Christopher Robillard said he has been arrested before, but never treated the way he was on May 20, 2005. ((CBC))

A couple among nine homeless people allegedly held for two hours in an Edmonton police van against their will say they were "rounded up like cattle" and treated like "caged animals."

Christopher Robillard and Diane Wood said on May 20, 2005, they were driven around in an overheated van before being dumped in a north-end neighbourhood.

Earlier this week, Edmonton police Chief Mike Boyd launched a criminal investigation into allegations against three officers.

Robillard said he has been arrested many times before, but was never treated so badly.

"No matter what situation we live in, we are all human beings. To me, it wasn't fair to us, being there like caged animals. Rounded up like cattle and thrown in there."

Right to detain inebriates: police

Edmonton police won'trelease any detailsabout the investigation, but Insp. Brad Doucette said Tuesday that the group was drunk and officers have the right to detain people who are intoxicated.

"Our policy as it relates to public inebriates gives us a number ofdifferent options on how to deal with them, and not every option results in them either going to jail, to a shelter or to a hospital," he said.

"They can go to a residence if they have a residence, they can go to a friend's residence. If they are capable of taking care of themselves, we don't have to arrest them, we don't have to lodge them in cells."

Robillard and Wood said they were not intoxicated at the time they were picked up.

"It was hot in there. It was summertime and it was really hot, even outside," Wood said.

"We were all crammed in and hot and sweating and they kept driving around, driving around," Robillard added.

Robillard said he believes they were picked up because they are homeless, not because theyare aboriginal, since some of the people rounded up that day were not native.

Criminal Trial Lawyers Association filed complaint

On Tuesday, Gwilym Davis, spokesman for Edmonton's Criminal Trial Lawyers Association, applauded Boyd's decision to investigate. The association had filed a formal complaint against Boyd, accusing him of failing to ensure that the initial complaint was properly investigated.

"The people who were being picked up asked why, and asked to be given tickets or some form of charge if they were going to be kept, and also asked for badge numbers of the officers involved. They weren't charged, they weren't ticketed, and apparently weren't given the badge numbers."

After the group was dropped off, police officers in a cruiser came byandcalled for a different van to take the nine people to a downtown homeless shelter, Davis said.

The original complaint came from a homeowner upset that homeless people had been dropped off in her neighbourhood.

"It's only since that time that more and more information has come forward through various sources that bring these allegations to the forefront at this time," Staff Sgt. Greg Alcorn said on Tuesday.

"Now that we are fully aware of them, Chief Boyd has asked that an internal affairs investigation happen."