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Accused Halifax police officer testifies in third day of hearing

Police Review Board hears from constable accused of choking woman during arrest

5 min read
caption Const. Jason Wilson leaves the stand to speak with his lawyer, David Bright, after testifying before the Police Review Board on Wednesday.

A Halifax Regional Police officer defended himself on Wednesday against accusations of choking a woman during an arrest before the Nova Scotia Police Review Board.

Const. Jason Wilson said Wednesday that he did not choke Susan Doman or slam her to the ground during an incident on April 28, 2021.

The first two days of proceedings covered the arrest of Doman by six police officers in her friend’s apartment on Armstrong Court in Halifax’s Birch Cove neighbourhood.

Doman filed a complaint that Wilson used excessive force, and Halifax police disciplined Wilson. At one point, the discipline was rescinded, and Doman is appealing this decision in the proceedings before the board.

Wilson, who has been with Halifax police since 2006, was brought as a witness by his lawyer, David Bright. He was the only witness to testify on Wednesday.

Wilson said he received a radio message from Const. Hannah Burridge, one of two officers at the scene, requesting backup. He said he could hear a woman yelling in the background.

At the apartment, Wilson said he found Const. Burridge and Const. Kaven Daneault trying to “de-escalate the situation.” Wilson said that Doman, sitting on a couch, was aggressive and visibly upset, and that he could smell alcohol on her breath.

“I estimate that [Burridge and Daneault] tried to convince Ms. Doman to come with them upwards of ten times,” Wilson said.

During the testimony, Bright distributed a sketch drawn by Wilson showing his memory of the apartment layout. The Signal obtained a copy of the drawing from Bright.

caption A sketch by Wilson showing his memory of the apartment layout. This diagram was distributed by lawyer David Bright during proceedings to be referenced by Wilson in his testimony on Wednesday.

Wilson said that when Doman refused to stand, officers stood her up. Wilson attempted to handcuff her, but he said he was only able to restrain one wrist.

Wilson noted the small size of the apartment as a difficulty for the officers. As Wilson was escorting Doman away from the couch, he said she pressed her legs against a chair and a wall in an attempt to resist.

Wilson said the officers brought Doman into the apartment hallway, and that Const. Burridge was able to secure the handcuffs to Doman’s second wrist.

When Wilson and Doman were near the kitchen, Wilson said that Doman “turns her head toward me and makes a sound that is consistent with someone bringing up saliva from her throat, and is about to spit on me.”

Wilson said he put his left hand out to Doman’s neck to deflect her face away. Due to being handcuffed, Doman’s weight shifted, causing both of them to fall to the floor.

“Ms. Doman’s head did not hit the floor, simply because with my right hand, I put my right hand out and her head landed in my hand,” Wilson said.

Wilson said Doman immediately accused him of throwing her to the ground, “which in actuality did not happen,” Wilson said.

Wilson said that he and other officers escorted Doman to a police car, and that she was still “resistant.” After Doman was taken away, he spoke with Doman’s friend, Saad Khory, to explain the officers’ actions.

“I can understand from his point of view, anybody’s point of view . . . how that can be traumatic for someone who doesn’t understand what we are doing,” Wilson said.

Wilson had no more contact with Doman that night and authored a report at the scene. In the report, obtained by The Signal, Wilson states that when he thought Doman was about to spit on him, he “took the accused by the side of her neck and moved her head in a different direction.”

On Wednesday, Doman asked Wilson if his technique to move her head by the neck was standard.

“All situations that police are involved in are not static, they are dynamic,” Wilson said.

“Was it perfect? No, it was not perfect in the sense that it was in a textbook,” Wilson said of Doman’s specific situation.

Doman asked Wilson to read from the conclusion of another report on the decision made to originally discipline him, in which Halifax police’s use of force expert, Sgt. Tony Croft., said that Wilson’s force was “aggressive and excessive” and that “there were other force options available.”

In Monday’s hearing, Const. Daneault gave similar testimony to Wilson, saying that Doman’s head did not hit the ground because Wilson placed his hand behind her head.

In the report on the decision to discipline Wilson, Const. Olivier Duquet-Perron, another officer present at the scene, is quoted as saying “Her head hit the floor and with enough force to break a piece of molding on the floor.” However in Tuesday’s hearing, Duquet-Perron said that he witnessed Wilson take Doman by the throat and drop her to the floor, but that his statement saying Doman hit her head was “a mistake.”

Doman asked Wilson on Wednesday if he believed his use of force was excessive.

“No, I do not,” Wilson replied.

Wilson took issue with the report disciplining him, and said “Officer perceptions will be different from officer to officer,” and “I did use other force options available, because at no time did I fully grab Ms. Doman by her throat.”

In an interview following Wednesday’s proceedings, Doman said “I just want his punishment to be on his record, so if this should happen again, other people can have at least some protection against this.”

Proceedings are expected to continue next week with testimony by Const. Burridge and Doman.

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Sam Farley

Sam is a fourth-year King's journalism student from Boston.

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