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Judge slams Toronto Police officers for beating caught via on-board cameras

By Michele Mandel, Toronto Sun

TORONTO – What a shameful day for Toronto Police.

In a scathing judgment, a provincial court judge has slammed officers for “misconduct” and “excessive force” in the beating of Raymond Costain and stayed all seven charges against the young chef.

For the police, their on-board cameras would be their undoing.

In his exhaustive two-hour oral judgment, Justice Ford Clements said the police beating by Const. Christian Dobbs and then the “misguided and clumsy attempt to cover (it) up” left no other remedy but to show the court will not condone such unacceptable conduct.

“This was an unlawful extrajudicial punishment that would shock the public,” he said.

For Costain, the staying of the charges was a huge relief.

“It’s finally over,” said the 30-year-old father of two outside College Park. “There should be disciplinary action and I don’t think it should be just a slap on the wrist.”

Calling it a good day for justice, his lawyer also called for punitive ramifications for the officers involved.

“Just think if we didn’t have the videos,” said Leora Shemesh. “It’s his words against theirs and that’s the difficulty in these cases. You’re in trouble.”

Costain admitted he’d been drinking and had crashed his car on April 12, 2010. Const. Paul Roberts told the court Costain refused to exit his damaged vehicle when he was stopped at a light at Yonge and Gerrard Sts. and nearly struck him as he drove away.

Costain denied trying to hit Roberts – a contention the judge accepted. “He was careless but I’m not satisfied he intended to run into anybody,” Clements said.

But the call broadcast over the police radio warned a motorist had tried to run over an officer and that, the judge found, heightened the intensity of the response.

Costain admitted dumping his car to evade police, but knew the “jig was up” when he was spotted standing near the King Edward Hotel. He expected to be arrested. What he didn’t expect was to be pummelled by an angry cop bent on teaching him a lesson about endangering the life of a fellow officer.

The judge said he didn’t believe the many officers who testified that Costain was trying to resist arrest, especially because the on-board video told a different story. Instead, he accused them of fashioning their testimony to justify what the footage showed: Const. Christian Dobbs raining blows on the subdued man, at one point hitting him 10 times without stopping.

“They seem to be very much in control,” Clements noted.

The judge called the beating “unnecessary, unjustified and excessive” and especially “troubling” because Costain was already handcuffed and lying face down on the ground.

He accused the two arresting officers of contradictory stories, calling Const. Leslie Nyznik’s changing testimony about whether Costain was handcuffed at the time simply “incredulous.”

Dobbs testified that the resisting suspect shoved him into the cruiser, but Clements said the dashcam showed Costain was the one who was thrown against the police car. He called his testimony “unreliable and misleading.”

It was especially egregious when at least one officer got caught in a lie. Const. Jack Holt had testified that he rushed to the scene and held down Costain’s kicking legs as he tried to resist. But Holt had to be recalled to testify when his on-board video mysteriously surfaced in the middle of the trial last summer showing him just standing around while Costain was being beaten.

The judge labelled Holt’s testimony “not only unreliable” but an attempt to “misle the court.”

And then Clements called them out on their attempt to cover up what had happened, with officers at the scene simultaneously shutting off their cruiser cameras after one constable can be seen alerting them that their videos were still running and capturing the assault. He later told the court he was just concerned about conserving energy.

Not quite. Clements accused them of trying to defend the thin blue line by not only shutting off their cameras out of fear they were recording incriminating police misconduct, but then giving testimony inconsistent with the video evidence in a “contrived effort to justify the use of force in this case.”

Those are damning words. Now what are the police brass going to do about them?