THUNDER BAY – A judge has found that the actions of a city police officer while interacting with a man inside a bus shelter, which included striking the man in the head – an injury that sent him to hospital – were unreasonable and constitute a criminal act.
Thunder Bay Police Service Const. Andrew Frankow appeared in a Thunder Bay courtroom on Friday, where Justice David Gibson found him guilty of assault causing bodily harm.
The verdict follows a three-day trial held in August 2023, during which Crown attorney Vlatko Karadzic called one witness to testify and shared with the court video evidence including body-worn camera footage.
Warning: Some readers may find this video disturbing
The charge relates to an interaction Frankow had with an intoxicated 33-year-old man in a bus shelter outside of city hall the afternoon of April 3, 2022.
A security guard had called 911 to report individuals consuming alcohol inside a bus shelter and one man acting aggressively toward the guard.
Frankow, employed with city police for four years at the time, was one of two responding officers to the scene. After arriving, he immediately entered the bus shelter and addressed the man by name, telling him he can’t be drinking alcohol in public.
Frankow then took the alcohol from the man and dumped it out in front him. The man can be seen on Frankow’s body-worn camera footage reaching for the container, and his hand is pinned to the wall of the shelter.
When the man appears to reach again, Frankow strikes him in the head and he collapses to the ground. Frankow is heard saying: “You picked the wrong person to fight today” and “You don’t square off against an officer.”
The man was transported to hospital and was treated for a fractured cheek bone.
An investigation was launched by the Special Investigations Unit. finding there was enough evidence to charge Frankow with assault causing bodily harm.
In his decision, Gibson described Frankow’s actions upon entering the bus shelter as provocative.
“It is clear that Frankow did not pause to assess the situation or have issue with entering a closed space with several other individuals,” Gibson said. “Frankow did not take any safety precautions and acted in a cavalier and provocative manner.”
While inside the bus shelter, Frankow said to the man that he cannot be drinking in public and after pouring out the alcohol he said: “I’m sorry.”
“I would describe the tone of these comments as contemptuous,” Gibson said. “Officer Frankow’s actions as soon as he entered the bus shelter were high handed.”
Later, when speaking with paramedics, Frankow is heard saying that the intoxicated man must have thought he was one of his buddies.
But Gibson said given that Frankow arrived in a clearly marked police vehicle and was in full uniform, as well as the man’s actions to attempt to conceal the alcohol in his pocket, that he must have known Frankow was a peace officer.
Gibson acknowledged that police officers are often forced to deal with situations involving intoxicated and vulnerable members of the community, which can be difficult for officers who are not trained crisis workers.
Gibson also inferred from the evidence that it was unlikely the man would have been placed under arrest or even ticketed for public intoxication, given that he was unhoused, and that Frankow saw dumping out the alcohol as a suitable consequence for his actions.
Frankow’s defense counsel, James Foord, argued police officers are permitted to use reasonable force in the execution of their duties as stated in the criminal code.
But Gibson found because the prospect of arrest was not likely in this interaction, the section of the criminal code does not apply and Frankow’s use of force was unreasonable.
Ultimately, Gibson found the Crown proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Frankow’s actions constituted assault causing bodily harm, noting that the man was not squaring off against Frankow when reaching for his container of alcohol.
“Officer Frankow says it represented [the victim] squaring off against him. I disagree,” Gibson said. “[Frankow] perceived it as a lack of respect for him as a police officer.”
The matter will return to court on Oct. 19, 2023 to set a date for sentencing. The Thunder Bay Police Service said an internal investigation will be launched into the matter following the conclusion of the criminal proceedings.