A public hearing has cleared an Abbotsford Police officer of any wrongdoing during an incident three years ago when he accidentally broke the finger of a man while taking away his camera.
The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) held the hearing to determine whether Const. Alex Wood used unnecessary force or abused his authority when dealing with Jonathan Peters on April 8, 2008.
Wood was among officers involved in the execution of a search warrant at a suspected drug house on Crescent Way on that date, and was assigned to help contain the front of the property.
Peters was a tenant in a residence on the street. When he saw officers appear on scene, he grabbed his camera and ran outside to take pictures of the raid.
His intention was to post the pictures in the neighbourhood to discourage grow-ops and to try to sell the photos to local newspapers, according to the written “reasons for decision” from the hearing.
When Peters appeared on the scene, Wood and another officer asked him to stop taking pictures and to leave the area for his own safety. Peters complied and moved to a different property, where he continued to snap photos as a man and a woman came out of the house and were arrested.
Wood again asked Peters to leave and said if he didn’t, he would be arrested for obstruction.
“Jonathan Peters replied that his was a free country, he had the right to take pictures as he was then on private property and he had the permission of the owner … to be there,” the hearing documents state.
Wood then approached Peters and asked him to hand over his camera. Peters clutched the camera with both hands to his chest, and Wood then pried it away from him. Peters’ pinky finger was broken in the process.
Peters filed a complaint with the Abbotsford Police Department on September of that year. Chief Bob Rich reviewed the findings of an investigation into the matter and concluded in March 2009 that the allegations against Wood were unsubstantiated.
The OPCC asked him to review his decision, and Rich came to the same conclusion.
The OPCC determined in February 2010 that a public hearing on the issue was necessary in the public interest.
Adjudicator Timothy Singh, a retired justice of the Supreme Court, concluded that Wood had the “necessary lawful authority” to ask Peters to leave the area, and the force he used to seize the camera was “commensurate with the resistance offered by Jonathan Peters.”
He said he took into consideration that Peters had told police he would withdraw the complaint if they paid him $2,000, which he later raised to $5,000. The police refused to pay him.
The Abbotsford Police recommended an obstruction charge against Peters, but it was not approved by Crown counsel.