Two St-Eustache police officers have been suspended for weeks after one punched an impaired driving suspect in the face as he lay injured on a hospital gurney and because both tried to cover up the assault by filing false reports.
In a decision made public on Monday, the police ethics committee suspended Sgt. Philippe Geoffrion for 15 days for assaulting the suspect and another 25 days, to be served consecutively, for lying in his report about what happened.
The committee also suspended Constable Guillaume Gosselin for 20 days for filing a report on the assault that he knew was false.
Geoffrion’s suspension matches one that a member of the Trois-Rivières police force received for a brutal assault on a man suspected of robbing a pharmacy in February 2013. In that case, the assault was captured on a security camera.
The decision released Monday makes reference to longer suspensions being delivered in the past, including a 60-day suspension for an officer who made a false statement under oath in court.
On July 2, 2017, Mathieu Émond, now 40, of St-Eustache, lost control of his vehicle and crashed into two Hydro-Québec utility poles. Gosselin was the first police officer to arrive at the scene of the crash. He noticed that Émond was standing and his face was bleeding. The officer also smelled alcohol as he asked Émond to sit down.
Gosselin informed Émond that he suspected him of impaired driving and offered him the chance to call a lawyer. Émond declined the offer.
Geoffrion arrived at the scene a short while later, along with another officer. Geoffrion was the supervising police officer at the scene and he told Gosselin that Émond was known to police in St-Eustache.
Because of the state of his injuries, Émond was unable to provide a breathalyzer test. A brace was placed around his neck and he was placed in an ambulance. Gosselin climbed into the ambulance to accompany Émond to a hospital, and that is when things changed.
Through his police radio, Gosselin learned that Émond was in breach of probation and he informed the impaired driving suspect that he was officially under arrest.
According to the decision released by the committee, Émond responded by hurling insults at Gosselin. Among other things, he called Gosselin an “a–hole.”
At the hospital, Gosselin and another police officer kept an eye on Émond while he was treated by staff. They informed a doctor that they would need a sample of Émond’s blood to record his blood-alcohol level. The doctor told the officers they would have to wait until Émond underwent an X-ray and an MRI scan.
Émond continued to insult the police officers as they remained close by him. It is part of standard police procedure in impaired driving cases where a sample of a suspect’s blood is required.
The police officers and Émond, who was lying on a gurney, were in a waiting room as the X-ray and MRI were about to be done when Geoffrion arrived after supervising the investigation at the scene of the crash.
Geoffrion heard the insults Émond made toward the officers under his charge as soon as he arrived. As Geoffrion moved toward the suspect, Émond began to insult him as well.
“The committee has concluded that Sgt. Geoffrion hit Mr. Émond in the face with his fist and that he started to bleed. The committee rejected Sgt. Geoffrion’s version, (claiming that), Mr. Émond started to throw blood in his face with his hands and that his punch was necessary to put an end to this aggression,” the committee wrote.
The other police officer in the waiting room escorted her sergeant out and a member of the staff at the hospital set off an alert, prompting at least five other employees to show up. Émond’s blood was visible on the walls and the floor of the waiting room.
A doctor returned Émond to the room he was treated in beforehand and noticed he had a laceration above his right eye. She treated him for his new injuries.
“In its (previous) decision on the merits, the committee also concluded that Sgt. Geoffrion and Const. Gosselin presented reports and statements they knew to be false and inaccurate,” the committee stated in its 20-page decision.
The statements were given to the Blainville police. Geoffrion claimed he reacted when Émond threw his blood at him. Gosselin claimed that Émond spat blood toward his superior officer before the punch was thrown.
According to court records, Émond was acquitted on all charges filed against him, including impaired driving, uttering threats and obstructing a police officer, at the St-Jérôme courthouse in 2018.