Calgary

Calgary police mocked, laughed at and denied medical care to injured man, judge rules

A group of officers acted with cruel unprofessionalism when they openly mocked, laughed at and sang about the suffering of a man who had been badly injured by a police dog during an arrest, a judge has found.

Latef Reakwon Tag El Din might have firearms charges stayed as a result

Weapons charges against Latef Reakwon Tag El Din could be stayed because police laughed at him and denied him medical attention after he was badly injured by a K9 unit dog during a 2019 arrest. (Calgary Police Service)

A group of Calgary police officers acted with cruel unprofessionalism when they openly mocked, laughed at and sang about the suffering of a man who had been badly injured by a dog from the force during an arrest, a judge has ruled in a scathing 20-page decision issued Monday.

Provincial court Judge Heather Lamoureux ruled that Latef Reakwon Tag El Din's charter rights were violated by the officers' cruelty when police delayed his access to medical care for hours despite his "serious physical injury" and "significant pain."

Because of Lamoureux's ruling, defence lawyer Andrea Urquhart will argue charges against her client should be dropped because of the officers' behaviour.

Tag El Din is on trial in Calgaryon charges including possession of a loaded firearm. The judge's remedy, to be argued by Urquhart and prosecutor Richard Tchir at a later date, will determine whether Tag El Din is convicted or if charges will be stayed.

'I have to go to hospital'

Tag El Din, 24, repeatedly begged to be taken to a doctor as he bled from serious wounds to his arm and face after his November 2019 arrest.

Instead, police took him to headquarters, placed him in cells and even interviewed him, according to video evidence and officer testimony.

Tag El Din testified he felt as though his muscles were tearing. He was shaky, sweating and dizzy, barely able to stand. 

"I have to go to hospital, I'm dying," he said at one point while being transported to police headquarters.

One officer can be heard saying "we're all dying."

Visible injuries

Video shows Tag El Din's blood seeping over the top of the arm bandage down his arm.

His face was also noticeably injured, the judge remarked.

After he was placed in cells, video shows officers laughing in the background in response to one of the officers telling others Tag El Din wanted to go to hospital. 

There is sarcasm and more laughter when they talk about Tag El Din's complaints of pain. At one point, the video shows an officer singing a song in reference to the accused's injuries.

Tag El Din begs for help

Tag El Din had been arrested at a local gas station and charged with possessing a loaded firearm and several breaches of court orders.

When he tried to flee from an arresting officer, a police dog was sicced on him.

The officers' behaviour was dismissive and displayed "utter disregard for the well-being of the accused," said Lamoureux. None showed any empathy despite Tag El Din crying out in pain, bleeding and begging for help.

Det. Jennifer Doolan with the guns and gangs unit was the primary investigator assigned to the case. 

Tag El Din was "adamant" with her that he needed to go to the hospital.

Police conduct 'completely inappropriate'

The video evidence suggests Doolan called Tag El Din a "f--ktard" and tried to interview him even after a sergeant told the detective the accused needed medical attention. 

Doolan showed "utter indifference to the safety and well-being of the accused," wrote Lamoureux. 

"This detective does not meet the standard of care of a reasonable police detective."

Instead, wrote the judge in her decision, "there is laughter, sarcasm, song and judgment."

"All of this conduct by police is completely inappropriate and unprofessional."

CPS takes allegations 'extremely seriously'

In a written statement provided to CBC News, the Calgary Police Service said it takes allegations of wrongdoing against its members "extremely seriously."

"Once we were made aware of the judicial criticism, and to ensure this is addressed appropriately, we began the process of thoroughly reviewing the decision of the Honourable Judge Lamoureux."

CPS said that because the case is still before the courts, "it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time."

Much of the evidence comes from the officers' body-worn cameras — video which Lamoureux said was "difficult to watch."

"The court is very concerned to see the unprofessional conduct of the officers who laughed and joked amongst themselves about the accused and his injuries," wrote Lamoureux in her decision. 

"These kinds of comments, the laughter, the joking and the singing, are unprofessional in the extreme. They demonstrate a lack of empathy toward a fellow human being, a lack of professionalism, and ultimate disregard of their duty to protect the accused while he is in their custody."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary crime reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach her at meghan.grant@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @CBCMeg.

now