OSHAWA, ON - An Oshawa man who says he was beaten and unfairly labelled as a pedophile has launched a $2.3M lawsuit against the Durham Regional Police.
Robert Elliott said his troubles began last year after he moved to a new neighbourhood in the Oshawa area. Shortly after the move he stopped his car to ask two young newspaper delivery girls about delivering to his house.
"[It was] brief and to the point," Elliot said. " 'Do you deliver the newspaper to my house? Do you deliver to my street? No? No? Okay great, see you later.' [Then] I drove away."
But someone who witnessed the exchange called the Durham Regional police and reported it as a suspicious incident.
A short time later Elliot said a police officer appeared on his door and began to question him.
"'Did you ask two girls about a newspaper today?' I said yes," he recalled. "[The officer] said 'Did you ask them to get in your car?' I said I most certainly did not. I don't like where this conversation is going -- this conversation is over."
Police said at this point that Elliot tried to slam the door on the officer, but he said the officer forced his way into his residence and wrestled him to the ground in a chokehold.
Shortly 20 police cruisers were at his house and he was charged with assaulting the officer and resisting arrest.
"I will swear on a bible, I did not do that," he said. "I did not assault a police officer and resist arrest. I may have resisted trying to protect my head from being pounded into my own porch."
This week a judge threw out the assault charges against Elliott and cast doubt about the police officers side of the story.
Elliott is suing the force for unlawful arrest, assault and damages for the public embarrassment of being labeled as a pedophile.
The officer and the Durham police aren't commenting on the suit. They have a month to file their defence.
Jeb Taylor says he was sitting on the curb in front of his house in Oshawa last September, talking on his cordless phone, when police charged him with being intoxicated in a public place.
The 29-year-old former OPP cadet says he was arrested, handcuffed, taken to a police station, strip-searched and kept in a cell until noon the next day.
The charge was later thrown out of court, but an angry and bitter Taylor has launched a lawsuit against the Durham Regional Police Services Board and three officers for his "unlawful" arrest and strip search.
"It's outrageous. The guy is in front of his own house, not causing any disturbance, not bothering anyone. He admits he had a drink. ... (But) they had no basis for doing what they did," his lawyer Barry Swadron said. "They arrest him because he's belligerent, though they don't use that word, they say he wasn't co-operating."
According to the statement of claim filed in Ontario Court of Justice on Wednesday, Taylor was handcuffed, "forced against the police cruiser with his chin making contact with the hood of the cruiser" and searched, before being taken to Durham's nearby 17 Division, where he was strip-searched and processed on a charge of being intoxicated in a public place.
The allegations made in the statement of claim have not been proved in court. No statement of defence has been filed yet. Durham Region police spokesperson David Selby confirmed the board was served papers yesterday, but said the force's policy is not to discuss matters before the courts.
Taylor said he was ordered to remove his clothes: khaki shorts and an orange shirt.
"I didn't know it was coming," a visibly agitated Taylor said, sitting in Swadron's downtown office. "I'm paraded into a room where I guess they do that and asked to remove all my clothing, which I did ... I stood there, I think I spread my legs out.
"What did they see in my behaviour that would warrant the search over the hood of the cruiser, and then a strip search?"
At Taylor's one-day trial in Whitby court on Jan. 20, the two arresting constables, William Graham and Chris Oerlemans, testified they were responding to a report that a man was passed out on Beatrice St. W. at about 6:15 a.m. last Sept. 22.
They arrived to find a man seated on the curb and talking on the phone with a glass nearby, which Graham testified Taylor said was whiskey.
The officers testified that when they asked Taylor to end his phone conversation, he refused and started shouting. That's when they noticed he had alcohol on his breath, Graham told the court.
The officers then asked Taylor to go inside. Taylor, who said he was outside to avoid disturbing his roommate, refused, insisting he wasn't intoxicated. The Justice of the Peace agreed, saying there was "no evidence of intoxication" and dismissed the charge.
Taylor admits he "mouthed off" to officers because he felt harassed on his own property. He believes the officers arrested and strip-searched him because they didn't like his attitude.
The constables testified they arrested Taylor out of concern for his safety and conducted the strip search as a matter of routine policy. "For every person, regardless if we have any hint of weapons or not, we search, given the fact that they may have weapons on them, which may cause concern for his safety or ours," Graham said in court.
Taylor was held until noon, when he was released. He immediately filed a complaint with Durham police, which he says was rejected as "vexatious."
Taylor was employed as a police cadet by the OPP at the Whitby detachment from December, 1998 to August, 2001. He also attended and graduated from the Ontario Police College in Aylmer.
Taylor says he decided to approach Swadron after reading about how he handled the case of Thomas Kerr, the homeless man who alleged he was beaten by Toronto police officers. The case did not reach a verdict, but Kerr received an undisclosed settlement.
Taylor is claiming $600,000 in damages. His parents are also claiming $50,000 each and his sister $25,000.
Strip searches, said Swadron, should only be done "very sparingly, in only limited, selected cases, and this is certainly not the case."