B.C.’s police watchdog has found a Surrey RCMP officer’s use of force on a female detainee “justified,” but there are “significant concerns” that nothing was done about her injuries for several hours afterward.
The chief civilian director Ronald MacDonald of the Independent Investigations Office of BC released his decision on Friday (Sept. 4). The IIO first announced on Jan. 21 that it would be investigating.
The incident, according to the IIO, happened around 9 p.m. on Jan. 10, 2020 when Surrey RCMP officers responded an alleged domestic assault.
The report adds the alleged suspect was arrested and taken into custody, where she was taken to hospital the following morning and “found to have broken ribs and a punctured lung.”
According to the report, the female told IIO investigators that on Jan. 10, she had an argument with her father “and acknowledged throwing a table and a vacuum cleaner,” as well as “acting out” and “hitting a female officer” who also attended the incident.
She said a male officer told her she was “under arrest and ‘slammed’ her to the ground and ‘pounded’ on her, breaking her ribs,” reads the report. She told IIO she was “either in cuffs, or an officer was holding her hands,” when she was allegedly “slammed” by the officer.
A witness officer said the injured father told the officer “he just wanted the officers to get (the female) out of the house.”
MacDonald noted the officer said she then went to speak to the daughter, who was with the other officer. She said she told the female she wouldn’t be arrested, but had to leave the home and go elsewhere.
The report notes the daughter became “‘heated,’ standing up aggressively and saying she had nowhere to go.”
The witness officer said the female then said, “I’m going to f—cking leave,” and tried to walk away when the other officer said “No, calm down, you’re under arrest right now” and grabbed the female’s hand to arrest her.
The witness officer alleges the female “pulled free and slapped or scratched” her face and was then taken down by the subject officer, where the female “hit a dresser on the way down.”
The female, who was “flailing around, just going absolutely bonkers,” then allegedly starting kicking both officers, according to the witness officer, who then got on her legs while the suspect officer had his knee on her shoulder while they handcuffed her.
During the handcuffing, the officer told IIO the suspect officer “deployed ‘one or two’ closed-fist punches” to the female’s “shoulder or rib area for pain compliance” because she was “actively resisting, kicking and flailing.”
The witness officer said more officers were called and “to bring ‘cord cuff’” so the female’s ankles could also be “cuffed and linked to the handcuffs on her wrists.”
According to the report, she was then taken in where she said she was made to stand up for “ten minutes” while being fingerprinted, and asked for a wheelchair, but was told the detachment didn’t have any.
However, MacDonald’s report states video shows the female was “taken from the police vehicle directly into a cell in a wheelchair,” where she was searched and the witness officer noticed she had “a scratch with a drop of blood on her right ribs.”
It adds that she was “then left without receiving any care or attention until the following morning.”
MacDonald said the Prisoner Check Sheet included several notes throughout the night, such as the female “moaning” and an “ambulance called” at 10:12 a.m. after a jail nurse checked on her.
She was found to have three broken ribs and a punctured lung on her left side, reads the report, as well as “soft tissue injuries in a number of locations.”
MacDonald said through evidence, “no medical assistance was made available” for about 12 hours.
Through a memorandum of understanding between the IIO and BC Police Agencies, officers who are subject to an investigation “are not compelled to submit their notes, reports and data.”
MacDonald said the subject officer, who allegedly injured the female, “did not provide any account to the IIO.”
In his conclusion, MacDonald said it appears the female was “resistant” to leave the home.
He said “there were certainly sufficient grounds” to arrest and take her into custody for allegedly assaulting her father, as well as for allegedly hitting the officer in the face.
“That act on (her) part may have been partly accidental, but it clearly prompted an immediate escalation.”
MacDonald said her “non-cooperation and aggressive behaviour … justified the use of force to control her and place her in handcuffs.”
He added the subject officer’s “blows to her shoulder or back,” while trying to handcuff her, “is within a reasonable range of options available to the officer.”
Once she was in handcuffs, MacDonald said “there is no reliable evidence that any further significant force was used against her.” He noted that allegations by both the female and her father are “inconsistent.”
MacDonald said the evidence “supports” that the subject officer’s “punches were intended to obtain compliance” to handcuff her.
He said he doesn’t consider any “reasonable grounds to believe that an officer may have committed an offence.”
However, MacDonald added there are “significant concerns” that the officer in charge was made aware of the female’s injuries when she was brought in, “yet nothing whatsoever was done to help her or get medical attention for her until quite late the following morning.”
While his concerns are not a criminal offence, he said they do fall within the jurisdiction of the Civilian Review and Complaint Commission for the RCMP.
He said it will be passed on to the commission “for their consideration.”