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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Probe into tasering of teenaged girl reopened

September 6, 2008
JOE FRIESEN, Globe and Mail

The RCMP have reopened a criminal investigation into the case of an officer accused of tasering a teenage girl while his colleagues held her down inside a police jail cell.

The girl, 16 at the time, filed a complaint with Manitoba RCMP last year and was told in July that an internal investigation had concluded no criminal offence was committed. But a month after the girl went public with her case, the RCMP decided to reopen the investigation, which will now be conducted by a senior investigator from outside the force.

The girl's lawyer, Catherine Dunn, said the only thing that changed in the interim was the prominent coverage her client's case received in the media.

"It was only after making her complaint public that the RCMP took the view that an independent police service should reinvestigate this matter. One would have thought that would be a preliminary decision as opposed to a review decision," Ms. Dunn said.

The RCMP also confirmed to Ms. Dunn that as many as eight officers were in and around her client's cell at the time of the incident. "The number of people involved and the manner in which [the girl] was attacked is suggestive of a group sexual assault as opposed to a detention," Ms. Dunn said, referring to the fact that the tasering was inflicted within inches of her groin area.

The incident occurred in November, 2007, at the RCMP detachment in Selkirk, Man., 35 kilometres north of Winnipeg. The girl, who was arrested as a minor and can't be named, was picked up by police after her parents came home, found the family minivan missing and reported it stolen. The girl was detained (but never charged) and taken to the local detachment.

Police told her that since she was intoxicated she would have to be held overnight. The girl admits she resisted officers when they attempted to put her in a cell, holding onto her chair and fighting back as they dragged her away.

The officers removed items of her clothing, including her bra, and threw her into the cell, the girl said. She hit out at the last officer as he left the cell, striking him in the back, at which point he called the others back in, the girl said.

She believes four officers held her down, one on each limb, while a taser was used against her. The weapon struck her three times in the leg and groin area, and left her screaming in pain, she said. She still suffers irregular shooting pains in her legs and sees a psychologist to help her deal with the emotional trauma.

Her mother wants to know why the officers didn't simply walk away and leave her daughter in the locked cell. She said she believes her daughter's rough treatment was exacerbated because she is aboriginal.

The RCMP said in a letter to the girl's mother that the investigation will be conducted by a senior investigator with the Calgary police service, and is expected to take two to three weeks.

The girl has been allowed to receive third-party feedback during the investigation, which means she has appointed someone to act on her behalf from the Manitoba M├ętis Federation who will receive daily e-mails or updates from police on the progress of the investigation. But the third party will not be allowed to review videotaped interviews and the video surveillance footage of the girl's cell at the time of the incident.

"This decision in and of itself continues to show that the RCMP do have something to hide with respect to this incident and their investigation," Ms. Dunn said.

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