News

Black Couple Allege Police Assaulted Them Outside Toronto-Area Hospital

A video shows officers pinning Livingston Jeffers and punching him, while his wife, Pamelia, is pushed around. A police oversight group cleared the officers of wrongdoing. The couple's lawyer is appealing the case.
June 15, 2020, 8:21pm
Livingston Jeffers; Durham Police
Livingston Jeffers and his wife, Pamelia, say they were assaulted by police officers after trying to leave the hospital. Images supplied.

A Black couple is appealing a decision that cleared police of wrongdoing after officers allegedly assaulted them outside of a hospital near Toronto.

Livingston Jeffers, 70, and his wife, Pamelia Jeffers, 69, went to Lakeridge Ajax Hospital in Pickering, Ontario on October 30, 2018 because Pamelia was feeling physically unwell and struggling with insomnia, according to documents provided by the couple’s lawyer, Faisal Kutty.

After a long wait at the hospital, the couple got permission from the doctor treating Pamelia to leave and return in the morning, Kutty said in an email. But as the pair walked out of the hospital some time between 8 p.m. and midnight, a nurse followed them and said they weren’t allowed to leave.

That’s when the situation escalated and two police officers, who were responding to a different call, intervened and allegedly assaulted Livingston, striking him on the head several times and leaving him semi-unconscious, Kutty said.

They then allegedly assaulted Pamelia, he said.

In 2019, Livingston filed a complaint against the officers to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD).

Last month, the investigation, led by OIPRD and York police, cleared the police of all wrongdoing, other than the fact that the officers didn’t advise Livingston of his right to counsel, Kutty said. Now, the Jeffers, with the help of Kutty, are hoping to appeal the decision.

The hospital maintains they placed Pamelia on psychiatric hold, but she, her husband, and lawyer say the couple was not informed that that was the case until after the incident.

Hospital security footage provided to VICE by Kutty shows the sequence of events: hospital staff walk behind the Jeffers as they exit before the altercation.

Livingston’s medical records following the incident note swelling, bruising, and cuts on his face.

Kutty said witnesses on scene recorded the alleged assault but were then told by police to delete their videos. In a letter to the OIPRD, Kutty said police abused their authority by asking witnesses to delete the recordings. One of the witnesses sent the video to a friend before deleting it.

In the 30-second video, two officers are seen pinning Livingston to the ground and punching him at least once. The video shows Pamelia being manhandled.

Durham police did not respond to VICE requests for comment.

The Jeffers were taken back into the hospital after the altercation where they were treated for injuries and restrained to a bed overnight, Kutty said.

In dispute is the timing of the hospital’s use of a “Form 1,” which allows doctors to hold someone for up to 72 hours in hospital to undergo a psychiatric assessment. According to Kutty, the Jeffers were not informed of a Form 1 being issued for either of them before they attempted to leave the hospital the night of the incident. Only medical records dated October 31, the following day, list a Form 1.

Livingston wasn’t admitted into hospital until after the alleged assault. His medical records note that he was then put on a Form 1 and was displaying paranoid psychosis with violent behaviour. The notes also say Livingston was evicted from the shelter he and his wife were staying at.

Pamelia’s medical documents said that she was living at a shelter at the time and believed people at the shelter were harming her.

The hospital did not respond to VICE when asked about the discrepancies between the dates associated with Form 1 on Livingston’s medical records.

The hospital did not comment on the assault allegations.

Following the encounter, Livingston was charged with assaulting police and for attempting to disarm an officer, but the charges were later dropped after the citizen videos of the arrest surfaced, Kutty said.

“We have asked the Office of the Independent Police Review Director to review the decision,” Kutty said.

In a letter to the OIPRD and Durham police, dated June 10, Kutty said, “This case suggests that elderly black people must weigh the dangers to their personal safety and exercise extra vigilance when attempting to leave a hospital unless they obtain written permission.”

According to Kutty, the incident highlights discrimination against Black people as well as poor people and people struggling with mental health issues.

The OIPRD did not respond to VICE requests for comment.

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