The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary is apologizing again for the way that two officers handled the 2009 detainment of Dane Spurrell, a young man with autism whom police believed was drunk and belligerent.
John McGrath, an adjudicator with the RNC Public Complaints Commission, has ruled that the two officers, Rodney Priddle and Lisa Puddicombe, breached several police regulations during the April 2009 incident. [Read the full text of the ruling here.]
Spurrell was 18 at the time and walking home from a video store.
The officers mistook his behaviour for drunkenness. During the encounter, he resisted them and swore, and was thrown to the ground before being arrested and taken to the lockup.
The then-chief of the RNC apologized to Spurrell days after the incident, although a subsequent internal investigation cleared the officers of wrongdoing.
Spurrell and his mother, Diane Spurrell, pursued the issue with the complaints commission.
RNC Chief Bill Janes has accepted the complaints commission's finding.
"The RNC, on a daily and a weekly basis, have thousands of interactions with members of the public, and a vast majority of the times, these things go very well," Janes said.
"Unfortunately for Dane Spurrell, they did not go as they should have. I hope this will bring some closure to the Spurrell family."
'Absolutely elated,' mother says
Janes said any disciplinary action against the two officers will be decided by the commission.
Diane Spurrell said Wednesday the report resolves problems that the family has long had with how Dane was treated, particularly in one officer's refusal to let him use the phone to call her.
"I am absolutely elated," she told the St. John's Morning Show.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Association, the union that represents police officers, said in 2012 that sending the complaint to the RNC Public Complaints Commission was a waste of time and money.