Officer used excessive force

A TERRACE RCMP officer is awaiting discipline for using excessive force against one person and whether or not he’ll be found to have used excessive force against a second person.

Both circumstances stem from high-profile arrests made of two men in two separate cases last year in which injuries were suffered by  both.

“The officer is the same officer in both cases and is currently suspended from duty with pay,” said RCMP Inspector Dana Hart, the officer in charge of the local RCMP detachment, about the officer who is so far unidentified.

Members of the RCMP are subject to discipline under the RCMP Act if found to have violated the force’s code of conduct.

In both circumstances, the officer was investigated under Section 39(1) of RCMP regulations stating, in part “a member shall not engage in any disgraceful or disorderly act or conduct that could bring discredit on the Force.”

The finding of excessive force against the officer relates to the May 2012 arrest of William Watts, then 37, who initially called police to report a woman breaching her conditions to not consume alcohol.

Police at the time said after the woman was arrested at a residence on Davis Ave., Watts became agitated and aggressive toward others, including children at the residence.

Officers then arrested Watts, describing his behaviour as aggressive and non-compliant, and that he was going to spit in the face of an officer.

Officers said they then placed a spit hood over his face, a covering which prevents people from spitting at others.

The BC Civil Liberties Association later demanded an investigation, saying Watts “received multiple head injuries and alleges he was punched after he was handcuffed, subjected to racial taunts, and had his head put in a bag by police.”

Watts filed a complaint which RCMP then investigated.

“In the Mr. Watts matter, the code of conduct [investigation] was initiated as a result of information that came to light during the public complaint investigation, in which Mr. Watts was a full participant,” said Hart.

One officer was found to have been in contravention of one section of the RCMP Code of Conduct, he added.

“Discipline is to be determined and ranges from a reprimand to dismissal,” he said.

Hart is still determining his next steps in the second situation in which Robert Wright was arrested in April 2012 after police received a report of a possible impaired driver.

While in police custody, Wright, then 47, was injured and after being taken to local hospital three times during the night, was taken to the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster for intensive treatment.

During that time, Wright suffered a brain injury and now requires full-time care.

Because of the circumstances of the incident, Hart asked that an independent investigation be done.

Video taken from a camera inside a police vehicle and  cell block video was  among the material handed over to the investigators from the New Westminster Police Department.

“Regarding the Wright matter, a code of conduct investigation has been completed, including the report to crown counsel completed by the New Westminster Police (provided to the RCMP),” said Hart.

“As the decision maker, I am reviewing the 8,000+ pages of documents and recordings,” said Hart, who will decide if the officer violated the code of conduct and will be disciplined.

As the officer deals with both code of conduct situations, he is also waiting to hear if he will face criminal charges in relation to the Watts incident.

A report to provincial Crown Counsel lawyers was sent by police last October and a decision has yet to be made.

In the Wright case, provincial lawyers did decide that charges would not be laid against any RCMP officer involved with him on the night he was arrested.

The lawyers determined it could not be proven that the level of force used against Wright was either unnecessary or excessive and that there was no substantial likelihood of a conviction.

And although RCMP officers did recommend Wright himself face criminal charges, including impaired driving and obstructing a peace officer, crown lawyers did not agree.

They said because of his injuries and because of the level of force used by police officers, his Charter rights were affected and that there was no substantial likelihood of conviction.

A charge recommendation of assaulting a peace officer made by police officers concerning Watts was approved by provincial lawyers and that case is currently making its way through the courts.

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