Causing a disturbance under the eyes of Toronto Police’s T.A.V.I.S.
On Thursday, Justice Brewer released her judgment on R. v. Fitzroy Osbourne. Police, acting under in their capacity as T.A.V.I.S., attempted to stop and question Mr. Osbourne as he and his friend were returning from a soccer game.
Mr. Osbourne, who was not engaged in any criminal or unlawful activity at the time, was approached by police and asked to identify himself. Mr. Osbourne refused to cooperate. He made it clear to police that he was aware of his rights and told them in no uncertain terms (“What the $## do you guys want, we don’t have to talk to you guys”) that they were not interested in speaking with them.
Attempting to leave the situation and exercising one’s rights.
Mr. Osbourne and his friend attempted to continue walking and leave the situation, as they were entitled to do. Police then exited their vehicle and continued their unfounded investigation on foot. Mr. Osbourne repeated his intention of not speaking to them with the same degree of certainty. Police continued to followed him and then threatened to arrest him for causing a public disturbance. (Incidentally, at trial I asked the officer “If I was to push a bowling ball down a hill and it smashes into your car, would you say that I caused the damage, or the bowling ball?). Using this newfound justification of causing a disturbance for arrest, police then attempted to arrest him. It was alleged that during the arrest he struck one of the officers intentionally.
Charges dismissed. T.A.V.I.S. scolded.
In dismissing all charges against Mr. Osbourne, Justice Brewer wrote:
 Community-based policing policing generally involves increased interaction between police and officers and the public they serve in an effort to reduce the incidents of crime and alleviate fear in the neighborhood […]  the police have the authority to stop and question a pedestrian, but not to detain that person, unless the detention is also permitted by law: R. v. Mann (2004), 185 C.C.C. (3d) 308 (S.C.C.) at 33-35. Further, every citizen has the well established right to refuse to answer questions asked by the police […] It is crucial that officers engaged in the community based policing be mindful of the proper scope of their authority.  In this case, when the officers drove up to the defendant, he was under no obligation speak with them. It is unfortunate that Mr. Osbourne chose to express his unwillingness to communicate with the police in such a gratuitously confrontational and obnoxious manner. Nonetheless, he was within his right in asking to be left alone, no matter how rudely he expressed it. Both officers acknowledged that after the initial exchange at the police car the two men were walking away.
It appears that this judgment explicitly recognizes the need for police to be properly trained, and to follow that proper training, in the rights of the individuals, particularly in the context of “community based” policing like the T.A.V.I.S. unit. Time will tell whether anything is done or whether people like Mr. Osbourne will continue to experience this sort of unmitigated and brazen breaching of civil liberties.
The article on the case from written by Betsy Powell from The Star cane be found here: