A Black correctional officer at Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton, Ont., has retained legal counsel in hopes it will result in criminal charges against two white colleagues, whom he alleges ‘attacked’ him in early June when he says he caught them making light of George Floyd‘s death.
Stephen Smith alleges two of his co-workers, Steven Barton and Braden Normor, followed him into the facility’s muster room just before 7 p.m. on June 3. There, he claims that while he was at his locker, Barton grabbed him from behind and tried to wrestle him to the ground.
“I just remember feeling someone trying to grab me, hold me and pull me to the ground,” said Smith.
“I remember the correctional officer picking me up and throwing me onto his shoulder and onto my back.”
Smith alleges that’s when Normor also joined the altercation and tried to handcuff Smith with the use of mechanical restraints meant for the inmates.
“I remember seeing the second correctional officer run across the room with handcuffs,” said Smith. “I remember hearing, like, ”Cuff him, cuff him, cuff him, cuff him.'”
Smith says after some more ‘wrestling,’ he was able to eventually ‘push’ both correctional officers away.
He claims Normor then ‘yelled out curse words’ at Smith and then both correctional officers left the muster room.
Smith says he doesn’t know what would have happened if the two jail guards had been successful in their alleged attempts to handcuff him.
“That’s a scary question to run through your head; it could’ve been really negative,” said Smith.
“To think about what would’ve happened if the cuffs had locked, that’s a disturbing thing to even think about.”
Earlier that day, Smith says, he had walked in on Barton, Normor and other guards making light of George Floyd’s May 25, 2020, death and the protests that ensued.
“Making fun of the death, for sure; making fun of the protesters, for sure. Watching videos of (police) beating protesters and arresting protesters.”
“I remember the two officers I’m talking about who did assault me in the muster room, I do remember them saying, like, ‘If I go to arrest an inmate, I’m going to take a knee on him,'” said Smith.
He says one or more of the officers appeared ’embarrassed’ that Smith had overheard the conversation but did not apologize and instead ‘laughed it off.’
Smith believes that incident led to the alleged altercation in the muster room later that day.
“It’s shocking because I didn’t think something like that would happen to me based off of race,” said Smith. “I think it was racially motivated and I think you can categorize it as a hate crime.”
Smith has recently hired Toronto-based lawyer Knia Singh, who says his client explored every avenue after the alleged altercation in hopes of seeking justice.
“Stephen contacted his sergeant and contacted his superintendent and spoke to them. When that didn’t result in any immediate action, he went to his local police force,” said Singh.
“Again, that didn’t result in anything, Stephen also went through his union and he didn’t think his concerns were being addressed properly.
“When those institutions don’t give you the results you need or even give you answers or even a slight hope that your concerns are being taken seriously, then you start to lose faith,” added Singh.
The Ministry of the Solicitor General told Global News that ‘it is inappropriate for the ministry to publicly address a confidential human resources matter’ — but when pressed for more details and to highlight the rules on why it couldn’t speak publicly on the matter, the ministry could not do so.
Global News attempted through multiple means to reach Barton and Normor for comment — including contacting the Maplehurst Correctional Complex directly and emailing the Ministry of the Solicitor General, Halton police and the correctional officers’ union — but did not hear back on the interview requests.
Meanwhile, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union Local 234, which Smith said had also been asked to address the alleged incident, did not respond to Global News’ request for an interview.
Halton Regional Police Service said it had conducted an investigation into the incident in June of last year and it is now no longer being investigated.
“This investigation included reviewing surveillance video of the incident and consultation with the Regional Crown Attorney,” said Halton police spokesperson, Const. Ryan Anderson. “The investigation found the allegations to be unsubstantiated and no criminal charges were laid against anyone involved.”
Global News has not viewed the surveillance video and has not been able to verify the allegations.
“That was a slap in the face for sure,” said Smith, referring to Halton police’s response. “(Halton police) came back to me three or four days after I filed the complaint, the detective emailed me saying he found no need to proceed with his investigation.”
Singh said his client is hoping to gather all evidence possible, including video surveillance footage, to possibly launch their own independent investigation into the matter.
“The most important thing is the people in this incident get charged,” said Singh. “(Smith’s) seeking some vindication, some acknowledgment that he was not at fault, that this should have not happened in the first place, nor will it happen again,” said Singh.
Meanwhile, Smith also alleges there are more systemic issues related to racism within the correctional centre.
“This is prevalent in the culture, there’s so much racism against different religions, there’s sexism,” he said. “It’s very prevalent in the culture and of course it’s disturbing.”
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