Manitoba·CBC Investigates

Winnipeg police officer under investigation for conduct in videos has history of complaints

A Winnipeg police officer under investigation after two videos of him went viral has a history of complaints about his conduct, including a 2018 incident where he was accused of verbally abusing a newcomer soccer team.

One video showed Patrol Sgt. Kevin Smith ticketing a driver after being questioned about not wearing a mask

Patrol Sgt. Kevin Smith, who is shown here in a still from a 2019 video that recently surfaced, faced an internal complaint after allegedly threatening a girls' soccer team in 2018. (Submitted by Trisha Fletcher)

A Winnipeg police officer under investigation after two videos of him went viral has a history of complaints about his conduct, including a 2018 incident where he was accused of verbally abusing a newcomer soccer team.

Patrol Sgt. Kevin Smith has faced at least one Law Enforcement Review Agency complaint, and was also involved in a case where a man was awarded $13,500, after he filed a lawsuit saying Smith illegally searched his bag and another officer assaulted him during a traffic stop.

The 2018 soccer game allegation comes from a complaint filed by the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba against Smith, stating that as assistant coach of a girls' soccer team, he used his position as a police officer to threaten IRCOM's coach and players.

The complaint to the Winnipeg Youth Soccer Association alleges Smith yelled, "I am a Winnipeg police officer, you should watch out buddy, you and your girls," to the Ethiopian-born IRCOM coach, after a locker-room disagreement broke out between the two under-18 teams. 

"That incident was so deeply divisive that it was clear that it had caused immediate harm.… [Smith's] comments were obviously made and the occupation was used or declared in a way that was meant to be intimidating and threatening," said Dorota Blumczyńska, IRCOM's executive director. 

"It was a gross breach of trust within a community that is supposed to celebrate talent and sportsmanship."

IRCOM executive director Dorota Blumczyńska said Smith used his position as a police officer to threaten the organization's soccer team. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

IRCOM filed a complaint with the association, stressing the impact a police officer's threat can have on refugees. 

"When a self-identified Winnipeg police officer threatens our youth, having access to their legal names on the game sheet, it is deeply troubling," said IRCOM's complaint with the Winnipeg Youth Soccer Association.

"We fear that his threat, if acted upon, could result in a youth being targeted by police, risking their status and ability to stay in Canada."

Police investigating after video made public

The news of the 2018 complaint comes after two videos featuring Smith made international headlines and sparked an internal investigation by Winnipeg police.

The first incident happened last week, when Smith pulled over a car for not moving to a farther lane when passing a stopped emergency vehicle.

WATCH | Driver ticketed after passenger asks officer why he isn't wearing a mask:

RAW: Driver ticketed after passenger asks officer why he wasn't wearing a mask

CBC News Manitoba

3 months ago
0:41
Cellphone video shows a Winnipeg police officer issuing a driver a traffic ticket after the passenger in the vehicle asked the officer why he wasn't wearing a mask, which is a current requirement by the police force. 0:41

Smith ticketed the driver, but only after a passenger in the car filming the encounter asked why he wasn't wearing a face mask, in spite of his close proximity to the driver.

The second video, shot in 2019 and posted last week, shows an intense argument between Smith and a man from Peguis First Nation.

Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth said both videos, and any other information that is brought forward, will be part of the Professional Standards Unit's investigation. 

WATCH | Confrontation between Patrol Sgt. Kevin Smith and individual caught on video: 

Patrol Sgt. Kevin Smith threatens to arrest man

CBC News Manitoba

2 months ago
0:55
Patrol Sgt. Kevin Smith tells Stephen Stranger that he is going arrest him after Stranger asks Smith why he was looking in his truck. 0:55

Blumczyńska could not remember if IRCOM ever spoke to police about the soccer incident and a spokesperson for the Winnipeg Police Service could not find any record of the incident.

"Our door is always open to working with community groups," Winnipeg police spokesperson Const. Jay Murray said in a written statement. "We have met with the IRCOM in the past, and we are prepared to meet with them again in the future should they wish."

The IRCOM coach didn't see what happened in the locker room, but the complaint said he was approached by Smith and the other team's coach.

Jim Hounslow, an eyewitness to the soccer incident, said when he saw the video last week of Smith handing out a ticket to the driver, he knew right away who it was. 

"I wasn't surprised. Based on my two incidents with Kevin Smith, he's hostile and he's aggressive. He's intimidating. He's a bully. All of that comes across in that video," said Hounslow. 

When he saw the other coach screaming at IRCOM's coach, Hounslow says he stepped in to intervene. 

"And then a second person jumped in and was in my face screaming and yelling, demanding to know who I was," he said.

"He was really angry and very physical, physically threatening and intimidating. And that was Kevin Smith."

Because of the seriousness of the complaint, it went to a hearing and Hounslow said both Smith and his team's coach were suspended for a few games. 

As part of the soccer association's investigation, Smith submitted a statement that said the IRCOM team was threatening his team, who had to lock their dressing room door to stop the IRCOM team from rushing in.

2004 LERA complaint

There are no statistics released to show how many Law Enforcement Review Agency complaints an officer has received, but CBC has learned that at least one individual filed a complaint with LERA in 2004 about Smith.

The review agency is an independent body that investigates complaints made by the public about police conduct. 

Alex Reid told CBC News that because of his time as an executive assistant at city hall, he knew enough to complain to LERA when he had confrontation with Smith, following a joke Reid made about Smith's parking job. 

Reid saw the video of Smith ticketing the driver, and "the moment I heard his voice, I knew it was him," he said.

"I thought, 'Oh boy, I knew this was going to happen eventually.'"

Reid said he was held for almost an hour by Smith, who chased him down after he insulted the officer's parking job because his patrol car was blocking the entrance to his home.

Alex Reid says he filed a Law Enforcement Review Agency complaint against Kevin Smith in 2004. (Zoom)

Smith was aggressive and ordered him into his home to get his identification, Reid said.

When he used the time to call a lawyer friend and kept him on the line when he walked out, Smith got angry, hung up the cordless phone and said he was going to write up a ticket.

Reid said he was given a "bogus ticket" for failing to signal right when meeting a moving vehicle. He documented the entire incident in a blog that was later deleted, but can still be found through archival searches

"He was acting aggressive and his face was red and I had several times asked him to calm down … because he was constantly escalating, escalating," Reid said. "And I just thought, what's wrong with this guy?"

He said the ticket was thrown out after he fought it in court.

He filed a LERA complaint. Five years later, he called the agency to follow up, and was told it was determined that Smith wasn't guilty of any offence and the case had been closed.

Named in lawsuit

Smith was also named in a 2016 lawsuit involving a Winnipeg man who alleged he was assaulted and his bag was illegally searched during a routine traffic stop.

Rahim Dostmohamed alleged the officers unlawfully searched his bag and slammed his face into the side of his car, causing him to bleed from his nose and mouth for days, when he was pulled from his vehicle in January 2015.

The suit alleged that a different officer assaulted Dostmohamed, while Smith searched his bag without justification, breaching his Charter rights.

Dostmohamed was pulled over in 2015 after he went through an intersection without stopping.

Manitoba Justice Lori T. Spivak found Dostmohamed's account was more consistent and credible than those of the officers, and awarded him $13,500 in damages.

About the Author

Kristin Annable is a member of CBC's investigative unit based in Winnipeg. She can be reached at kristin.annable@cbc.ca

now