Force used by a Nunavut RCMP officer who struck a Kinngait man with the door of a moving patrol truck during an arrest in June was “unintentional,” according to the Ottawa Police Service.
The service leads what it calls “independent external investigations” into the actions of Nunavut RCMP officers when they are involved in a major incident, such as an injury or death, upon request.
“The investigation has determined that the RCMP officer driving the vehicle did not intentionally strike the community member with the vehicle door,” Ottawa police said in a Dec. 1 release announcing its review of the arrest is concluded.
“The vehicle came to a sliding stop on a snow and ice covered track, the driver’s front tire went off the track, the vehicle dipped forward and the opened driver’s door swung forward and struck the community member.”.
A video of that arrest taken by a bystander spurred the review, along with widespread public alarm.
Nunavut’s Justice Minister Jeannie Ehaloak called the arrest “violent and unacceptable,” and Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said it was a “disgraceful, dehumanizing and violent act.”
Chief Supt. Amanda Jones, the commanding officer of Nunavut’s RCMP’s V Division, said it was “behaviour that we do not condone,” and the officer was removed from the community to an administrative position.
The young man, who was intoxicated at the time, was also allegedly attacked while in police cells by another inmate.
“I’m not happy with what happened to me at the hands of the police,” the 22-year-old, who required medical care, told CBC News. He wanted to see the officers charged.
Ottawa police call arrest ‘lawful’
But now the Ottawa police report says the arrest doesn’t meet the “threshold” for a criminal assault.
Two investigators watched the video, went to the scene, examined the police truck involved and interviewed five RCMP members and nine community members, RCMP said.
“Investigators also deemed that there was no evidence of dangerous operation of a conveyance or criminal negligence and further concluded that the arrest was lawful,” the release said.
Nunavut RCMP were informed of the review’s conclusion on Nov. 26. The division says it can’t comment on the results of the Ottawa Police Service report, because an internal RCMP review of the arrest is still underway, as well as an independent review by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP.
“Comment will be reserved to preserve the integrity” of those investigations, a Dec. 1 release from Nunavut’s RCMP V Division said.
The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission announced its review in August, after its chairperson, Michelaine Lahaie, initiated a complaint.
The commission said it will look at any racial bias and circumstances that led the man to be placed in a cell where another detainee allegedly assaulted him.
“I am aware that there is historical distrust by Inuit toward the police and I am committed to increasing RCMP accountability,” she said at the time.
Since coming to the role of Nunavut’s chief superintendent in January of last year, Jones has spoken in favour of civilian oversight of the RCMP, saying it would build trust in communities.
Legislation before Nunavut’s assembly now is looking to amend the territory’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, to allow for civilian review of police involved incidents in Nunavut.
In October, RCMP announced a pilot project to have some of its officers in the territory wear body cameras, starting with police in Iqaluit. Members began using those cameras on Nov. 30.
Jones has said the cameras “will help strengthen accountability and public trust of the RCMP in the community.”