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Monday, March 23, 2009

B.C. Mountie has history of disciplinary, Taser problems

March 23, 2009
By Chad Skelton, Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER — B.C. RCMP Sgt. Russell Hannibal, acquitted last year of excessive force after using his Taser twice in two days, has been disciplined four previous times by the force, The Vancouver Sun has learned.

Hannibal's misconduct ranges from lying to a superior about an expense claim to trying to date a 16-year-old whose phone number he obtained while on duty.

Last year, Hannibal was acquitted of assault with a weapon in connection with his use of a Taser against a handcuffed man.

The judge in the case said that while the evidence left her with reasonable doubt that Hannibal used excessive force, she still "completely rejected a lot of his testimony," adding parts of it were "obviously self-serving" and "after-the-fact rationalizations."

The ruling ended a battle that had been winding its way through the courts for six years.

In February 2002, Hannibal was charged in connection with two separate Taser deployments on Aug. 25 and 26, 2001.

In the first case, at the Foggy Dew pub in Port Coquitlam, Hannibal arrested a man who patted his female partner's behind. Then, after the man was already handcuffed, Hannibal Tasered him six times with the weapon in hand-held mode.

The next day, Hannibal used his Taser again, this time against a suicidal man being held down by three other officers.

Hannibal was acquitted of the second case in 2003, but the first took years to work its way through the courts because of legal arguments over delays in the case getting to trial.

Despite Hannibal's acquittal, the RCMP still pursued a disciplinary case against him in a hearing last September.

A copy of that hearing's decision, released in response to a request from the Sun, shows Hannibal received a formal reprimand, not for deploying his Taser, but for using "vulgar, inflammatory" language during his arrest at the pub.

Hannibal also was reprimanded for a separate incident a month earlier in which he told a fellow officer "your ass is mine."

The panel of three senior Mounties hearing Hannibal's case decided to give him a formal reprimand for both incidents.

In coming to its decision, the panel listed Hannibal's four prior disciplinary cases, including:

- Uttering a verbal threat during a confrontation with a member of the public in 1993.

- Using "tactless and oppressive" language during an interaction with a member of the public in 1993.

- Lying to a superior officer in order to get an expense claim approved in 1994.

- Attempting to date a 16-year-old in 2000 whose address and telephone number he obtained during the course of his duties.

Aside from the expense-claim issue — for which Hannibal was formally disciplined and docked three days' pay — the other cases were dealt with informally by the RCMP and did not go to a public hearing.

And in the case of Hannibal's attempt to date a teenager, his only penalty was a reprimand.

RCMP spokesman Sgt. Tim Shields said, because of privacy concerns, he could not provide any details about Hannibal's attempt to date the teen.

Shields also refused to say why the force decided to deal with the matter informally, other than to say Hannibal's commanding officer would have reviewed all the facts in the case before deciding against a formal hearing.

When reached by phone, Hannibal, who is now working in an administrative position at "E" Division headquarters, refused to answer any questions.

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