OPP uniforms an issue


I’ve been watching the coroner’s inquest into the death of Leslie Hegedus.

For those of you who don’t know, he was the 73-year-old Dysart man killed by OPP in an armed stand-off at his Indian Point Road home.
The shooting took place on July 15, 2020, at the height of COVID-19 and its masking mandate.

The jury heard how an unhappy looking Hegedus walked into the Minden Valu-Mart that hot summer day. He was met by an employee who was ensuring people were masked before entering the store. Hegedus refused. When the store employee pointed to the public health requirements on a sign, Hegedus repeatedly punched the man in the head, knocking him to the floor.

Staff and public came to the workers’ assistance, shoving Hegedus out the door. The enraged man jumped into his Alfa Romeo and hit some parked cars and ran at some employees before speeding out of the parking lot. Police were called and gave chase. They halted the pursuit when Hegedus tried to run a police car off the road. Hegedus went to his home where he donned camouflage and got a rifle, handgun, knife and enough ammunition for a long stand-off, and made his way to a spot in the bushes near the road of his long driveway. He was ready for police once they arrived. He shot at officers, who returned fire and took Hegedus down. The man was pronounced dead at hospital.

The Special Investigations Unit has already cleared the officers involved in the shooting. The purpose of an inquest is to answer five questions: who was the deceased; how did the deceased come to their death; when did the deceased come to their death; where did the deceased come to their death; and by what means did the deceased come to their death?

A jury can also – but does not have to – make recommendations in hopes of ensuring a similar death can be prevented in future.

However, there are some themes emerging that will give the five-person jury fodder for recommendations.

For example, one of the officers testified how he had to change uniforms on the side of the road – from blue to green – to enter the crime scene. The inquest counsel has prompted the jury that something should be recommended around that.

Another theme is the OPP communications system. We heard testimony that sometimes officers call other offices on their cell phones to alert them to situations, even before comms sends out a dispatch. We have heard that detachments have their own towers so sometimes an officer en route from, say Orillia, may not be able to hear the police radio until he or she gets into range.

We also heard that sometimes the radios are so full of chatter, it is hard to hear what is going on, even when switching to tactical channels.
Officers also get noise from other jurisdictions. In this case, an officer testified there were two Indian Point roads, one near Coboconk and one in Dysart and he initially headed for the wrong address.

One of the officers at the scene of the Hegedus shooting testified Tuesday that after they had taken Hegedus down, he could not initially get through on the radio to tell the others the suspect was down and they were going to need EMS. He was about to use his cell phone when the radio kicked in.

The officer said while OPP have made, and are continuing to make, improvements to police communications, it remains an issue. We suspect this – as well as uniform policy – will be two of the key recommendations. (The recommendations were released Wednesday).