On our radar — Feb. 17, 2014

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Revisiting complaint involving police

The Telegram has been following this story for 4 years, 9 months.

Dane Spurrell with his mother, Diane Spurrell. — Telegram file photo

April 18, 2009

Dane Spurrell, 18, of Mount Pearl, is arrested when two Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers mistake his autism for public intoxication. He was taken to the St. John’s lockup and during that time is not allowed to call home. He is shown asking to do so in the lockup video.

A formal complaint is subsequently filed by Dane’s mother, Diane Spurrell, with the RNC Public Complaints Commission.

April 23, 2009

Then RNC Chief Joe Browne apologizes to Dane Spurrell and his mother.

When arrested, Dane had been walking home from a video store.

Browne says the initial responding officer, who had about two years’ experience at that point, spotted Dane when a car swerved to avoid him on Topsail Road. According to Browne, the officer tried to speak to him, but said Dane was unable to communicate clearly. That’s when she made the judgment call that Browne said was the turning point in the encounter — she decided Dane was high on drugs. In actuality, he was exhibiting signs of autism.

Browne announces officers will get training in responding to people with autism.

Fall 2010

The RNC Public Complaints Commission begins discussions on the process for a hearing on the complaint.

July 2011

Proceedings finally commence.

November 2012

Diane Spurrell tells The Telegram she is frustrated at the length of time the complaint is taking to resolve and says she feels weighed down against the legal representation on the officers’ side.

She says she initially decided to file the complaint after learning the results of the RNC’s internal investigation, which concluded the two officers acted in good faith when dealing with her son and acted in accordance with RNC policy.

Dane Spurrell does not have legal representation at the hearings, although his mother praises the work of the commission’s lawyer, Peter O’Flaherty. However, the hearings are consuming much of Diane Spurrell’s time.

She said a lengthy delay was caused by the officers’ counsel requesting her son’s medical records.

Dane Spurrell previously received a settlement from the RNC, but that was set aside for his future.

December 2012

Hearings resume for final testimony.

October 2013

Closing arguments take place.

February 2014

According to the commission, the adjudicator was granted an extention and is to release his report on or about March 6.

What we are waiting for: Adjudicator John McGrath to issue his report

Is there a matter of public interest you’d like addressed? Send us your question by email to telegram@thetelegram.com. We can’t guarantee we’ll get answers, but if it’s an issue in the public domain we will certainly ask questions.

Organizations: RNC Public Complaints Commission

Geographic location: Mount Pearl, Topsail Road

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