Analysis and Director’s Decision
The offence that arises for consideration is criminal negligence causing death contrary to section 220 of the Criminal Code. The offence is reserved for serious cases of neglect that demonstrate a wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons. Simple negligence is not enough to give rise to liability; rather, what is required is a marked and substantial departure from the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised. In the instant case, the issue is whether there is any indication in the conduct of the SO or any of the other officers involved in the police operation of a want of care, sufficiently egregious to attract criminal sanction, that caused or contributed to the Complainant’s death. In my view, there is not.
The SO was in the lawful execution of his duty when he attended at the Complainant’s residence to check on her well-being. He had received word from an acquaintance of the Complainant that she was imminently planning to end her life with a firearm. A police officer’s foremost obligation is the protection of life and the officer was within his rights, as were those that accompanied and followed him, to do what they reasonably could to prevent harm coming to the Complainant.
I am also satisfied that the SO and the officers involved in the operations that culminated in the discovery of the Complainant’s body in the home comported themselves at all times with due care and regard for the Complainant’s welfare. The SO was prudent to pull back and wait for the arrival of tactical officers before entry was made into the home. He had good reason to believe that the Complainant was in distress and apparently in possession of a firearm. The tactical officers under the overall command of WO #1 acted with care and dispatch once at the scene. Again, because of their understanding of a firearm potentially at play, they reasonably refrained from making immediate entry into the home. Instead, they deployed a robot and repeatedly called-out to reach the Complainant. When those efforts had been exhausted without success, TRU officers entered the home and located the Complainant with the assistance of a police dog. The Complainant was obviously deceased, leaving little for the officers to do at that point other than have the paramedics attend the scene.
In the final analysis, it is unclear whether the Complainant had been shot or was even alive by the time the first officers arrived at the scene. In fact, it might well be the case that the Complainant was already dead by the time of their arrival. Be that as it may, as I am satisfied for the foregoing reasons that the SO and the other involved officers did not transgress the limits of care prescribed by the criminal law, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges in this case.