Toronto police say a complaint from a fourth-year Ryerson film student accusing two officers of choking him and calling him an “art fag” is being investigated.
According to allegations in a report filed to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) by Nikolay Michaylov, a pair of officers used excessive force and homophobic slurs when apprehending the student.
Michaylov says the incident — lasting about 30 to 40 minutes — left him with a minor laceration on his right wrist.
Though none of the claims have been proven yet, police spokesperson Victor Kwong confirmed the report has been received and is under review. He and an OIPRD spokesperson refused to comment on this story because they say it is against police policy to discuss specific incidents when an investigation is underway.
In the report being investigated, Michaylov says he was on his way to a friend’s house near Bloor Street and Royal York Road in Etobicoke around 3 a.m. on Sept. 29 when two officers in a police cruiser pulled up near the Magic Spot Grill. He says the officers began to question him about a sprinkler that had allegedly been kicked over in the area. Michaylov says he didn’t know anything about the sprinkler.
Although he admits he had been drinking earlier that night and was acting confrontational when responding to questions from the officers, he says his behaviour did not warrant the treatment he was about to receive.
While one officer visited the local homeowner who had alerted the police to the knocked over sprinkler, Michaylov says the other handcuffed him, grabbed him by the neck and began to choke him, bringing him to the ground.
“I had no way of resisting as I was in handcuffs. I pleaded through very bated breath: ‘I can’t breathe,’” he says, in the report. “While still choking me he (the officer) quietly said into my ear, ‘I will fucking kill you.’”
When the officer finally let go, Michaylov claims he was “berated” with insults about his field of study and called an “art fag.”
Though Michaylov says he is not gay, he still finds the comments unacceptable.
“It sucks that people with so much authority so liberally use the word ‘faggot,’” he says. “It disgusts me.”
He also says a button was ripped from his shirt and his pockets were emptied by the officer.
“I told the officer that I was very frightened and was scared for my life,” says Michaylov. “He replied by saying, ‘I don’t know what you are talking about’ and continued to scold me with insults.”
Meanwhile, Michaylov says his phone was ringing with calls from his friends wondering where he was. He says an officer picked up the phone and held it to his ear allowing him to tell his friends to come to him.
One of the friends who called Michaylov was Andrew Szewczyk, who says when he arrived he was questioned by an officer who later asked him to leave the scene or be ticketed.
He says, “the officer was being kind of hostile and uneasy and he wanted me out of there.”
After Szewczyk left, Michaylov says the insults continued with comments about him being a “faggot who makes useless films” before the officers decided to release him.
Before departing, Michaylov says he requested a copy of footage from the cruiser’s dashboard camera, but was told the camera had not been recording because the officers were not investigating a crime.
According to Kwong, it is up to an individual officer’s “strict discretion” to decide when to turn a camera on when dealing with incidents outside a cruiser.
Police protocol also says when a complaint is received it is screened to determine if it is a conduct or policy complaint.
Some complaints do not end up being investigated because they are deemed frivolous, lack witnesses or are outside of the police’s jurisdiction.
Those complaints relating to conduct are either investigated by the OIPRD or a police service. A report is then produced to determine if the complaint is substantiated before any necessary disciplinary action is taken. If serious, a public hearing can be held.
This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on October 9, 2013.