Man sues police, alleges mistreatment, discrimination

A man who claims he was deprived of medical care and left naked in an Ontario jail cell overnight two years ago has filed a lawsuit against several Brantford, Ont., police officers, alleging they treated him differently because of his race.

The lawsuit filed by Philip Alafe also names Brantford Police Chief Geoff Nelson and the Brantford Police Services Board as defendants, saying they are responsible for the actions of officers on the force.

Alafe, 27, is seeking $2.5 million in damages, alleging the officers abused their power and used excessive force, and the chief and board were negligent in their oversight.

The Toronto man, who was born in Nigeria and came to Canada in 2010, was arrested on July 3, 2015 on charges related to an alleged dangerous driving incident that the claim says he believed had been withdrawn.

An Ontario judge stayed the criminal charges against him earlier this year after finding that the officers involved had treated him egregiously and breached his constitutional rights.

The allegations laid out in Alafe’s lawsuit have not been proven in court and a statement of defence has not yet been filed.

The chair of the police services board said they are looking into the allegations.

“We will be undertaking a review of all material presented in context, and we have directed the chief of police to report to the board any findings he has as it relates to police service policy and training practices with respect to prisoner care and handling,” Deb Cockerill said in a statement.

The force could not immediately be reached for comment.

In his statement of claim, Alafe says he suffers from sickle cell anemia, a congenital condition that causes chronic pain and fatigue and can lead to the death of tissue due to lack of blood supply.

Episodes of acute pain are often triggered by cold and stress, among other things, and require hospitalization, the document says. Alafe requires regular treatment and “significant doses” of medication, including painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants, the claim says.

“Without these medications, even for a short period of time, his pain becomes unbearable,” the claim says.

Alafe alleges the officers took away his medication and refused or ignored his multiple requests for medical attention, allowing him only two tablets over the course of the night — far less than the prescribed amount.

“At all material times over the course of that night and morning, the plaintiff continued to be in extreme pain due to his sickle cell disease,” the statement of claim alleges.

Instead of calling a doctor or taking him to hospital, the officers “maliciously, intentionally, unlawfully and/or without justification subjected the plaintiff to an escalating course of punishment, deprivation of basic needs, physical assault, infliction of mental anguish and other infliction of harm,” the statement of claim alleges.

Alafe was stripped of most of his clothes during his detention and two officers eventually took away his jail-issued jumpsuit using “extreme and unreasonable force,” including punches and body chops, the statement of claim alleges.

“The force used upon him was not justifiable at law and was excessive and unreasonable in the circumstances. The force was applied in circumstances where the plaintiff posed no safety risk to himself or others and offered no provocation,” the document says.

It further alleges that the officers treated Alafe “differentially and discriminatorily” due to his race and his disability.

One of the officers, Staff Sgt. Cheney Venn, also took away his mattress and blanket after declaring that Alafe’s attempts to get the officers’ attention constituted misbehaviour, the claim says.

Hours later, Alafe — who had never been suicidal before — attempted to hang himself with his socks, his only remaining piece of clothing, it says. Though the officers would have been able to see him through the jail cell camera, they did nothing to intervene or help him, it says. The socks were taken away shortly afterward, it says.

About an hour and a half later, he was taken out of the cell to video bail court.

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