WPS officer charged in high-speed crash that resulted in critical injuries gets plea deal, pays speeding fine Late-for-duty cops going 50 km/h over posted limit had right of way on Main Street when other driver made unsafe turn, judge decides
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A Winnipeg police officer who was driving 50 kilometres an hour over the speed limit without just cause when he was involved in a two-vehicle collision that sent a city woman to hospital in critical condition has been fined $780.
Const. Bradley Louden, 50, was originally charged with dangerous driving causing bodily harm and misusing emergency vehicle equipment contrary to the Highway Traffic Act in the Oct. 28, 2021 crash but in a plea bargain with the Crown, pleaded guilty Wednesday to speeding.
Louden’s fine was equivalent to the preset fine for driving 110 km/h in a 60 km/h zone as set out in the Provincial Offences Act, referred to in court as the “Brown Book value,” and $220 less than the $1,000 fine recommended by the Crown.
“I don’t see any reason in the circumstances to deviate from the Brown Book value,” said provincial court Judge Ray Wyant, noting Louden had the right of way when a woman behind the wheel of a Chevrolet Cruze made an unsafe turn at an uncontrolled intersection at College Avenue and Main Street and was T-boned at high speed by Louden’s cruiser.
“I’m not trying to overly fault the (woman) who was injured in the other vehicle, because clearly there were pretty significant injuries, and had the cruiser not been going as fast as it was, the accident may not have happened,” Wyant said. “But notwithstanding that, we all have to be careful when making a turn that we make it safely.”
“I’m not trying to overly fault the (woman) who was injured…”–Judge Ray Wyant
The woman — who court heard has since recovered from injuries that included three broken vertebrae and a fractured pelvis and shoulder — did not reply to a Free Press request for comment.
Court heard Louden and his partner were driving an unmarked cruiser in the area of McPhillips Street and Leila Avenue at about 7 p.m. and were running late as they made their way to surveillance duty 10 kilometres away in St. Boniface.
“While driving eastbound on Leila Avenue, (Louden’s partner) observed that traffic appeared more congested than usual,” said Crown attorney Brigitte Dupuis. “Recognizing that they were short on time, Louden started speeding up and slowing down as there were openings in traffic and he was utilizing the (vehicle’s emergency) lights and sirens to move traffic.”
At about 7:15 p.m., Louden was driving southbound on Main Street when a Chevrolet Cruze in the northbound median lane turned into its path at College Avenue and the vehicles collided.
An analysis of the cruiser’s data recorder determined it was travelling 111 km/h five seconds before impact, slowing to 78 km/h at impact.
“The officer had very little time to react to the vehicle turning in front of it, due to the very high speeds the (cruiser) was going.”
A police collision reconstruction investigator “advised that the officer had very little time to react to the vehicle turning in front of it, due to the very high speeds the (cruiser) was going,” Dupuis said.
Louden, as well as witnesses at the scene, told investigators the cruiser’s emergency lights were activated at the time of the collision, but not the siren, which Louden had turned on and off during the drive.
The driver of the Chevrolet Cruze, a woman in her 20s, was taken to Health Sciences Centre in critical condition. Louden and his partner were also taken to hospital, but did not suffer any lasting injuries.
Dupuis said it was an aggravating factor that Louden activated his cruiser’s emergency lights and siren when he had no just reason to do so.
Under Winnipeg Police Service policy, a cruiser’s emergency lights and siren are to be used only when responding to a call for service, in pursuit of an offender or in response to a threat of harm to an individual or community safety.
“But by the same token, I recognize that while it was a fairly significant rate of speed in an area that at that time of day would be frequented by a fair amount of traffic and pedestrians, still the right of way belonged to the cruiser car.”–Judge Ray Wyant
Court heard the Crown and defence reached a plea bargain in the case after it became clear dates could not be secured before the 18-month time limit for cases to be tried in provincial court. Defence lawyer Josh Weinstein said the fact Louden had the right of way at the time of the collision also factored into the plea deal.
“There are these aggravating factors, including the fact that the reason the officers were going to (St. Boniface) was not for an (emergency), but for some other purpose,” Wyant said.
“But by the same token, I recognize that while it was a fairly significant rate of speed in an area that at that time of day would be frequented by a fair amount of traffic and pedestrians, still the right of way belonged to the cruiser car. Every prudent driver has to take into account the unexpected when you are making a turn at an uncontrolled intersection.”
Court heard Louden was suspended with pay for a time after he was charged, and most recently was on “light duties” until his court case was resolved.
University of Manitoba law Prof. Brandon Trask said Wyant would have little sentencing latitude, given Louden pleaded guilty to a single count of speeding, but he would be concerned if Louden faced no additional disciplinary action by the WPS.
Additional police discipline would help “maintain the public’s faith in policing,” Trask said.
“This is not your typical speeding case,” he said. “Fifty kilometres over the speed limit is massive… This should not be a green light for police to abuse the privileges afforded them.”
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.
Updated on Wednesday, February 22, 2023 7:59 PM CST: Adds quotes from Brandon Trask