With tensions 'ramping up' between community, police following arrests, RCMP host town hall in La Loche
Man alleges he was thrown to ground during arrest and later learned his collarbone, pelvis were broken
Tensions between police and community members are expected to come up at a town hall meeting Wednesday night in La Loche, after a man said he suffered a broken collarbone and pelvis following an arrest.
Unease and concerns about police interactions have been "ramping up" after a series of incidents that took place over the April 27-28 weekend, according to Robert St. Pierre, mayor of the Saskatchewan village about 430 kilometres northwest of Prince Albert.
"There's been some questioning on the way that they've been conducting their business," he said.
Ryan Janvier says he was arrested on April 27. Although they did not identify him in their news release, police said a La Loche man was arrested on April 27 for illegal consumption of alcohol and being intoxicated in a public place.
"They stopped and told me to spill my drink," Janvier said. "And so I did."
While the police news release said the man resisted arrest, Janvier disputes that claim.
He said he was thrown to the ground during his arrest and blacked out, waking up hours later in a jail cell, where he began complaining of pain. He said he was later taken to a Saskatoon hospital, and was found to have a fractured collarbone and pelvis.
Janvier has since given his account to the Estevan Police Service, which La Loche RCMP have asked to investigate the incident independently. The justice ministry has also appointed an independent observer.
"I want to know everything that actually happened from where it began to when they took me to the cell, the drunk tank. That's what I want to remember," Janvier said.
His arrest took place along with two other contentious incidents in La Loche over the same weekend, both of which were filmed by bystanders.
Chester Herman, a 48-year-old resident of La Loche, filmed the arrest on April 28 of a woman police have said was intoxicated — an arrest during which he alleges officers used excessive force.
"I heard them say 'Spill your beer.' I thought that was it," he said. He turned away for what he said seemed like just a few moments.
"I look back, and I see the woman being wrestled to the ground. It wasn't even halfway through the arrest."
Police have said the woman in that incident was also resisting arrest, and say the video is misleading because it does not show the full interaction.
Police also said that during the arrest, "a large group of people surrounded police and began to interfere with the arrest attempt."
According to RCMP statistics, there have been 35 charges of an assault on a police officer in the last six months in La Loche, while there have been 53 charges of resisting arrest in the same time period. Resisting arrest can include physical resistance, or non-violent responses like giving a false name, running away or hiding, according to RCMP.
Herman said he questions why there has been a police focus on people drinking in public.
"So what if they're drunk or drinking constantly? They're not doing any harm," he said. "But the people that are doing harm are the people selling crack cocaine."
Drugs are flowing into the community, Herman said, and they seem to be leading to more violence than he recalls ever seeing in La Loche.
"Creating employment is the biggest thing mayor and council should be worrying about, instead of people drinking downtown," he said.
St. Pierre said the council wants to see drug use addressed, and police have been conducting more drug busts in response to these requests.
Police are hosting a town forum in La Loche Wednesday night, and RCMP Staff Sgt. Conrad Logan said he fully expects to hear from concerned community members about policing responses.
He said he's committed to answering those questions as best he can, without talking about the ongoing investigation into Janvier's arrest.
"Every place I have worked at, if you have good relationships with the community members and your elected officials, and you communicate with them, you're going to be successful when it comes to delivering a policing service," he said.
Struggles with drugs and alcohol are not unique to La Loche, but police are aiming to work with the local community and health district to help people climb out of addictions and toward a better lifestyle, he said.
"With the relationships we build within the community, that's where it starts."