Videog­ra­pher al­leges Hamil­ton po­lice un­law­fully ar­rested him

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - NI­COLE O’REILLY

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.

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