RCMP had no grounds to use Taser on N.W.T. girl: report - Police force also accused of protecting officer
December 11, 2009
An RCMP officer in Inuvik, N.W.T., was not justified in jolting a teenage girl with a Taser stun gun in 2007, a federal police watchdog agency has concluded.
Furthermore, the Inuvik RCMP detachment appears to have tried to cover up what happened, according to a final report released Friday by the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.
"The manner in which the RCMP handled this matter was at best negligent and at worst biased," commission chairman Paul Kennedy wrote in his report, which was in response to a complaint filed by the girl's mother.
It's Kennedy's second damning report this week on the RCMP's use of Tasers. On Tuesday, he reported on the October 2007 death of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport. making 16 recommendations that were highly critical of the actions of the four officers involved and the RCMP's followup investigation.
In Inuvik, two RCMP probes cleared the officer of any wrongdoing. A similar investigation by the N.W.T. Justice Department also cleared corrections officials who were involved in the incident.
Handcuffed, held down
The girl, whom Kennedy identified as "Miss X" in his report, was a 15-year-old inmate at the Arctic Tern Young Offenders Facility in Inuvik when on March 13, 2007, she was subdued with an RCMP Taser while she was handcuffed and held face-down on the floor by jail staff.
Miss X cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, as she was a minor at the time.
Kennedy said the officer who used the 50,000-volt stun gun, Const. Noella Cockney, had been called to the youth facility by staff who said the girl was not co-operating with their orders to go into a segregated area.
After Cockney gave Miss X several warnings, the girl swore at her and told her to go ahead and use the weapon. The officer "deployed the Taser for a full five-second cycle, causing Miss X to co-operate," Kennedy wrote.
2 versions of report
Cockney filed a report afterward, but it was undated and printed nine months later. Kennedy said that report did not provide any detail on what Miss X was doing to justify using the Taser.
Cockney was not certified to use a Taser at the time, as her qualifications had expired, Kennedy found.
In November 2008 — as Kennedy was launching his own investigation of the Arctic Tern incident — a second version of Cockney's report was produced with "substantive amendments" portraying the girl as "combative."
That RCMP report stated the girl "was pulling and kicking, trying to get up or away from the workers" and she "became more aggitated [sic] and was swearing and pulling harder at the workers to let go."
Kennedy said that portrayal of Miss X's behaviour was quite different from what he had heard from the youth workers who were there.
Inuvik RCMP officials told Kennedy they told Cockney her original report had "insufficient detail" and asked her to articulate better what happened.
Kennedy concluded that the girl was in no position to harm anyone.
Resolved complaint improperly
He also ruled that the Inuvik RCMP detachment tried to resolve the girl's mother's complaint informally, which Kennedy said is an improper practice in response to allegations of improper use of force.
"The RCMP's handling of Miss X's mother's complaint was deficient in its management, timeliness and the adequacy of the investigation, such that it leads to a strong perception of bias," Kennedy stated.
"Moreover, attempts to informally resolve the complaint, and the failure to properly document it, were contrary to RCMP policy."
Kennedy's report makes 14 recommendations, ranging from additional procedural training for the Inuvik RCMP officers to broader policy changes for the national police force.
"This public interest investigation revealed that many of the identified deficiencies paralleled the systemic concerns addressed in broad-scale analyses of RCMP processes, policies and conduct," Kennedy said in a release Friday.
"In fact, this incident is a compelling case which ought to cause the RCMP itself to be concerned and take action."
The RCMP has had Kennedy's report for almost three months, but it has yet to respond.
The commission is an independent, civilian-run agency created by Parliament to make sure complaints made by the public about RCMP members' conduct are examined fairly and impartially.
Kennedy's term at the commission ends on Dec. 31 and the Conservative government has said he will not be reappointed.