TheStar.com - GTA - Woman 'humiliated' by police gets $4,000
TARA WALTON/TORONTO STAR
Nimo Gulleid, at Yonge and Dundas Square, has been awarded $4,000 over an incident with police two years ago. (March 11, 2009) Wins compensation for excessive force in arrest; police say they were never contacted for hearing
March 12, 2009
The conversation between the two women at the bus stop had been heated, but Nimo Gulleid didn't give it a second thought as she boarded the TTC bus. She didn't even notice when, a few minutes later, the bus pulled over and uniformed police officers came on board.
The officers approached Gulleid, who was sitting in the back with her headphones on, and demanded to see the gun. Bewildered, Gulleid, who was on her way to the University of Toronto, stared at them.
"What gun? I don't have a gun," Gulleid said she told police, relaying her version of the events to the Star this week.
Police didn't believe her. Gulleid didn't know the woman she had argued with earlier had told the driver Gulleid was carrying a gun.
Police grabbed and dragged Gulleid, 37, off the back of the bus at Bloor St. W. and Symington Ave. According to Gulleid, they pushed her to the ground and ignored her pleas as her head scarf slipped off her head. Dozens of people watched as she was searched and the contents of her purse dumped into the grass.
Police never found a gun or tried to listen to her side of the story, which is outlined in detail in a Criminal Injuries Compensation Board decision last month that awarded Gulleid $4,000 for pain and suffering.
The board's decision, which was released on Feb. 19, found that "even when no gun was found on the Applicant the use of excessive force persisted." It also found that Gulleid was a "victim of a crime of assault." A criminal conviction is not necessary for board compensation.
The board based its decision on Gulleid's testimony and hospital records from the March 2007 incident, and said police refused to share information.
However, Toronto police said yesterday they have no record of being contacted by the board in the hearing for the case.
"We have no record of them having made any request of us for anything," said Mark Pugash, police director of communications.
He said a number of other factual mistakes in the decision are "extremely concerning," and police lawyers have contacted the board for an explanation.
Pugash said the force submitted the names of the five officers involved in the incident and excerpts from their notebooks to Barry Swadron, Gulleid's lawyer.
According to Swadron, police records showed Gulleid to be "very loud and aggressive towards the officers" and refused to take her hands out of her pockets.
Their records indicated "she was handcuffed and searched for her safety and the safety of others." They also say no gun was found.
Gulleid told the Star she was intimidated by her experience and didn't file an external complaint against the police. And as a mature student, she didn't have the money to pursue a civil suit.
Friends referred her to Swadron, who suggested she try the route of the compensation board. "It was not about the money. I had so much anger about how I was treated unfairly, that I had to do something," said Gulleid. "The most painful component was it was by the people who were in a position of authority."
After removing her from the bus, police arrested Gulleid and took her to St. Joseph's hospital for psychiatric evaluation, concerned she was a threat to herself and the public. Hospital reports found Gulleid suffered "soft tissue injuries to her arms, neck and back" and she suffered from anxiety and stress.
It was only after she met with a crisis worker at the hospital that she learned what had instigated the event. As she waited for the bus, Gulleid got into a conversation about religion with a woman she knew who had recently left Islam. The conversation became heated, and the woman made a comment saying all Muslims were terrorists and gun carriers.
Gulleid told the board she responded by criticizing the woman's Christian kindness. In another report, Gulleid told the crisis worker she had asked the woman, "So you think I carry a gun?"
When the two boarded the bus, the woman told the driver Gulleid had a gun and was going to shoot everyone. The bus driver, following protocol, called police.
Swadron said charges should have been laid against her for mischief.
Gulleid says her issue is not with the woman, but with police.
"If they had just listened to me on the bus, things would have never gone this far," said Gulleid, now finishing her teacher's college degree. "But the embarrassing thing is how they dealt with me in a public space. How they humiliated me."
It's a memory that even two years later disturbs her.
"When I think about it, sometimes I remember and cry about it and feel really bad. What makes me feel good is that I went forward. I complained. I showed them that I wouldn't go away quietly."