TORONTO — An Ontario police officer who pleaded guilty to assault after siccing his K9 unit dog on a compliant suspect was granted conditional discharge on Wednesday, as the judge blamed the incident on an "impulsive error in judgment.''
Justice Harvey Brownstone said the officer had taken responsibility for his excessive use of force and had expressed remorse for his actions.
"It is abundantly clear that this offence was an isolated incident that arose from an impulsive error in judgment and not by a premeditated act or loss of temper or a personality disorder,'' Brownstone said as he delivered the sentence in a Toronto courtroom.
Earlier this month, York regional police Const. Michael Partridge admitted his role in the assault on March 30, 2016, that left a man with minor injuries.
Partridge was originally charged with assault and assault with a weapon — the weapon being the dog — but he pleaded guilty to one count of assault on the day his trial was scheduled to begin.
The Crown had been seeking a conditional three-month sentence with house arrest, while the defence sought a conditional discharge.
A surveillance video that captured the incident became a key piece of evidence in the case. The video shows Partridge kicking and punching the suspect while the dog he had released bit and clamped down on the man's arm.
Crown lawyer Peter Scrutton told court the assault lasted for 30 seconds.
"It's just due to luck that this dog bite didn't cause real injury,'' he said.
York police had been investigating break-and-enters in the Toronto area and wanted to arrest three men following one alleged break-in at a home in Brampton, Ont.
They followed the men to downtown Toronto and were met by city police.
Around 3:30 p.m., one of the suspects was arrested after he walked out of a condominium and a subsequent search revealed a baggy with loose ammunition.
Partridge was there with his police dog, Lex, to help if needed. Officers spotted two other suspects, who bolted with police following, court heard.
One officer ran after one of the suspects who eventually stopped running and lay face down in an alley. Partridge and his dog were well behind in the chase.
The suspect, Median Jackson, is seen in surveillance video lying on the ground for about two minutes as an officer stands nearby waiting for someone to arrive with handcuffs, court heard.
Partridge did not know the suspect was on the ground obeying the officer's orders when he yelled out ``Police, K9, you're under arrest, come out,'' court heard.
Almost immediately, Partridge released the dog before he knew Jackson's whereabouts. The dog bit down on Jackson's arm and began thrashing its head back and forth, video evidence showed.
"He was too hasty in siccing the dog on the suspect,'' the judge said.
Court heard Wednesday that it was the first time Partridge had released his dog during his nine months in the K9 unit.
"Clearly this incident indicates a need for more thorough and intensive training in the use of police dogs in such circumstances as well as in the procedures that officers should resort to when pursuing and apprehending suspects resisting arrest,'' Brownstone said.
"It is hoped all police officers can learn from this incident in order to prevent recurrence.''
York police did not agree with the judge.
"In our respectful opinion, Const. Partridge engaged in a course of conduct that was contrary to the training he received as a member of York Regional Police,'' Chief Eric Jolliffe said in a statement.
Toronto police opened an investigation into the arrest and eventually laid the charges late last year.
Police charged Jackson with one count of break and enter and breach of probation, but both were later dropped due to Partridge's actions.
Partridge still faces three allegations of misconduct under the Police Services Act and remains suspended with pay until the case is heard.
The judge ordered Partridge 12 months probation and to participate in training programs. He will not have a criminal record.
Outside court, Partridge's lawyer, William MacKenzie, said his client feels bad about the incident, but wants to return to the force and continue his career.
"With the benefit of hindsight, it was unnecessary, but certainly in the circumstances it was, from my perspective, understandable,'' he said.
Liam Casey, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version carried incorrect attribution for a quote from the chief of York regional police.