In a Pickle: Ontario Police Dismiss Investigation Because Officers Involved in Questionable Shooting Withheld Contemporary Notes or Accounts of their Actions

chiefroddThere is a fascinating case in Ontario, Canada this week. Levi Shaeffer, 30, was shot dead by Peterborough police officers when he was camping near Pickle lake. He had not committed any crimes and was simply camping on an island. However, an investigation was terminated because the officers involved in the shooting did not write down contemporary accounts of the shooting after meeting with counsel. Chief Murray Rodd, however, insists on the department website that “[w]e are truly dedicated to our core values to be the best Police Service, providing the highest standard of professionalism in partnership with our community.” They might want to start with writing down accounts of shooting campers.

Special Investigations Unit director Ian Scott said that it was impossible to proceed with any criminal investigation because the accused officers waited before they wrote up their notes — which were drafted with the assistance of counsel.

On June 24, 2009 at approximately 12:30 p.m., two OPP officers encountered Schaeffer and asked him about a stolen boat. After some sort of altercation, one of the officers shot Schaeffer. In the United States, the officer would have had to immediately prepare a shooting report. However, in this case,

“[s]hortly after the incident, the subject officer was instructed not to write up his notes in his memo book until he spoke with Ontario Provincial Police Association (OPPA) legal counsel. The association lawyer advised the officer to prepare notes which only he would review. Once the lawyer approved the notes, the officer wrote up his memo book two days later based on a combination of his confidential notes to counsel and discussions with him. The only witness to the shooting, the second officer, was also advised not to contemporaneously write up his notes in his memo book. He too wrote up a set of notes which he shared with the same legal counsel before entering them into his memo book two days later. Neither officer provided the SIU investigators with their first set of notes.

Without contemporary notes, the investigation has been dismissed — a curious incentive for officers involved in controversial shootings. The investigation was terminated despite the family’s complaint that the police gave it wildly different accounts of the shooting.

I am a strong believer in the right to counsel. However, I find it unbelievable that an officer can withhold an account of a shooting in Ontario and not be terminated or suspended on that basis. The officer clearly has a right to be protected from self-incrimination and has a right to speak with counsel. However, as an officer, you must supply contemporary accounts or face suspension. Otherwise, you are withholding evidence of a possible crime. The officer must make the choice.

For the story, click here and here.

15 thoughts on “In a Pickle: Ontario Police Dismiss Investigation Because Officers Involved in Questionable Shooting Withheld Contemporary Notes or Accounts of their Actions”

  1. They have a legal duty to provide the notes, to the department. The may have legal right to withhold information incriminating themselves.

    However, something has to bust. If they are withholding the info, then they are breaching their terms of employment. They should be sacked.

    Obstructing a criminal investigation is also a possibility; being LEOs I believe they waive the right to withhold evidence of a crime, which if they do would automatically be basis for criminal prosecution on that charge.

    They should be interrogated about the incident, and then all they can say is either their account of the incident or a right to remain silent.

    If they remain silent, there is still probable cause to arrest them and probably try them.

    This is not a legal quandary, it is a political will problem, the systemic reluctance to prosecute law enforcement agents, even when it is obvious they are prima facially guilty of a crime.

  2. Hold on a second – so what? Why does it matter whether they wrote up the events during some ill defined short period of time after the events? Sure, whatever they wrote up after speaking with council will be almost worthless, but, so what? There’s physical evidence, they can be deposed under oath (does Canada have an equivalent to the 5th Amendment?). Ontario needs to quit messing around, be sensible Canadians and get on with the investigation as best they can. This is all terribly American of them…

  3. Well B-man,

    I expect Yoo await your call, email, letter and some fashionable communication.

    The irony of the above post is it has his resume. He has an LLM, wow and to be this stupid.

  4. Mike S.,

    Pursuant to the article they did write them. They just have not been shared with the department. The additional problem is, if they were written for the use of the attorney, they are work product and not discoverable. That’s the irony of the bitch. Apparently the only thing released is what the attorney authorized to be released.

  5. Gosh, AY.

    You win. He’s here, afterall.

    (Can anyone explain why humor and irony are devoid in the crazies?))

  6. How in any way could LEO’s shoot someone and not have to write a contemporaneous report explaining their actions? Even in some of the most egregious US cases the officers always wrote reports to at least rationalize their actions. SIU Director Scott’s statements are so incredible as to be beyond belief, or justification. That they used this excuse is an expression of contempt for the public and if that attitude becomes rampant signals the end of any pretense of democracy.

  7. and more.

    University of California, Berkeley
    Boalt Hall School of Law
    890 Simon Hall
    Berkeley, CA 94720
    Phone: (510) 643-5089
    Fax: (510) 642-3728

    Give him a call, I am sure he awaits to hear from you.

    This is only intended as a fun on you or is that pun on yoo.

    I did not realize that he clerked for Thomas. Badman, very bad.

  8. If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

    If a camper is shot by police officers near a lake and the officers don’t write down contemporary accounts of the shooting, is a crime committed?

  9. I find it incredible that this didn’t result in instant termination of employment. I can’t wait to hear what my friends in Ontario think about this.

  10. This hopefully is not an effigy of things to come to pass. This I would claim would be justifiable elimination of the officers based upon no notes forthcoming. Lets run though the night in question: Who, what, where, why and when?

    Who was there?
    What happened?
    Where did it Happen?
    Why did it happen?
    When did it happen?

    Seems like in this case “One could conclude with the circumstantial evidence that the man would not be dead but for the officers actions. It does not appear that it was an act of self defense as this would have been brought out in the first response. These officers need to be trained in Plausible Deniability. I hear that Yoo and Cheney have some free time. If you are going to do some bad acts, then learn to lie and lie well.

    As stated above, the silent omission is suspect enough to bring murder charges against these men for at least conspiracy to murder, withholding evidence in a murder investigation, Witness Tampering, Obstructing Justice.

    The legal adviser, is he culpable for a claim of conspiracy in Canada? What are the Barristers duties to the officer(s), the court?

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