A woman is accusing a Halifax Regional Police officer of pushing her to the ground and choking her during an April 2021 arrest.
Susan Doman started to make her case against Const. Jason Wilson at a Nova Scotia Police Review Board hearing. The hearing started on Monday, and is scheduled for five days this week and one day next week.
Doman told reporters during a break in the hearing that she was arrested on April 27, 2021.* She said there were several officers involved, and she suffered nerve damage, throat swelling, and bruising.
“There’s no reason five officers had to arrest me,” she said.
To start the hearing, board chair Jean McKenna said Halifax Regional Police originally disciplined Wilson after Doman complained. The officer appealed that finding, and the municipality agreed before a hearing began that it would withdraw its decision.
Doman didn’t agree with that decision, and wanted the hearing to proceed. But Doman, who is self-represented, didn’t file the proper paperwork. In September, Doman expressed interest in the hearing going ahead, McKenna said, when she requested subpoenas for the officers present, along with a civilian witness.
Wilson’s lawyer, David Bright, assuming the hearing wouldn’t happen, unilaterally decided to tell the officers subpoenaed by the board that they didn’t have to show up.
Hearing goes ahead ‘in the public interest’
McKenna agreed to allow the hearing to go ahead, saying it was “in the public interest” to do so. She sent Bright and HRM lawyer Andrew Gough away to line up officers to testify. One of them did so on Monday afternoon.
Const. Kaven Daneault testified that he and Const. Hannah Burridge arrived at an apartment in Halifax where Doman was with a friend. Daneault said they had received a call from a man in Dartmouth alleging Doman was in breach of an undisclosed court-imposed condition.
Daneault said he believed Doman was intoxicated, testifying that he smelled liquor on her breath and her eyes were bloodshot. He admitted, however, that Doman was not tested for drugs or alcohol.
The plan, Daneault said, was to arrest Doman, bring her to Halifax Regional Police headquarters on Gottingen Street for booking, release her, and then take her back to the apartment.
Doman was “agitated,” Daneault said, and didn’t want to go with the officers. Because she was agitated, Daneault said her and Burridge called in more officers. One of those who arrived next was Wilson.
Doman eventually got ready to leave, and the officers handcuffed her and started escorting her to the front door of the apartment, next to the kitchen.
While she was handcuffed, Daneault said, he heard Wilson accuse Doman of trying to spit on him. He said he grabbed her chin and pushed her head away. She lost her balance, Daneault said, and both Doman and Wilson fell to the floor of the kitchen.
Doman asked Daneault to explain how that happened.
“Things happened very fast, right, and it’s hard to determine exactly how you fell on the ground. I just know that you fell there and he followed you,” Daneault said.
Doman said Wilson ended up on top of her with her hands around his neck. Daneault said he ended up beside her. He said Wilson cradled her head while she fell to make sure it didn’t hit the floor. They were on the floor for a very short time, Daneault said.
“Did any other officers have to assist in removing Const. Wilson from myself?” Doman asked.
“No,” Daneault replied.
The officers then escorted Doman to Daneault’s police vehicle, and he drove her to police headquarters for booking.
Cop alleges racism
Under cross-examination from Bright, Daneault said that on the drive, Doman was rude and told him,”I’m gonna have your job.” Daneault also alleged that Doman uttered racial slurs about Wilson, who is Black.
“She said, ‘I don’t want this Black guy to touch me.’ She said all the words in the book to describe a person of colour,” Daneault said.
Doman scoffed at the claim, and on re-direct, she asked whether she could lead evidence about her own background and that of her children. The board told her to do so when she testifies herself.
When they got to police headquarters, Daneault said Doman tried to spit on Burridge. The officer, like Wilson, grabbed Doman’s jaw and pushed her head away, Daneault said.
Doman said earlier on Monday that a female officer stuck her finger in her mouth, and she complained about her. She said the complaint was deemed unfounded.
Asked how many officers were present for her arrest, Daneault named himself, Wilson, Burridge, Const. Olivier Duquet-Perron, and two emergency response team officers on scene, for a total of six.
“Is that normal for just doing a one-person, one-female arrest, having six or seven constables there?” Doman asked.
“When someone is agitated, regardless of their sex or gender, we don’t take the chance to have anyone hurt,” Daneault said.
Asked whether he thinks the number of officers escalated her agitation, Daneault said she was already agitated when there were only two officers present.
Duquet-Perron, another officer present during Doman’s arrest, is expected to testify when the hearing continues on Tuesday.
Correction, Nov. 15, 2022:
An earlier version of this story and its headline misstated the year the events took place based on a comment from the complainant.