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Incident that saw woman run into by Toronto police cruiser wasn't a 'collision,' TPS says

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A Toronto woman is unimpressed after a police car turned and ran into her while she was crossing the street – an encounter caught on dashcam video by another driver.

Rachel Wharton says the officer apologized and asked if she was OK, but then drove off without sharing any contact information.

Wharton says she complained to the force, and a detective called her recently to say that there would be no ticket or repercussion because, by their definition, what happened was not technically a “collision.”

“I was scared, a little shocked, and then kind of angry because I, as a pedestrian, had the right of way crossing a green light. And these are the police officers that are supposed to protect us, and they’re driving very carelessly,” the 36-year-old said.

A dashcam video shows what happened at around 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 10: Wharton crossing Dufferin Street at Liberty Street on her way to work, with red lights for cars on Dufferin Street.

The police SUV turns southbound onto Dufferin Street and appears to strike Wharton, who puts her hands on the vehicle’s push bars. Her phone falls onto the pavement.

But the vehicle stops before running her over, and Wharton said she wasn’t injured, just surprised and unsettled. She said she had some choice words for the driver, who then left.

But Toronto police say nothing illegal happened.

In a statement to CTV News, Toronto Police Service spokesperson Stephanie Sayer confirmed a scout car turned left onto Dufferin and stopped “before a collision occurred with the pedestrian,” adding Wharton grabbed onto the vehicle’s push bars.

“The officer rolled down the window to apologize, asked if she was ok and if she wanted him to pull over. The pedestrian said no and continued walking. She reported the incident nine days later. The incident was investigated, and seeing as the contact resulted in no injuries and/or damage, this incident did not meet the definition of a collision as defined by the Highway Traffic Act,” she wrote.

“The incident may have understandably startled the pedestrian, for which the officer apologized, however this was not a collision and the pedestrian was not “hit” by a police car,” she wrote.

Biking lawyer David Shellnutt told CTV News that the definition used by the officers makes more sense in an insurance context, where damage from a crash has to be accounted for and then paid for.

But regarding public safety, he said it’s important to treat any situation with contact between a vehicle and a person seriously.

“In this case, there is contact. But now they’re saying it’s not a collision. So, it really seems like the law is up to the TPS, its own interpretation,” he said.

“Clearly, the officer wasn’t paying attention and was distracted. And this incident says to us that a lot more needs to be done for those in positions of power to really demonstrate that the rules of the road are important to be followed.”

Shellnutt says he’s working on four other cases of cyclists hit by cars belonging to police forces in southern Ontario.

The incident could have been much worse: earlier this month, a cyclist was struck and seriously injured by a police car turning on Bloor St.

Road safety at the TPS has been in the spotlight after CTV News obtained data and copies of over 1,000 automated speed and red light tickets issued to police vehicles. Police can legally break traffic laws in the course of their duties -- it’s not yet clear how many of those tickets were justified.

Wharton says she’s not likely to file any new complaints, but is disappointed that her first complaint went nowhere.

“The fact that somebody can be distracted while driving and hit a pedestrian and there be no reprimand, no consequence, no way to hold them accountable is disappointing and frustrating,” she said.

She says she’s worried a recent bump in the police budget could lead to more vehicles on patrol and more crashes – and wants some of their new money to go to driver training. 

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