What factors police consider as they assess the risk of a situation and the level of force they can use was the focus of testimony Wednesday as the other officer present when Const. Geoff Mantler kicked Buddy Tavares in the head during an arrest testified in the former Armstrong resident’s assault causing bodily harm trial.
Const. Robyn Boffy pulled up to the arrest scene on KLO Road at Pandosy Street as Mantler, gun drawn, was next to Tavares’ truck. She headed to the passenger side of the truck to check for other passengers and to see if she could spot a firearm.
At the time, police were responding to a call that an ex-employee of the Harvest Golf Club had fired shots while at the KLO Road property. That man, identified as Tavares, had suffered a brain injury in a motorcycle accident the previous summer and had two firearms registered in his name at the time of the Jan. 7, 2011 incident, the court heard.
Another officer attending the call, Const. Kyle Boffy, testified he was concerned a “gunfight” would be needed to resolve the situation.
He arrived after the high risk arrest took place, but his wife Robyn Boffy was with Mantler and went around the back of the Dodge as Tavares started to leave the truck.
As she rounded the corner, she perceived Tavares to be bent over at the waist with his face down as she saw Mantler deliver the kick.
She later learned by watching journalist Kelly Hayes’ video of the arrest that Tavares was on or nearly on his hands and knees when the kick was delivered.
Boffy said officers are trained to be aware that there could be “one more bad guy, one more weapon” when they encounter a situation and that they are to constantly assess the threat level.
A lack of response from a suspect, a person moving contrary to a police officer’s demands, slow reaction time, the ability of an officer to see a suspect’s hands, and the number of bystanders around would have all factored into that risk assessment, she agreed under cross examination.
Defence counsel Neville McDougall went through the arrest video, frame by frame, and Boffy testified Tavares’ hands look like they drop at one point while he is in the truck and then that his hand appears near his waist as he exits the truck.
Boffy agreed she would find that action a threat, as suspects are known to hide weapons in their waistband.
Tavares also appears to take his hands off his knees and move them up during the process of getting onto the ground. Milliseconds later, Mantler delivered a kick to Tavares’ head, the video shows.
Earlier in her testimony, Boffy was asked to categorize Tavares’ actions based on a model police use to identify a suspect’s level of compliance and the appropriate amount of force police can use at each level.
“You’d have to know what Const. Mantler was saying (to Tavares) to know if he was non-cooperative,” said Boffy. “…From just watching (Hayes’) video, he appears cooperative.”
However, she also testified she felt that Tavares wasn’t being “as cooperative as he could have been.”
Non-cooperative is the second level on the police use of force guideline.
Later, Boffy’s husband, Const. Kyle Boffy, was also questioned about the police model and when police can use “serious force.”
Boffy said that may occur when a suspect is “combative or assaultive,” which is level four on the five-level police use of force guidelines.