Police officer held partly responsible for being injured during training
The Supreme Court has found that an officer injured during a training exercise shared responsibility for his injury with the Bermuda Police Service.
Joseph Reynolds said the injury came when another officer used “unsafe” methods against him during the exercise and claimed there were a lack of oversight and safety measures in place.
Puisne Judge Larry Mussenden said in a May 26 judgment that police had failed to comply with their safety obligations and that the second officer had made an error in judgment.
But he added that Pc Reynolds’ “serious and wilful misconduct” had significantly contributed to the injury.
Mr Justice Mussenden said: “If Pc Reynolds was compliant and followed the role player brief, then in those circumstances he could argue that he could not foresee any harm coming to himself.
“However, once he made the decision to change his own conduct to being non-compliant and offer resistance, especially using violent kicks and grappling with the armed firearm officers, in my view, it was reasonable for him to have foreseen that he might be hurt.”
The court heard that on October 30, Pc Reynolds signed on to take part in a training exercise as a “stooge” to be arrested as part of the exercise.
He told the court that he was instructed verbally that if the AFO failed to control him, that he should attempt to flee.
Pc Reynolds said the AFO tasked with arresting him opened the door without his weapon drawn and leant into the vehicle to grab him, which he said was “sloppy”.
He said he cursed at the officer and kicked him in his body armour at half strength and tried to escape the car.
However, he said the officer then grabbed him by the neck in a headlock.
In the struggle, Pc Reynolds suffered a fractured and dislocated ankle which required multiple surgeries to repair and still limits his ability to walk.
He argued in court that the exercise should have been stopped as soon as the officer had gripped him improperly and that there had not been sufficient oversight.
However, other witnesses told the court that the stooges had been instructed to comply with the orders of the officers without resistance.
Mr Justice Mussenden said based on the evidence he found that the Bermuda Police Service did not provide adequate supervision of the exercise and fell short of their responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1982.
He said there should have been a written risk assessment, safety officers should have had a whistle or horn to halt the exercise in an emergency and a safety officer should have been positioned near where Pc Reynolds was expected to be removed from the car.
The judge also agreed that if the exercise was stopped when Pc Reynolds was grabbed by the officer, the injury would not have happened.
Mr Justice Mussenden said: “A referee on a football field may not be able to stop a player from committing a foul tackle.
“However, in a boxing match, a referee is often called upon to stop one boxer from continuing to punch his opponent when that opponent has lost his ability to defend himself.
“In the present case, the safety officer is somewhere between the two.”
However, he said that he believed Pc Reynolds had been instructed not to resist and had no justification for his actions.
Mr Justice Mussenden said: “This particular training exercise had been run for several weeks and there is no evidence before the court that during any one of those exercises the stooge had resisted, kicked out violently and tried to run away.”
He said the officer who grabbed Pc Reynolds had made a “momentary error of judgment”.
Mr Justice Mussenden said: “He did not know what Pc Reynolds’ instructions were at this point so he continued with his tactics.
“In the circumstances, he ruled out using other equipment as he was too close to Pc Reynolds to deploy them properly.
“He had given consideration to using the one hand bar technique but he also realised that he would lose control over Pc Reynolds, who was now grappling with him. Thus he performed a hip toss.”
He said that Pc Reynolds was 60 per cent responsible for the injury, so any awards to him for loss and injury should be reduced by 60 per cent.
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