WATCH: Journalist Files $900K Wrongful Arrest Suit Against Hamilton Police

A Global News journalist who was arrested by a Hamilton police officer while covering the death of a 10-year-old girl has filed a statement of claim against the officer and the service.

“The [Hamilton Police Services] Board has a duty to ensure Hamilton Police Service officers are properly trained to facilitate and respect the right of members of the media to report on matters in the public interest,” the statement of claim filed by the legal counsel for Global News videographer Jeremy Cohn read.

“Constable [Jeffrey] Todoruck had a duty to the Plaintiff to respect his rights as a member of the media to report on matters in the public interest. Constable Todoruck breached this duty by wrongfully arresting and detaining Mr. Cohn in order to prevent him from filming and gathering news material.”

Cohn’s lawsuit, in which he is the sole plaintiff, seeks $700,000 in general damages for negligence, false arrest, false imprisonment, assault, battery, intentional infliction of mental suffering and a breach of Cohn’s Charter rights, as well as $200,000 for punitive damages.

The arrest happened on May 16 while Cohn and freelance journalist David Ritchie attended the scene of a crash in Waterdown where the girl had been struck and killed.

In the statement of claim, Cohn said he learned Ritchie was arrested by Todoruck while filming the scene had his equipment seized. He said he saw Ritchie sitting in a police cruiser, handcuffed and unattended, “several hundred feet” away from the collision site. Cohn observed Ritchie to be “shaking, pale and having trouble breathing.” That’s when Cohn said he was ordered to leave the area by Todoruck.

“At that time, no police tape had been put up and the officers on site did not begin to do so until later,” the statement of claim read.

According to the statement of claim, Cohn said he spoke with the media relations officer for Hamilton police at the time to make him aware of the situation. He said he was told to continue filming the scene as he normally would. Cohn said officers began putting up police tape. He said he then backed away from the cruiser, noting that area residents were still inside the taped-off zone.

Just before he was placed under arrest, Cohn’s camera was recording while he made a second call to the media relations officer. The statement said the officer asked to speak with Ritchie, who was still in the cruiser, and while moving toward the cruiser, “suddenly and without warning, Constable Todoruck appeared in front of Mr. Cohn.”

“They have put up tape just now and we’re well, well behind the tape. Just so you know,” Cohn could be heard saying in audio recorded on Cohn’s camera.

“I’ve asked you to get out of here,” Todoruck was then heard saying, before he was grabbed.

“Don’t touch me. Do not touch me!” Cohn yelled.

“You’re under arrest. You’re under arrest. Put your camera down. You’re under arrest too,” the officer said.

“OK. OK. No problem,” Cohn said, before being escorted away from his camera.

Andrew Collins, a freelance journalist who works for multiple news organizations including Global News and filmed Cohn’s arrest, said in May that he arrived at the scene after Cohn and Ritchie. Collins said they, along with area residents, were about 150 metres from where the collision happened.

“There was no scene established as of yet. There was no direction from any officers on … where we couldn’t be. Civilians were all over the scene and [Cohn and Ritchie] were not interfering with anybody. They weren’t interfering with the family,” Collins said, adding officials removed the body of the girl from the scene by the time Cohn was on scene.

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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