Two officers have been acquitted of assaulting a deaf black man who refused to give them his ID in a case that has been taken up by a coalition of disability and race relations groups.
Although Mr. Justice Paul Robertson rejected much of Constable Syed Moosvi's evidence and found that his explanation for why he drove Peter Owusu-Ansah to the parking lot of Northern Secondary School at 1 a.m. "defies common sense," he also questioned the alleged victim's credibility.
"His evidence changed over time," the judge said.
The verdict was delivered in a Scarborough court filled with supporters of the complainant, including representatives of Parkdale Community Legal Services, the Canadian Hearing Society and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.
The judge also acquitted co-accused Constable Wayne Taylor, 51, who was alleged to have watched his partner knee the 25-year-old native of Ghana in the groin, then punch him. As they left the courtroom accompanied by their lawyers, Gary Clewley and Daniel Moore, both officers said they were glad it was over. "I'm just looking forward to going back to work," said Moosvi, 36, who has been doing administrative duties. "It's been long, arduous."
But a disappointed Owusu-Ansah stuck to his allegations that he was assaulted and mistreated because he is black and deaf. "I was honest," he told reporters. "I don't want this to happen to anybody else."
He said he had trouble following some of the proceedings in the Ontario Court of Justice courtroom.
The court provided him with a sign language translator only when he testified, said Elisabeth Bruckmann of Parkdale Legal Services.
Owusu-Ansah alleged Moosvi kneed him in the groin when he refused to identify himself after he and a group of friends were stopped by police around midnight on Sept. 13, 2002, at Bayview and Eglinton Aves.
Owusu-Ansah said Moosvi then handcuffed him and the two officers drove him to the school, where Moosvi continued the beating, then dropped him at a bus stop.
Moosvi, however, testified that it was Owusu-Ansah who pushed him while they were on the street and that he arrested him for assault but decided to let him go when he realized in the cruiser that he was deaf, but not before delivering a verbal warning in the school lot.
But the judge found Moosvi should have already known that the man was deaf and that his explanation for choosing the isolated parking lot — its good lighting, safe parking and lack of ready audience — to be "bizarre, fanciful, and not worthy of belief."
He also noted Moosvi didn't notify his dispatcher of the arrest or file any paperwork, which "makes me very suspicious" as to his actions at the school.
"I do not accept in large part the evidence of Moosvi as to what happened after leaving Bayview and Eglinton," the judge said.
Owusu-Ansah was with a group of deaf friends on the street when two officers stopped them because some of them matched descriptions of suspects wanted in an earlier robbery, the judge said.
Moosvi and Taylor arrived as backup. Owusu-Ansah "was far from co-operative," although police were clear as to why they were stopping the group, the judge said. He became agitated and requested more and more information about the robbery, the judge added. "He was aggressive, confrontational and argumentative."
His difficulties did not arise from a lack of police communication, the judge said. "It had everything to do with his pre-existing animus to police and his (view) that he was often singled out because he is deaf and a person of colour."
Owusu-Ansah has filed an Ontario Human Rights Commission complaint against the officers and the Toronto Police Services Board.