Nova Scotia

Police uttered racial slurs, Digby men claim

A clash between off-duty police officers and two young men in Digby has led to accusations of racism and brutality against the RCMP.

A clash between off-duty police officers and two young men in Digby, N.S., has led to accusations of racism and brutality against the RCMP.

The fight took place on June 22 outside a bar in Digby's downtown.

Nathaniel Fells, 19, said someone yelled out a racial slur when he and a friend walked by a black van filled with off-duty police and RCMP officers from Halifax and central Nova Scotia, who were in town for a charity event.

"This guy is leaning on the door," Fells told CBC News. "He's leaning pretty comfortably, it seems, and we're walking by and I lift my head for a second … and he says, 'What are you looking, at n------.'"

Fells said other officers stepped out of the van and began addressing racial slurs to both of them, and then his friend, William Drummond, knocked one of them unconscious with a single punch.

Drummond, 20, said he thought it was a fair fight until on-duty RCMP officers stepped in and used a stun gun on him.

"I thought they are not supposed to use the Tasers unless their life feels in jeopardy," Drummond said. "I guess nobody's life was really in jeopardy. Not an officer's life."

Drummond was arrested. The off-duty police officers were escorted away from the downtown area by RCMP.

The officer who was punched was a member of the Halifax Regional Police force, who was a victim of an assault and did nothing inappropriate, said a spokesman for the Halifax police.

Staff Sgt. Phil Barrett, the commander of the Digby RCMP detachment, said his officers were on the scene that night because of a problem with fights breaking out as bars shut down for the night.

He said he also advised the visiting police officers to avoid this particular bar.

The accusations of racism and police brutality come five months after Nova Scotia's top Mountie travelled to Digby to apologize for sexist and racist remarks made by a former detachment commander.

Barrett has called in the major crimes division to investigate.

"I'm worried about the integrity of my detachment and my ability to walk downtown and meet the public of Digby County," he said.

"I want to give the highest possible service that I can and I want to know that the investigation has been completed by experienced professionals, and I want it to be an unbiased and impartial investigation, which is what I expect."

Barrett said the investigation could lead to charges against the off-duty officers or discipline for his own, or it could find no fault at all.

Members of the black community, who are planning a protest, say this incident shows there are still serious problems between the RCMP and their community.