at the hospi­tal Act­ing Sergeant La­fontaine di­rected an­other of­fi­cer to take a pic­ture of the fe­male vic­tim and show it to the com­plainant of the stab­bing in­ci­dent for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion pur­poses. It was at that time that the com­plainant from the ear­lier in­ci­dent ad­vised of­fi­cers that the photo of the fe­male vic­tim of the tas­ing was not the woman, who had stabbed her. Act­ing Sergeant La­fontaine apol­o­gized to the fe­male vic­tim, and then ad­vised her that she would be charged with re­sist­ing ar­rest. As it turns out, this was not the case, as both vic­tims had been wrong­fully de­tained and ar­rested and were within their le­gal rights to re­sist with rea­son­able force.

- The facts also dis­closed that nei­ther of the of­fi­cers con­ducted an RMS check with re­gards to the iden­tity of the woman they were in­tend­ing to ar­rest prior to the ar­rest of the male and fe­male vic­tims. Nei­ther of the of­fi­cers asked the fe­male tas­ing vic­tim for her iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. The fe­male vic­tim was also not in­formed of her rights dur­ing the ar­rest.

- The of­fi­cers were not in­vited into the house.

- Only Cst. Be­langer de­ployed his taser.

- The fe­male vic­tim had agreed to ac­com­pany the of­fi­cers will­ingly but changed her mind.

- Cst. Be­langer said the scene was chaotic and that he did not hear any­one warn him of the fe­male vic­tim’s heart con­di­tion.

- Both of­fi­cers’ notes were not ac­cu­rate as were their re­spec­tive re­ports, and were de­lib­er­ately false and mis­lead­ing and de­signed to mit­i­gate if not erad­i­cate any hint of wrong­do­ing.

As a re­sult of his con­vic­tion on the first count of as­sault with a weapon, Cst. Be­langer re­ceived a two-year sus­pended sen­tence in­clud­ing two years of pro­ba­tion, 240 hrs. of com­mu­nity ser­vice to be served within the first 18 mos. of pro­ba­tion, coun­sel­ing as rec­om­mended by the pro­ba­tion of­fi­cer, a five-year weapons pro­hi­bi­tion, will be re­quired to pro­vide a DNA sam­ple for the DNA data­base and to pay vic­tim fine sur­charges within 60 days. The sec­ond count of as­sault with a weapon car­ried the same sen­tence.

Both of Cst. Be­langer’s sen­tences will be served con­cur­rently.

“I ac­cept that the ac­tions of Cst. Be­langer were out of char­ac­ter for him and that he is gen­uinely re­morse­ful for his ac­tions,” said the pre­sid­ing Jus­tice. “I also ac­cept that at the time of the in­ci­dent, Cst. Be­langer was suf­fer­ing from un­di­ag­nosed men­tal health is­sues in­clud­ing post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der. ”How­ever, Cst. Be­langer was in breach of trust in ex­e­cut­ing his du­ties as a po­lice of­fi­cer. Both of­fi­cers are re­spon­si­ble for the vic­tims suf­fer­ing sig­nif­i­cant phys­i­cal and emo­tional dis­tress, the ef­fects of which con­tinue to­day. Fam­ily mem­bers have suf­fered sig­nif­i­cant emo­tional dis­tress, which con­tin­ues to this day. The com­mu­nity of Kashechewan has been af­fected by the ac­tions of the ac­cused.

“Cst. Be­langer sub­verted the course of jus­tice by mak­ing false en­tries and omis­sions in his note­books, and by pro­vid­ing false in­for­ma­tion to mit­i­gate the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the ar­rest of the vic­tims.

As a re­sult of the con­vic­tion of the first count of sim­ple as­sault, Act­ing Sergeant Daniel La­fontaine re­ceived a two-year sus­pended sen­tence, in­clud­ing two years of pro­ba­tion, 180 hrs. of com­mu­nity ser­vice to be served within the first 18 mos. of pro­ba­tion, and will have to pro­vide a DNA sam­ple for the DNA data­base and pay vic­tim fine and sur­charges. The sec­ond ac­count of sim­ple as­sault car­ried the same sen­tence.

Act­ing Sergeant La­fontaine’s le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tive had asked for a con­di­tional dis­charge as part of his client’s sen­tence. His re­quest was denied.

His sen­tences will also run con­cur­rently.

“I ac­cept that the ac­tions of Act­ing Sergeant La­fontaine were also out of char­ac­ter for him and that he is gen­uinely re­morse­ful for his ac­tions.

“How­ever, Mr. La­fontaine was the se­nior of­fi­cer and has ad­mit­ted he should have done more to as­cer­tain the true iden­tity of the fe­male vic­tim. By not con­duct­ing the sim­ple RMS check, he put both vic­tims in harm’s way. Mr. La­fontaine did not ac­cept the state­ment of the male vic­tim that the fe­male vic­tim was not the per­son the of­fi­cers were look­ing for. An RMS check would have pro­vided a photo of the fe­male they were look­ing for. See­ing a young, indige­nous fe­male in the res­i­dence was enough for Mr. La­fontaine.

“He un­law­fully en­tered the res­i­dence. He gave no con­sid­er­a­tion to a war­rant. He un­law­fully ar­rested and de­tained the fe­male vic­tim. He did not ad­vise the vic­tims of their right to counsel. It does not ap­pear the vic­tims re­ceived any cau­tions, nor were they ap­pro­pri­ately ad­vised as to the rea­son for their ar­rest.

“The in­ves­tiga­tive short­cuts used by Mr. La­fontaine must be clearly de­nounced by this court. While I ac­knowl­edge Mr. La­fontaine did not dis­charge his taser that day, it was his un­law­ful con­duct that cre­ated this un­for­tu­nate chain of events.

“His breach of trust did not end with the dis­cov­ery he had ar­rested the wrong per­son. He set out to sub­vert the court of jus­tice by pro­vid­ing false in­for­ma­tion in the prepa­ra­tion of his notes and to his su­pe­rior of­fi­cer. These are core du­ties of a po­lice of­fi­cer. Of par­tic­u­lar con­cern are the en­tries that sug­gest:

1- He was in­vited into the res­i­dence. This is false.

2- That he con­ducted an RMS check prior to at­tend­ing the res­i­dence, which he did not.

3- That Mr. Be­langer shouted the com­mand “taser taser” be­fore de­ploy­ing his weapon against the male vic­tim. No such warn­ing was given.

4- That the male vic­tim was run­ning ag­gres­sively at Cst. Be­langer when he de­ployed his taser on him. That was clearly in­ac­cu­rate.

“When I con­sider the cir­cum­stances of the of­fences, to­gether with the of­fi­cer’s at­tempt to de­liver false in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, I come to the con­clu­sion that a con­di­tional dis­charge would be con­trary to pub­lic in­ter­est.”

The Crown had asked for pub­lic apolo­gies from both of­fi­cers to the vic­tims and their re­spec­tive fam­i­lies, but de­cided to forego that con­di­tion af­ter both of­fi­cers stood up in court and for­mally apol­o­gized dur­ing sub­mis­sions and the read­ing of vic­tim im­pact state­ments on Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

“It is truly un­for­tu­nate that the fe­male vic­tim feels that the of­fi­cers were not lis­ten­ing to her be­cause she was indige­nous,” said the judge. “Hope­fully the vic­tims, their fam­i­lies and their com­mu­nity will be able to con­tinue with the heal­ing process.”

The fu­ture of both of­fi­cers’ ca­reers as po­lice of­fi­cers will be de­ter­mined in a fu­ture hear­ing with the On­tario Pro­vin­cial Po­lice (OPP) Pro­fes­sional Stan­dards Bureau (PSB).

JAMES MAS­TERS/OWEN SOUND SUN TIMES/POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

A close up of 50,000 volts arc­ing be­tween the two ter­mi­nals of a Taser X26 con­duc­tive en­ergy weapon dur­ing a con­ducted en­ergy weapon train­ing ses­sion at the Owen Sound po­lice sta­tion on Thurs­day May 14, 2015.

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