Published On Mon Nov 01 2010
Accountant David Orbst, 50, whose arm was broken during a traffic stop altercation with York Region police, is critical of the province's Special Investigations Unit.
Around 7:30 a.m., David Orbst, a short 50-year-old accountant who keeps his pen in his breast pocket, set out for work.
He drove his light blue Mazda Tribute, a practical, bland SUV, south on Jane St. in Vaughan.
His first stop, a Tim Hortons for a few peaceful moments before facing the piles of paperwork and deadline demands of his office during tax season.
“I had my normal route to my office early in the morning. Stopped at Tim’s. Read the newspaper. A normal Canadian day.”
Before his commute ended, Orbst had a broken arm after a struggle with York Region Police Const. Derek Cadieux and at least one other officer. The province’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) did not charge Cadieux.
Today’s story is one of an ongoing series probing police conduct in Ontario. A Star investigation of two decades of cases probed by the SIU found that police officers are treated far differently than civilians when accused of shooting, beating, running over and killing people.
The constable declined to comment for this story. York Region Police, citing the possibility of a lawsuit, declined to comment. The SIU would not release information about the case. When asked if Cadieux has faced internal disciplinary proceedings, York Region Police said it is investigating the incident.
This is what Orbst said happened on the morning of March 19, 2010:
A cruiser driving in the opposite direction turned around and followed Orbst’s Mazda. The sticker had expired. An empty baby seat was secured in the back seat. Orbst said either he or his wife forgot to renew the permit amid the stress of his job and caring for an 18-month-old boy.
“He pulls me over. I guess I’m going to get my ticket.” Orbst had his driver’s licence but not his registration in the car.
Cadieux, his hair buzzed close to the scalp, walked up to the driver-side window. Orbst noticed he was pulled over near Canada’s Wonderland and through his windshield could see the twisting tracks of the Behemoth roller coaster.
“(The officer) doesn’t say, ‘Your sticker’s expired.’ He says, ‘Is this car stolen?’ I responded, ‘No, it’s not stolen. I lease the car.’ He says, ‘Well, the car is (registered as) black in the database.’ I said, ‘No, we bought it blue. Call Mazda.’
“He started out by accusing me of being a car thief. I instructed him to show me some respect, since I was twice his age and a chartered accountant. It was terse.”
More cruisers arrived on scene.
Another officer huddled with Cadieux, and both sat in a cruiser while Orbst waited and worried. On two occasions the accountant got out of his car and walked back to the cruiser to ask about the delay. Orbst was told to get back in his SUV. He waited 45 minutes.
“I was rotting in my car.”
Const. Cadieux strode up to the Mazda.
“I put down the window and he says, ‘We think the car is stolen. We’re arresting you.’ I say, ‘You can’t arrest me for driving my own car.’ Cadieux says, ‘Okay, you’re resisting arrest now.’ ”
Orbst has the physique of a man who crunches numbers instead of his abdominals. He stands about 5-foot-6 and weighs 172 pounds.
With an officer on each arm, Orbst was pulled from his vehicle.
“I said, ‘Did somebody report a black car stolen? Let’s talk for a second.’ (Cadieux) says, ‘You’re resisting arrest.’
“Logic is not working. They pulled me over to a hill. I don’t want to be arrested. I’m innocent. Driving my own f---ing car. He keeps grabbing my arm.
“I’m telling Cadieux, who’s got my left arm, ‘Stop. You’re going to break my arm. I got to look after my wife and baby.’ He said, ‘Good, it’s supposed to hurt.’ ”
Cadieux pulled the arm higher behind Orbst’s back and it broke near the elbow.
Two other officers, their knees in the accountant’s back, tried to snap handcuffs around his wrists.
Cadieux, holding Orbst’s head, repeatedly pushed it into the muddy grass.
“I said, ‘You’re going to break my eyeglasses.’ He keeps doing it. This is all for a chartered accountant driving a crappy blue Mazda Tribute. Finally they get the handcuffs on.”
His bent eyeglasses were somewhere in the grass.
“I kept saying, ‘Call Mazda. Let’s go down to my office and people there will tell you it’s my car.’ ”
Officers pulled the accountant off the muddy ground and put him in the back of a cruiser, lying on his side, handcuffed, with a broken arm.
Orbst, at times sharp-tongued, said: “ ‘It’s Canada. You can’t arrest someone for driving their car.’ He starts reading me my rights. They searched the car, for the obvious stash of drugs and guns most chartered accountants have in their cars.”
The officers came back to the cruiser in which Orbst was lying and said, “ ‘Okay, we verified your story. You’re free to go.’ I said, ‘What story?’ (Const. Cadieux) said, ‘You’re lucky we didn’t smash your head into the concrete sidewalk instead of the grass.’ I said, ‘How am I going to drive home? I have a broken arm.’ ”
The police left him at the scene of the traffic stop. Orbst, saturated with adrenalin, drove himself not to the hospital but to the nearest York police station to file a complaint.
Agitated, the pain starting to set, Orbst met with a staff sergeant.
“I said, ‘Are you going to press charges against the officer?’ (The sergeant) says, ‘No. Here’s the form you can fill out when there’s a complaint against the police department.’ ”
The accountant drove home, then started to feel weak. His wife took him to the hospital, where doctors x-rayed his arm. Swelling made it difficult to clearly see the break. That evening, in shock, he convulsed, threw up, went back to the hospital and then swallowed some sedatives.
Once notified, the SIU did not immediately launch an investigation. Though Orbst said he was assaulted and his arm was clearly injured, the SIU needed a second x-ray, taken two weeks later, to confirm the break and decide the injury was serious enough. Without a fracture, the SIU would not have opened the case, investigators told Orbst.
He did not understand the delay. “If any (civilian) had done this to you on the street, you point the finger and they get arrested.”
The accountant called and emailed the SIU, asking for updates. The SIU told him the probe could last a month, but it took six weeks. Then he learned the SIU cleared the officers.
In its brief media release, the SIU, noting there were no independent witnesses, said it could not determine how Orbst broke his arm. The SIU did not tell the public whether the car was stolen as suspected by Cadieux, and if not, what led to the mix-up. The agency also did not say Orbst had been left roadside after his arm was broken or provide any details of what happened immediately after Orbst’s arm was broken.
“It’s a pretend investigation so you’ll cool down and not press charges,” Orbst says. “Does it take six weeks to investigate this? I assume they were screwing around until I gave up. They don’t charge anybody. It’s all a waste of time.”
David Bruser can be reached at 416-869-4282 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Tomorrow: The story of the criminal who walked free because a Peel Region police officer beat him up.