A community activist has filed complaints of assault and sexual assault against a Toronto police officer, stemming from an incident inside Toronto police headquarters last month.
D!ONNE Renee (sic) alleges Const. James Pardy grabbed her breast while slamming her to the ground on Sept. 21, when she was trying to attend a Toronto Police Services Board meeting at the College Street headquarters.
Renee, who has mobility issues, said the incident began when Pardy denied her use of the elevator after she had passed security checks without being screened.
“To cause me harm in the way that he did, for him not to consider as a woman I could have been pregnant, to slam me to the ground the way he did, and [be] on top of me, to grab my breast the way he did — none of these things were considered,” said Renee, at a news conference Wednesday.
Renee did not specify what happened in the moments leading up to the alleged assault, but she did say she asked to see a supervisor. It’s unclear if her not going through the screening process, put in place in June, played a part in the incident.
“You are not required to submit to screening,” Toronto police spokesman Victor Kwong said in a statement. “You may leave at any time, but if you do not consent to this screening, you will be denied entry.”
But Renee said it was the not the first time she had entered police headquarters without undergoing the new screening measures.
She told reporters she had written to the board in August, expressing her concerns.
“I told them that I do not consent to a warrant-less search,” she said. “I don’t consent to being arbitrarily detained. I told them this on August 23rd, and on August 24 I had no problems and I walked into police headquarters, asked for the elevator and was able to go up without any problems.”
Renee was never arrested or charged by police. Board Chair Andy Pringle came out to speak with her after the incident and she was let into the meeting.
CityNews reporter Cynthia Mulligan was at police headquarters covering the meeting when the incident occurred. She recalled hearing Renee yelling loudly at a group of officers before a male officer suddenly grabbed her from behind, putting her to the ground. Mulligan posted a photo of the incident on social media, and Renee has used it to support her claims.
“We don’t believe police should be putting hands on anyone for no reason,” Renee said. “But that this could happen in police headquarters, at reception, while asking for the use of the elevator to go up to the second floor to attend the Police Services Board Meeting is atrocious.”
In a cellphone video Mulligan shot moments after Renee was brought to the ground, the officer is seen releasing her while she continues to scream, “I want your badge number! How dare you put your hands on me!”
In another cellphone video, Renee can be heard yelling at another officer, “Do you see the blood? Do you see the bruise?” while pointing at her face and neck.
She would not speak to the specific injuries she sustained, citing a Special Investigations Unit (SIU) probe.
The SIU confirmed it is investigating the incident and cannot comment further. The police oversight body investigates situations involving police and civilians that have resulted in serious injury, death, or allegations of sexual assault.
Toronto police would not speak to the matter, but said it will cooperate with the SIU if asked.
Activist Desmond Cole spoke in support of Renee on Wednesday, saying the incident highlights a number of issues within the Toronto Police Service, the Toronto Police Services Board, and the SIU.
He, Renee and other community members are calling for Toronto police to end their security checks at headquarters, and for the board to move its monthly meetings to Toronto City Hall.
“Why do police control the building in which meetings about their accountability are held?” he asked.
CityNews reached out to Pringle, who disagrees with the assertion that public attendance is restricted by police at headquarters. But, he said the board has been considering holding some meetings in different neighbourhoods and city staff has been looking into locations in Etobicoke, North York, and Scarborough for the new year.
“It’s been a request that has been made a couple of times by a couple of groups,” he said, “If there is a way for [meetings] to be more accessible, we want to do that.”
Mayor John Tory acknowledged the possibility of moving the meetings, but also noted the importance of security checks at police headquarters, calling them “reasonable.”
“Police and everybody else have an obligation to keep the public and everybody else safe,” he said. “It is obviously one of those places you have to be particularly concerned about in this day and age of 2017 when there are lots of incidents happening.”
Cole also pointed out another issue — that the SIU does not make allegations of sexual assaults against police officers public.
“Police are being investigated for sexual assault in the dark,” he said. “This is completely unacceptable. We can’t hold police accountable if we don’t have information about how often and where and when they are being investigated for sex assault allegations.”
Renee, supported by Cole and a group of community members, released the following list of six demands in relation to the incident:
1) Toronto Police Services (TPS) immediately suspend constable Jamie Pardy;
2) TPS immediately turn over all video footage leading up to and of the alleged assault at police headquarters and thereafter (inside and outside footage between the hours of 12:55 p.m. – 6 p.m.). Police claims that such video does not exist are unacceptable;
3) The SIU provide immediate public notice and documentation of all investigations into allegations of sexual assault against police officers
4) Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) immediately move its meeting from Toronto police headquarters to Toronto City Hall;
5) TPSB immediately halt the recently introduced practice of warrant-less searches and arbitrary detention as its price to enter public meetings;
6) TPSB review its policies on accessibility regarding public meetings and all public documentation of TPSB activities.
Cole confirmed Renee will be filing a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director and is considering a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.