Monday, October 28, 2013
Toronto Radio host John Downs describes run-in with cops
Toronto Police’s Professional Standards branch has opened a probe into how,earlier this year, a veteran Toronto radio personality was detained and held in a cell for a night.
Law-abiding. but sometimes critical of Toronto Police over the past decade — and post the lessons learned from the G20 — John Downs would also like to know.
“The relationship has occasionally fallen into the dysfunctional but by no means did I expect this,” said Downs.
For trying to take a picture for his news outlet’s website, the Newstalk 1010 host of Friendly Fire with Ryan Doyle found himself in a not-so-friendly incident with police last winter.
“My left cheek is up against the cold sidewalk. My chin is burning after being scraped along the cement. A right knee is digging into my back. My right arm, pinned under my chest. With firm direction, the officer tells me to,“Stop resisting!” as if I have any choice regarding the position of that right arm.”
It was Jan. 18, 2013. He and his girlfriend went out for dinner and drinks with friends.
It was fun night.
“We boarded the streetcar to go home when at Brant St. and King St. W. I could see the lights of an ambulance and a young man lying on the street with blood covering the pavement beside him.”
The newsman reacted.
“The reporter part of my brain takes over,” he said. “I rang the bell on the streetcar and told my girlfriend I’d see her at home soon.”
Not so soon, though.
“I jogged a couple of hundred feet back west to the scene and snapped two photos. Both bloody.”
A Toronto firefighter took exception even when Downs told him he was media.
“He either didn’t believe me or didn’t care,” said Downs. “He said, ‘You want me to get the cops over here?’”
“I’d just explain to the police who I was, show them my ID, and assure them I had no intention of hampering their investigation.”
It didn’t help.
“My phone was swiped from my hand, landing on the sidewalk,” he said. “I was grabbed by my shoulders and thrown face first on to the sidewalk. My left arm was held behind my back. My right armed, pinned under my chest. I tried to comply with the officer’s demands of ‘Do not resist!’”
But Downs said the problem was “his right knee digging into the small of my back made it near impossible to free my wrist which was sandwiched between my rib cage and the cold cement.”
Disgusting escalation. Not necessary.
And this is not Pyongyang.
“I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong,” said Downs.
Still the wrath of authority began to pile up — even though he knew a police officer on the scene.
The focus shifted to questions about how much he had to drink?
Downs said he had consumed some alcohol but was not intoxicated.
“They just used that to detain me,” he said.
The real focus was something else.
“He says you took a swing at him,” the officer said of the firefighter.
Downs heart sank.
“It was completely fabricated,” he said. “I know knew I could end up going to jail.”
He was right — to 14 Division and locked up over night.
In the morning, his girlfriend came to bail him out but was told he had already been released. With his house keys were lost and his cellphone dead, healso had a difficult time connecting with her or getting back into his home.
He was charged with public intoxication — an offence which was later withdrawn.
“Being taken down and cuffed in the middle of the King West crowd was pretty embarrassing,” said Downs.
Toronto Police said they will not comment, other than to confirmed professional standards is on it.
Downs has been interviewed by two detectives but said he will not pursue any formal action.
“I just wanted to share the story so people could understand that if a wild turn of events like this could happen to someone in a position like mine,with the power to tell the story, you have to wonder how often it happen to the powerless?”
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