Discord between Toronto police and Ontario SIU plays out in public

Matt Coutts
Daily Brew
Toronto police say a man was stabbed repeatedly during a physical altercation that occurred outside a Tim Hortons restaurant on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012.

A bizarre spat between Toronto’s police service and its provincial oversight body over a complaint into officer conduct, and who can handle the document, played out in the public this week, although a resolution seemed simple enough.

The issue surrounded an investigation by Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit into the case of Tyrone Phillips, who claimed he was beaten unconscious while being arrested outside a nightclub in July 2012.

Phillips filed a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), and the complaint was forwarded to the Toronto Police Service. After a review, the service alerted the SIU to the allegations.

[ Related: Public tiff between Toronto cops and SIU may be resolved ]

After a two-month investigation, the SIU announced on Wednesday that they could not proceed with the investigation because the Toronto Police Service was withholding the original complaint document.

In a released statement, Director Ian Scott said the “almost comical situation” of not being provided a copy of the complaint they were asked to investigate was forcing him to close the case.

“[T]he refusal of the TPS to provide the SIU with a copy of the complainant’s statement … may be a breach of Toronto Police Service’s duty to fully co-operate with the Unit,” Scott said in a statement.

In a responding press released titled, in part, “He is wrong,” police spokesman Mark Pugash said the Scott and the SIU had to get the document from the original source.

“We are not allowed to release a document which belongs to someone else without their express permission. If Mr. Scott wants that document, he must get it from the OIPRD," the statement read.

The argument surrounds who is allowed to give a copy of the complaint to whom. The police say they can’t share the document with anyone, the OIPRD say they can only share it with the police, and maybe the original complainant, and the SIU says someone needs to give them a copy of the damn complaint, already.

[ Related: Toronto cops and SIU issue competing news releases in tiff over complaint ]

The Canadian Press now reports that the SIU will asks Phillips to request a new copy of his report from the OIPRD and plans to re-launch the investigation once they have the document.

A simple enough solution. One wonders why the request wasn’t made before dragging the disagreement into the public spotlight and exposing the discord between the Toronto police and the SIU.

Unless that was the point in the first place.