Brockville police officer not guilty of assault

The courthouse on John Ross Matheson Way at the north end of Court House Square in Brockville, Ont. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

BROCKVILLE – A Brockville police officer has been found not guilty of assault causing bodily harm after a fast-paced and violent arrest nearly two years ago in a city apartment building.

Brockville Police Service Const. Jordan Latham was charged by the Ontario Special Investigations Unit following the arrest of a 31-year-old man at a Cartier Court building.

Latham was with Const. Adam McNish during the July 31, 2020 arrest following a domestic disturbance 911 call.

The complainant, shirtless and fighting with police, suffered a broken collar bone at some point during the scuffle. He had gone headfirst into a wall inside the apartment during the tussle with officers.

In his decision Friday, Judge Jonathan Brunet found that, based on the evidence, Latham’s reaction to the events that unfolded quickly was “reasonable in all of the circumstances” given that officers were dealing with a “highly volatile situation” that lasted less than two minutes.

He says the complainant took a “combative posture with police from the get go and continued to be uncooperative with them in the arrest procedure, generally.”

While arrests may appear “shocking,” Brunet said his decision had to follow the principles of law and not how it looked to anyone else.

“Anyone who’s had exposure to police and seeing police make sudden decisions to arrest someone who is uncooperative with the arrest procedure, knows that arrests are not pretty, to say the least, in those circumstances. They can be rough. They can involve manipulation of an arrestee’s body and a great deal of force is sometimes used to get a person under control and … persons who see only part of an arrest often take great objection at the way … a third party is being treated,” Brunet said.

The judge noted that either the Crown nor the expert evidence, proved the complainant suffered the fracture during the scuffle, given that man hit his shoulder on a wall through “his own volition after the incident.”

“In other words, maybe it was caused by police actions, maybe not. That’s nowhere near the criminal beyond a reasonable doubt standard,” Brunet said.

As for the assertion from the Crown there was bodily harm through scratches and cuts on his back, Brunet said they were not “trifling nor transient in nature,” but noted the complainant was actively “wrestling” shirtless with two officers who were wearing all their gear including Kevlar vests.

He also said Latham did not commit assault and was protected under Section 25 of the Criminal Code of Canada when he delivered a “distraction punch,” calling it a “legit police tactic” to deescalate the situation with an uncooperative suspect.

As for the complainant’s testimony, Brunet said he was a “very poor historian” who has a history of blaming others and a criminal record for crimes of dishonesty. He called the man an “extremely unreliable witness.”

Latham appeared relieved after the verdict was announced.

His legal issues aren’t over though.

In a separate case, Latham and Const. Adam McNish are currently on trial in relation to an assault charge following a domestic dispute call on Belvedere Place in Brockville in May last year. That trial continues next month.