Videographer alleges Hamilton police unlawfully arrested him
A Global News videographer arrested by Hamilton police while working at a fatal crash scene last year says he has required therapy and rehabilitation for pain and psychological distress since the incident, according to a lawsuit document.
Jeremy Cohn has filed a $900,000 suit against the Hamilton Police Services Board and Const. Jeffrey Todoruck for his arrest at the scene in Waterdown where a 10-year-old girl was struck and killed May 16, 2017.
In the statement of claim, Cohn alleges he was forced to the ground, had his hands painfully tied with a zip tie behind his back and was left sitting in a police cruiser for 45 minutes before a superior officer let him go without charge.
He is seeking $700,000 in general damages and $200,000 in punitive damages, alleging negligence, false arrest, false imprisonment, assault, battery, intentional infliction of mental suffering and a breach of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Cohn accuses the police board of “encouraging or permitting a culture of disrespect toward members of the media within the Hamilton Police Service.” None of the claims has been tested in court. Cohn and his lawyer, Tae Mee Park, declined to comment beyond what’s said in the statement of claim.
Hamilton police and the board declined to comment about the case while it’s before the courts.
Board chair Coun. Lloyd Ferguson said the matter will be raised at the next police services board meeting and will likely be referred to its solicitor to file a statement of defence.
In the statement of claim, Cohn said when he arrived at the scene, paramedics had already taken the victim, Jasmin Hanif, away and no police tape was up.
He soon discovered police had arrested freelance video and photo journalist David Ritchie and seized his equipment.
Ritchie was eventually charged with obstructing police and resisting arrest, but the Crown’s office dropped those charges Oct. 18.
Cohn said he called the Hamilton police media relations officer and approached the cruiser window to speak with Ritchie. He alleges Todoruck approached in “a verbally aggressive and hostile manner” and told Cohn to leave the area.
On the phone, “the media relations officer advised Mr. Cohn to stay calm and advised him to continue to shoot the scene as he normally would,” the document said.
When Cohn approached Ritchie for a second time, he was arrested — an act the document described as unlawful, shocking, groundless and violent.
“The purpose and effect of the arrest was to intimidate Mr. Cohn as an identifiable member of the media and to prevent him from gathering news, filming and reporting.”
Along with physical pain and psychological distress, Cohn alleges he has had difficulty working at crime scenes since the incident.
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression has also called for investigations into police behaviour, including a complaint to the Office of the Independent Police Review Directorate.