The Winnipeg police zero-tolerance policy on domestic violence has survived a unique legal challenge.
A civil-court jury ruled Wednesday two city police officers acted properly when they arrested a man in 1999 for allegedly assaulting his estranged wife. The five-woman, one man jury spent just a few hours deliberating before deciding there was no wrongdoing. They also ordered no damages be paid out.
Randy Tymkin filed a lawsuit in 1999, claiming he was wrongly arrested and falsely imprisoned by police. He was seeking more than $1 million but has waited more than a decade while the matter has dragged through the legal system. The case finally began last month with the six civilians seated as jurors to weigh the evidence and decide if his argument has merit.
Many of the facts were not in dispute. Tymkin was arrested in October 1998 and charged with assault. His estranged wife had called police, claiming she was punched two months earlier. Her complaint was made the same day Tymkin allegedly violated a restraining order by coming to her home and taking their two dogs. Police interviewed the woman and a roommate, then went to Tymkin's home and arrested him. He was handcuffed, held in a small cell for several hours and then released on a promise to appear in court.
The Crown then dropped the case against Tymkin during his first court appearance, saying they had no likelihood of conviction.
"A person's reputation can take a lifetime to acquire. But it can be disposed of in seconds," Tymkin's lawyer, Ian Histed, told jurors in his opening statement. He said the key question to consider is whether police believed the woman's allegation of assault had any merit. He suggested the zero-tolerance policy requires officers to do little investigation before making arrests, with results that can often be damaging to the wrongly accused.
Tymkin claimed police acted with a "high-handed and callous disregard" for his civil rights. Tymkin -- who has no prior criminal record -- said the bogus allegation came following a lengthy, ongoing property dispute between the couple and was likely an attempt to get even.
Michael Jack, who was representing the police service, told jurors police acted properly and within reason.
"They were called and discovered a fairly serious assault allegation. They had to respond," Jack said. The Crown's decision not to pursue the case had nothing to do with the police and was an independent decision, he said.
Jurors clearly agreed with his argument.
Only a handful of similar cases have ever gone to trial in Manitoba.