Police Found Innocent Of Assaulting Black, Deaf Man
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 14, 2004
TORONTO, ONTARIO--Two Toronto police officers were found not guilty Thursday of beating Peter Owusu-Ansah, a Ghana native who is black and deaf.
Ontario Court Judge Paul Robertson said he might have found Constables Wayne Taylor and Syed Moosvi guilty if Owusu-Ansah's testimony had been more reliable.
"His evidence changed over time," the judge said of Owusu-Ansah.
Robertson also rejected some of Constable Moosvi's testimony, saying it "defies common sense".
Owusu-Ansah, 25, testified this summer that he was talking with black, deaf friends on a street corner on the evening of September 13, 2002, when Constable Taylor approached him and asked to see his identification. When Owusu-Ansah was not able to show identification, the officer asked for his name, birth date and address. He gave his first name, but not his last, Owusu-Ansah said, because he was tired of being stopped by police -- more than 17 times in the past few years.
Owusu-Ansah testified that when constable Syed Moosvi arrived on the scene as backup, he told both officers to go ahead and arrest him if they thought he had done something wrong. He said that Moosvi responded by twisting his arm behind his back, and kneeing him in the groin.
Owusu-Ansah said the constables then handcuffed him, threw him into the back seat of a police cruiser, then drove him to a parking lot behind a school. There, he claimed, Moosvi punched him in the face, kneed him some more, then took off his vest and asked if Owusu-Ansah wanted to fight him.
Police records show that they released Owusu-Ansah once they realized he was deaf.
Judge Robertson said that Owusu-Ansah's testimony at the trial did not match other statements he had made, or the fact that he showed no sign of injury. Robertson added that he believed Owusu-Ansah was angry for being stopped so many times. "He was aggressive, confrontational and argumentative," Robertson said.
The judge also speculated that Owusu-Ansah wanted a guilty verdict to support him in a $60,00 civil lawsuit he has filed against the Toronto Police Service Board and the two officers.
However, the judge called Moosvi's testimony -- that he parked behind the school at 1 a.m. because it was safe, had good lighting, and private -- "bizarre, fanciful, and not worthy of belief." Robertson said the fact that Moosvi didn't file a police report or notify a dispatcher of the arrest was "suspicious".
Owusu-Ansah, who speaks and reads lips, told reporters after the verdict was read that he was confused as to why the judge did not believe him.
"I'm speaking the truth," Owusu-Ansah said. "He [Constable Moosvi] punched me."
During the trial, the court provided a sign-language interpreter for Owusu-Ansah only when he was testifying.
More than a dozen Toronto-area groups banded together to support Owusu-Ansah and draw attention to what they call "the intersection between race and disability in police harassment and abuse". That coalition includes the Canadian Hearing Society, the African Canadian Disability Community Association, the Bob Rumball Centre for the Deaf, the Canadian Association for the Deaf, and Silent Voice Canada.
In addition to the civil suit, Owusu-Ansah has also lodged a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission alleging police harassment and discrimination based on color and disability.