A Niagara Regional Police sergeant’s verbal assault on a vulnerable man inside a restaurant five years ago should not define him as a police officer, court heard Thursday.
Jake Grant, 47, pleaded guilty in December to a charge of uttering a threat to cause bodily harm in relation to an incident at a downtown St. Catharines Subway.
Police converged on the restaurant Feb. 15, 2017, in response to a call from a lone female employee who said a man was acting in a bizarre manner and had locked her outside.
In a video played during a sentencing hearing in Ontario Court of Justice in St. Catharines Thursday, Grant is leading the 30-year-old man through the back of the restaurant when he starts yelling at him for scaring the young employee.
“I swear to God, if I deal with you one more time in the rest of my (expletive) existence here I swear to God I’m going to dump you in the river,” he tells the man. “I’ve had enough of your (expletive). Stop wasting our (expletive) time. What is wrong with you?”
The man was subsequently apprehended and taken to hospital for a mental health assessment.
Defence lawyer Joseph Markson described the incident “starkly out of character” and an aberration in the sergeant’s 22 years of exemplary public service in both the military and policing.
“It was a spontaneous, angry and stupid verbal barrage that was over in less than three minutes.”
Markson said the isolated incident should not “be the scar that changes his future,” and asked the judge to grant the sergeant an absolute discharge.
“Sgt. Grant has a vocational and abiding commitment to public service through policing,” the lawyer added.
“It is who he is. It’s in his DNA. His behaviour here is an aberration, a once in a career and lifetime fall. The public needs Sgt. Grant to be back on the road, restored to full active duties.”
Multiple positive performance reviews and 25 letters of support were submitted to the court on Grant’s behalf. Court heard the defendant has also made a $2,000 donation to a local homeless shelter which has supported the complainant in the past.
The NRP veteran told the judge that talking to people in distress, and other high-risk situations, is “when I’m at my best.”
“I admit and fully understand that my dealings with (the victim) were not my best and in fact can be taken as being me at my worst when dealing with a member of the public in my official capacity.”
“I am embarrassed that I allowed my emotions to take me off track and off path, and become a person I am proud to say I never am, but momentarily became that night.”
Crown attorney Peter Scrutton argued a discharge would not be in the public interest and asked the judge to register a conviction and impose a $2,500 fine.
“This is conduct that is more than unprofessional — it’s criminal. It’s the sort of thing that brings policing into disrepute.”
The Crown said Grant’s “protracted strain of verbal abuse” was completely unprofessional.
“Police officers are held to a high standard of conduct and care and they’re expected to respond to hostility or aggression with discipline and restraint.”
Grant had previously been charged with assault stemming from the same incident.
A judge ordered a stay in proceedings in 2019 following a series of court hearings.
The charge was later reinstated after a Superior Court judge ruled the local judge erred in his application of the law when he stayed the criminal charge.
Court was told the man went to the police station on a number of occasions following the incident, saying he was interested in filing a complaint but would let it go if he received a sum of money.
Court was told the complainant is well known to police, having been arrested or cautioned by officers or apprehended under the Mental Health Act on numerous occasions.
Judge Fergus ODonnell will deliver his decision on sentence in April.
Alison Langley is a St. Catharines-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. Reach her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org