POLITICS

Demote G20 sergeant to constable, prosecution to urge discipline hearing

05/25/2015 02:33 EDT | Updated 05/25/2016 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - A police sergeant who arrested and choked a compliant man at the tumultuous G20 summit five years ago and then appeared to lie about what happened should be demoted temporarily to constable, prosecutors are expected to urge on Tuesday.

They say the punishment is appropriate given Sgt. Michael Ferry's past, and his actions in arresting Ryan Mitchell on June 27, 2010, a day after vandals ran amok in the downtown core.

"We are looking to demote him to constable for one year," said Brian Gover, who successfully prosecuted Mitchell. "He has a significant — but somewhat dated — discipline record."

In January, hearing officer Lee Ferrier found Ferry guilty of misconduct under the Police Services Act for illegally arresting Mitchell and using excessive force against the PhD student. He also convicted fellow officer Sgt. Douglas Rose, who helped in the arrest, of the same offences.

"Ferry's demeanour did not inspire confidence in his credibility," Ferrier wrote. "He was combative, evasive, he failed to answer questions, and he made speeches."

According to the evidence, Mitchell was a member of Harbord Alternative Media Centre — amateur journalists and academics with an interest in parts of the G20 summit — who went to an area where police had arrested about a dozen people.

At one point, in what was otherwise a calm situation with police in complete control, Ferry threatened to arrest Mitchell if he didn't leave.

Mitchell complied by walking away, but told Ferry to "get off it." In response, Ferry charged at the much smaller man, threw him face down to the ground, and choked him for 30 seconds until he was handcuffed, all the while screaming at him to stop biting, Ferrier was told.

In his defence, the 26-year veteran maintained that Mitchell had been abusive, had sworn at him, and was trying to rile up bystanders. Ferrier said he was trying to make an arrest when Mitchell tore free and ran away. After catching him, Mitchell aggressively resisted and was biting him, Ferry said.

Based on witness testimony and videotaped evidence, Ferrier called the alleged biting a "ruse."

"What happened here was that Ferry lost his temper," the former Superior Court justice concluded.

He derided the officer's "willingness to say anything, however absurd," to defend himself.

"Ferry committed errors and apparent fabrications in his evidence," Ferrier said. "(His) version of the event does not make sense."

The prosecution wants Rose, also a 26-year veteran, docked five days' pay and given a reprimand, Gover said.

Rose testified police had "safety concerns" about Mitchell's presence in the arrest area but the prosecution said those fears were exaggerated or an outright lie.

For one thing, a hot dog vendor in the immediate vicinity was allowed to do a brisk business.

"There were clearly no such (safety) concerns in respect of the much more dangerous items in the hot dog cart, or, if there were, they were outweighed by the officers' desire to have a reliable source of hot dogs within a close proximity," Ferrier said.