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Toronto G20 police assault trial: Officers trained to use least force necessary, expert testifies

Police trainer only allowed to speak to ‘hypothetical’ situation which closely mirrors the one Andalib-Goortani says he faced.

Police officers are supposed to use the least amount of force necessary to control a situation and must be able to explain and justify the amount of muscle they use.

That’s what a Toronto police officer responsible for training up to 5,000 cops a year said on the stand Wednesday at a trial for Const. Babak Andalib-Goortani, who has pleaded not guilty to assaulting 30-year-old G20 protester Adam Nobody with a weapon, his police baton.

Andalib-Goortani, 33, has testified that he believed Nobody was resisting arrest and trying to get away from police. The officer said he struck and jabbed the protester with his baton, in accordance with his training, to help control the situation and finish the arrest.

Nobody, in his testimony last week, denied resisting arrest.

Staff Sgt. John Stockfish, the fifth witness called by the defence, was on the stand to explain the kind of training and theory Toronto police officers receive, offering a peek into the way they are trained to make decisions.

Defence lawyer Harry Black also wanted Stockfish to watch amateur video that shows Andalib-Goortani’s interaction with Nobody, and explain whether his actions in the video match up with what he was trained to do.

But Judge Louise Botham decided not to allow that, after a lengthy argument between defence and prosecution representatives Tuesday afternoon.

Instead, Stockfish could only talk about a hypothetical situation that actually mirrored every detail of what Andalib-Goortani said happened while trying to arrest Nobody during a G20 summit protest on June 26, 2010.

Stockfish explained that Toronto police must renew their use-of-force training every year by taking a two-day course.

They’re guided by the Ontario use-of-force model, a diagram that offers suggestions of how to act based on what an officer is faced with. But the model is just part of what they should consider when they make a decision to use force, Stockfish said. They have to look at “the totality of the situation” and later be able to defend their actions.

Three Toronto police officers have testified that Nobody was acting aggressively and taunting police from the front lines throughout the day of the protests.

Andalib-Goortani says he struck Nobody with his baton once while officers were trying to arrest him. He says he later jabbed him from another angle, using the butt of his baton and aiming for Nobody’s thigh, before pausing and jabbing him twice again.

Jabbing with the baton expanded, as Andalib-Goortani says he did, isn’t one of the baton techniques Stockfish teaches his students.

In general, Stockfish said, officers should aim to hit a subject in the leg because it’s furthest away from their head and a leg tends to react slower than an arm, for example.

The goal, he said, is to “interrupt the thought process of an individual” and make them focus on the blow to their leg rather than resisting arrest. It’s called pain compliance.

The prosecution has suggested Andalib-Goortani didn’t hit his target when he struck Nobody, hitting him higher on his waist instead of on his thigh.

The theory, Stockfish said, is that 40 per cent of an officer’s baton strikes will hit higher than their intended target, and 40 per cent will land lower.

Ten per cent of the time, he said, an officer will hit their target. The other ten per cent of the time they will miss completely.

“One strike might resolve the situation. It might take more,” Stockfish said.

When presented with the hypothetical situation that exactly mirrors Andalib-Goortani’s testimony, Stockfish said it appeared the officer acted in accordance with his training. The officer’s conduct, he said, was hypothetically reasonable, repeating over and over again that officers must consider “situational factors.”

But whether he acted in accordance with his training isn’t necessarily the question, crown prosecutor Philip Perlmutter said in his cross-examination of Stockfish.

“Whether an officer acted in accordance with their training does not necessarily answer the question of whether their conduct was lawful.”

Being able to explain why you did something and justify why you did it, Perlmutter said, are two different things.

Source: http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2013/06/12/toronto_g20_police_assault_trial_officers_trained_to_use_least_force_necessary_expert_testifies.html