(File photo: Tara Kirkpatrick).

One year later, investigation into St-Bernardin man’s death ongoing

Almost a year after it began, a Special Investigations Unit (SIU) investigation involving Hawkesbury OPP officers is still ongoing, a spokesperson for the SIU said.

The SIU investigates possible criminal wrongdoing on the part of the police in Ontario. They were called after a man died near St-Bernardin on May 13, 2016.

A press release issued by the Hawkesbury OPP shortly afterwards said members of the detachment were called to a property on Concession Road 8 “with regards to a person in distress.” Members of the OPP Tactics and Rescue Unit also attended. The news release says “when officers entered a structure on the property,” a man was found dead.

The man who died is the same man said to be “in distress,” confirmed an SIU spokesperson, speaking with The Review in May of 2016. He said he could not comment on who called the police, if the man was armed, or give any more details about the nature of his “distress.” The OPP press release implies he was already deceased when police entered the “structure,” but Gennaro said that is part of the investigation and he could not comment further. The name of the man who died was not released.

The SIU is responsible for investigating police actions in cases where someone has been killed, seriously injured, or sexually assaulted. “The unit gathers and assesses evidence, and the Director of the SIU decides whether or not the evidence leads to the reasonable belief that a criminal offence has been committed” by a police officer or officers, according to the SIU website. “The objective of every SIU investigation is to determine whether there is evidence of criminal wrongdoing on the part of the police.”

The SIU spokesperson, Jason Gennaro, said a press release will be published when the investigation is completed.

The organization’s 2015/2016 annual report says the SIU aims to close 65 per cent of its cases within 30 business days. But in 2015, only 28 per cent of cases met that goal. On average, investigations were closed after 107 days. Out of 255 cases closed in 2015, 15 resulted in officers being charged, while 72 were dismissed for falling outside of the SIU mandate.

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