Officer’s actions ‘unjustified’ but no charges

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The actions of a Brandon police officer accused of assault were “unjustified,” but no criminal charges should be laid, the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba has found.

The IIU began investigating the officer after an incident on March 16 when police responded to a domestic dispute. The woman who called police alleged a responding officer assaulted her.

The encounter was caught on a security camera and the officer’s account didn’t match the footage, says the investigation report released by the IIU on Monday.

“The actions of the subject officer were uncalled [for] and unjustified,” the report says.

However, the criminal justice system might not be the appropriate forum for dealing with the matter,  IIU civilian director Zane Tessler said.

“The paramount consideration is whether it is in the public interest for the criminal justice system to be the appropriate forum to deal with the matter,” the news release says. “Discretion is warranted and no charges will be authorized against the subject officer.”

The Brandon Police Service may wish to determine whether further internal actions are warranted to deal with the officer’s conduct, the news release said.

Incident captured on security camera

A security camera in the hallway of the apartment building captured the encounter between the woman and the officer, although there was no sound.

IIU investigators spoke with the complainant, who said she had called police to make a complaint about domestic violence, the report states.

The complainant alleged the officer yelled at her about her life choices and did not ask questions about the incident. The complainant said she told the officer she was going to record their conversation with her phone, which she had in her hand.

The complainant alleged the officer threw her phone on the ground and pushed her against a door, grabbing her by the jacket.

The complainant said when she tried to walk away, the officer grabbed her and held her in place, the report said.

She was later driven to the Brandon Police Service headquarters by the officer.

IIU investigators also spoke with a resident of the building who overheard the encounter. The report said the resident heard angry voices and said the police officer was “lecturing” the complainant.

According to the report, the security camera footage shows the officer and the complainant talking before the officer grabs a cellphone from the woman’s hand and “forcefully throws it to the floor behind him.”

The report says when the woman attempted to walk past the officer, camera footage shows he puts his hand on her shoulder and pushed her back. The footage also shows the officer grabbing the woman’s sweatshirt.

“He holds her, with a straight right arm, against the jamb of her apartment door,” the report says.

Officer’s statement doesn’t match footage

The IIU said that, through legal counsel, the officer provided a photocopied version of a typed statement that doesn’t match the security camera footage.

The officer’s statement said the complainant pulled out an object and said “I’m going to record this.” The officer said he had no distance for safety and the object could have been a weapon, so he took it from her hand and dropped it to his side, the report states.

Tessler said the security camera showed the phone was forcefully thrown and “there is no mistaking his actions as ‘dropping it.’ ”

The officer said the complainant “lunged towards” him, where the video shows she attempted to walk around him, the report says. The officer’s statement also said the complainant fell to the ground and that’s why he grabbed her sweater, but Tessler said the IIU investigation found that never happened.

“It is evident from the video that [the complainant] was not permitted to leave the hallway on two separate occasions,” the report said.

No criminal charges

In his report, Tessler said people expect their police officers to exercise constraint and control over their emotions.

“The public interest expects peace officers to … maintain an air of professionalism at all times, particularly in dealing with purported victims of crime,” Tessler said.

In determining whether to pursue criminal charges, Tessler said he considered factors including whether the consequences of a conviction would be unduly harsh, the likely effect on respect for the rule of law and whether there were effective alternatives.

“These should be considered in lieu of proceeding with criminal charges,” Tessler wrote in the report.

The woman can still take her complaint to the Law Enforcement Review Agency, the IIU said.

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