The parents of an Inuvik man who has a brain injury say they watched a police officer punch him in the head three times during an arrest outside their family home in March.
Dianne Bertoncini says her stepson, Jesse Petrin, 31, has had frequent bouts of rage and delusions after barely surviving a motorcycle accident six years ago in Edmonton.
On March 21, Bertoncini says Petrin was having a bad episode, "the worst I have ever seen him."
Bertoncini says she could see him on the street outside the family home walking with his cane. She says he was yelling at people walking by and swinging his cane. He hit a taxi that was driving by.
She went to phone her husband and says when she looked back, police had arrived and Jesse was on the ground, face down. She says she saw one officer punch Petrin in the head three times.
Bertoncini says she understands why police intervened, "but what really bothered me was the punching in the head."
Police were warned
When the family moved back to Inuvik last fall, one of the first things they did was meet with police to tell them about Petrin's condition and his feelings toward police.
His father, Gerry Petrin, says the accident left his son "literally broken from head to foot" — on life support for two weeks and in a coma for two and a half months.
'Is that how you apprehend someone who is physically disabled? That just blew my mind.' - Gerry Petrin
"His personality has changed. He has some delusional thinking and anger outbursts that last five to 15 minutes. He has short-term memory loss."
Gerry Petrin says during Jesse's recovery in Edmonton he had three "rough" encounters with police and now fears and hates them.
Since the accident, Jesse has had two anti-police tattoos — one reads "Fuck police" — etched onto his knuckles and back.
He walks with a cane because of paralysis on the left side of his body.
"Is that how you apprehend someone who is physically disabled?" his father asks. "That just blew my mind."
'We do make every effort'
RCMP spokesperson Elenore Sturko says all RCMP officers have training to deal with people who have emotional, physical and mental health issues and that training gets updated throughout an officer's career.
"We do make every effort to take into consideration different abilities and factors when dealing with clients but we do have to balance that with public and police safety," she says.
Gerry Petrin says Jesse has been picked up by police three times since moving back to Inuvik.
"I'm aware it's a problem that it needs attention," Gerry Petrin says. "We need help, period. I need help. Jesse needs help."
Gerry Petrin says the health department told him there's not much support or programs available for people with brain injuries in Inuvik. He says he plans to lobby the government to get a specialized worker in the community for Jesse.
The complaint commission for the RCMP is looking into the March 21 incident.