By: Adriana Di Santo
The Hamilton Police Service (HPS) and one of their officers are being sued for $900,000 after the aggressive arrest of a journalist last spring.
Jeremy Cohn, a Global News TV camera operator and a Humber College journalism graduate, was arrested in May 2017 at the scene of a fatal collision along with his cameraman David Ritchie.
Const. Jeffery Todoruck is the officer named in the lawsuit.
Todoruck engaged in a physical altercation with Ritchie and Cohn. In a video posted online, Todoruck is seen confiscating Ritchie’s camera and arrested him without cause.
Cohn was also arrested and later released without facing charges.
Cohn is seeking $700,000 in general damages for negligence, false arrest, false imprisonment, assault, battery, intentional infliction of mental suffering and a breach of his Charter rights; he is also seeking another $200,000 in punitive damages.
Advocacy group Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) has been closely following the case.
Duncan Pike, co-director of CJFE, said they were contacted by a number of journalists after the arrest of Cohn and Ritchie.
“We put in a complaint with the OIPRD (Ontario Independent Police Review Director) to investigate the incident,” Pike said.
CJFE has also contacted the office of the mayor in Hamilton and wrote a letter to the city’s police chief.
“There was no justification whatsoever for the actions on behalf of Const. Todoruck,” Pike said.
“Jeremy Cohn had an absolute right to be there and be filming as a journalist, and as a Canadian citizen. He was well away from police lines and was not interfering at all with what police were doing.”
Pike also said the officer’s actions were a complete violation of Cohn’s rights.
“This could have been avoided if Officer Todoruck did his job and respected the rights of both Jeremy and David,” Pike said.
Pike suggests future journalists should speak loudly and assert their own rights towards matters such as these.
“You need to make noise when your rights are violated in this way,” Pike said. “Journalists a lot of the time understandably don’t like to become the news. It’s not about you, it’s about the story. Unfortunately, that isn’t unavoidable [in this case].”
Cohn declined to speak to Humber News because of the ongoing lawsuit.
Humber News also reached out to Humber News for comment, but they declined to provide an interview.