Manitoba

Manitoba RCMP probe incident where officer placed knee on man's neck during arrest

The Manitoba RCMP say they are investigating an incident where one of their officers appeared to be kneeling on a man’s neck during the course of an arrest outside the Winnipeg airport. 

Video of arrest was presented in court this week

Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy, commanding officer of the Manitoba RCMP, says she found a video showing an RCMP officer kneeling on a man's neck during an arrest at the Winnipeg airport disturbing. (Shannon VanRaes/Reuters)

The Manitoba RCMP say they are investigating an incident where one of their officers appeared to be kneeling on a man's neck during the course of arrest outside the Winnipeg airport. 

A video of the arrest, which happened in August 2019, was played in court earlier this week at the man's trial, according to the Winnipeg Free Press. 

According to the Manitoba RCMP, officers were called to the airport about an intoxicated man who had assaulted someone. Officers tried several times to de-escalate the situation, but the man became combative, striking one of the officers in the face 'without apparent provocation,' stated an RCMP release.

The man was put in handcuffs, but kicked the arresting officer in the groin. He was then taken to the ground at which point the officer put a knee on the man's neck. 

Jane MacLatchy, commanding officer of the Manitoba RCMP, said in a statement sent late Wednesday she found the video of the incident 'very disturbing.'

"Hearing a man clearly informing police officers that he cannot breathe is all too present in our collective consciousness," she said, adding that the RCMP does not teach or endorse kneeling on the neck to restrain someone. 

"This is a difficult situation for any police officer to deal with. However, a knee to the neck is not the response for which our officers are trained, and this incident needs to be further examined."

She said RCMP just became aware of the incident Wednesday morning and have notified the Independent Investigation Unit, Manitoba's police watchdog. 

The Manitoba RCMP is also doing a Code of Conduct investigation and are reviewing whether the officer in question will remain on duty, she said. 

"Please trust me when I say we are looking into this," she said in the statement.

"I will not let this go unexamined; I owe it to the individual involved, the public, and the RCMP officers under my command, to take the time to review this properly and determine the appropriate way forward."

The use of a knee hold to restrain someone is unnecessary regardless of the circumstances as it poses incredible risk to the person being arrested, said David Cassels, a former Winnipeg police chief and chair of the Coalition for Canadian Police Reform, which is pushing for national training standards for police officers.

"Usually there's there's other ways to restrain people rather than doing that, and a knee on a neck is a dangerous procedure," he said. 

"It's likely that somebody could end up with a serious injury or death as a result of it."

Cassels thinks the RCMP and other police organizations need prohibit that type of use of force entirely.

He also thinks that having national standards for police training would prevent incidents like this one from happening, he said. Currently, the way police are trained across the country is too inconsistent and some officers are training to use more aggressive techniques than others, he said. 

Police services across North America have been under intense scrutiny in the last year since since a Minneapolis officer murdered George Floyd in May 2020 by kneeling on his neck for up to nine and half minutes as he struggled to breathe. 

Floyd's death sparked global Black Lives Matter protests and calls for racial equality and an end to police violence, with many even calling for police services to be defunded. 

 

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said the incident happened in April 2019.
    Aug 12, 2021 6:23 PM CT

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