North

Mounties used excessive force: report

The Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP has found that two Nunavut police officers used "intolerable force" when arresting a man in Pangnirtung three years ago, and is recommending disciplinary action against them.

The Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP has found that two Nunavut police officers used "intolerable force" when arresting a man in Pangnirtung three years ago, and is recommending disciplinary action against them.

Constables Richard White and Shawn Devine unlawfully arrested and detained Darryl Qaqasiq without a warrant, the commission found in a report received by the family this week. It said that they used a choke hold against the man that is banned by the RCMP… and another type that is only supposed to be used in life-threatening situations.

Excerpts
"The matter cannot end here, however, given the shocking methods displayed by these officers. It is evident that both officers are responsible for the unacceptable force that was used against Mr. Qaqasiq."

"I note that there are no restraint holds currently authorized or taught, including the carotid control hold, which involve the officer placing his/her hand around a subject's throat."

"The use of a "Choke Hold" was banned by the RCMP in 1979 due to its dangerousness and is therefore an unauthorized hold. The only authorized hold, which can render an individual unconscious is the carotid control hold. The RCMP has recognized the inherent dangers of this hold by restricting its use in policy, which clearly states that the carotid control hold can only be applied in a life-threatening situation. I note that at no time during the arrest was a person's life threatened which would justify the use of that chokehold."

On the internal investigation: "I have made numerous findings over the past number of years with respect to members' inappropriate and unauthorized uses of neck restraints and I remain concerned about the failure to appropriately address these allegations during the public complaint investigation and the letter of disposition."

"Based on the evidence, I find that Constables White and Devine affected an arrest of Mr. Darryl Qaqasiq at his home on the basis that he was belligerent and would not speak to them," says the report, signed off by commission chair Shirley Heafey.

"In short, the officers had no grounds to effect a warrantless arrest of Mr. Qaqasiq at his home. Therefore, any force used against him during his unlawful arrest and detention was improper."

The report also found that the officers acted improperly by removing Qaqasiq from his home in February 2003 without shoes, shirt or a jacket in -50C weather. Pangnirtung is a hamlet on the coast of Baffin Island 300 kilometres north of Iqaluit.

The police had initially come to the Qaqasiq home to investigate death threats that had been made to his former girlfriend.

After the RCMP investigated and found no wrongdoing on the part of its officers, Qaqasiq's mother Leesee went to the complaints commission, a federal agency independent from police.

The report questions why the RCMP found no wrongdoing.

"It is equally disconcerting that both the RCMP's public complaint investigator and the RCMP's letter of disposition condoned the use of a banned neck/choke hold and an unauthorized carotid control hold, respectively," says the commission's report.

Leesee Qaqasiq says it took time, but she now feels that her family's ordeal has finally been recognized.

"I would just encourage those who do have something happen to them to file complaints because this is the only way we have a voice, there's no other way," she says.

The commission is recommending that Constables White and Devine, who are no longer stationed in the territory, apologize to the Qaqasiq family for their disreputable conduct. It also recommends that the RCMP consider disciplinary action against the two, along with some refresher training.

"I am concerned about the effect of this disgraceful incident has had on the Qaqasiq family, including the Qaqasiqs' young grandson (six years old at the time)," says Heafey's commission report. "The RCMP should make efforts through community outreach to re-establish this family's confidence in the RCMP."

Darryl Qaqasiq was acquitted on all the charges that led to his arrest after the trial judge ruled he had been unlawfully arrested. The family has filed a $4-million lawsuit against the two constables and the Attorney General of Canada because of the incident.

The family is waiting for a court date to be set.

The RCMP says it will have a comment on the commission's report Thursday.

(with notes from Patricia Bell)

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