P.E.I. RCMP officer cleared of wrongdoing in 2014 arrest
'Although the officer’s actions were justified, he may have been able to proceed in another fashion'
An investigation into an incident in which a mentally-ill P.E.I. woman was injured while being taken into custody has found no wrongdoing on the the part of the RCMP officer, and no charges will be laid.
The investigation was carried out by Nova Scotia's Serious Incident Response Team, or SiRT, which independently investigates all serious incidents which arise from the actions of police in Nova Scotia, as well as occasionally in P.E.I.
SiRT investigated the incident in March 2014, in which a 50-year-old woman suffered a fracture to the top of her right arm while being arrested by an East Prince RCMP officer.
According to the report, the woman's sister called 911 for assistance after her sister's paranoid behaviour became "out of control." The woman left home at night in her pajamas, saying she had been speaking with dead people and that if she remained in the home she would die.
When police located the woman at a house down the rural road, the report said, that according to the officer when he said he was going to take her to the hospital, she told him he had "no right to be there" and threatened to throw her cup of coffee at him.
"At that point Officer 1 slapped the coffee out of [her] hand, and attempted to handcuff her," the report reads. "She resisted, and Officer 1 says she grabbed at his gun. At that point he put her to the floor, and with his knee on her right shoulder was able to handcuff her."
Injury discovered later
Weeks later, it was discovered the woman had suffered a fracture to the top of her right arm during her arrest. A complaint was not made about the incident until the woman's sister contacted the RCMP in Sept. 2015.
"Although the officer's actions were justified, he may have been able to proceed in another fashion," said SiRT Director Ron MacDonald in a written release Wednesday.
"The male and female occupants of the home felt he acted too quickly, and did not take time to build a rapport with the woman before attempting to remove her from the home. Such an approach should always be considered. However, Officer 1 made the decision to act quickly based on the circumstances he found himself in, which included the woman's threat. Quick action in such circumstances is sometimes necessary to prevent a greater escalation of aggressive behaviour," MacDonald concluded.
MacDonald further noted the injury the woman suffered is not uncommon in situations where a person is struggling to avoid being arrested and falls on their shoulder.
"The injury was an accidental result of Officer 1's lawful efforts to take [her] into custody to ensure she was taken for the immediate mental health help she clearly required," he wrote.
Family pleased with report
MacDonald and the investigating officer for SiRT came to the Island last week and met with the complainant and her sister.
"We spent some time with them explaining the investigation and the report," said MacDonald.
"I can say they understood the result, and they were pleased with the way we handled the investigation, and appreciative of the comments in the report, that there are different ways of handling these kinds of situations."
Now, the material gathered during the investigation will be turned over to the RCMP on PEI and will be reviewed to determine if the officer violated the RCMP's code of conduct or whether any other action is required by the RCMP. This could include a review of the way police handle complaints involving those with mental health issues, said MacDonald.
Police on PEI told CBC they hope that review will be done within 90 days. At that point their report will be provided to the complainant and her sister.
Read the full SiRT report here.
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With files from Sally Pitt