Iqaluit RCMP member gets suspended sentence for beating prisoners

Criminal record may jeopardize policing job


An RCMP member who assaulted two prisoners has received a suspended sentence and one year’s probation, which means he will now carry a criminal record.

Cst. Kipanek Eegeesiak attacked Meelia Braun and Andrew Evic, both arrested that evening for public intoxication, on May 16, 2009.

Both men had committed criminal acts against members of Eegeesiak’s family in the past.

Eegeesiak didn’t really face the immediate possibility of jail time, since the Crown had asked for a suspended sentence with release conditions, which is what the court imposed.

The defence has asked for a conditional discharge, which would have involved probation, but not a criminal record.

Eegeesiak’s conditions of release include keeping the peace, reporting to a probation officer, continue psychological counselling and to apologize to his victims.

If he breaches those conditions, his probation can be revoked and he could face jail time.

Andrew Evic died two weeks ago, from completely unrelated causes, Eegeesiak’s lawyer, Andrew Mahar, told the court.

Justice Ronald Veale didn’t ban Eegeesiak from using firearms.

The commanding officer of Nunavut’s RCMP V Division, Chief Superintendent Steve McVarnock, said Eegeesiak still needs to face an adjudication board hearing to decide whether if the RCMP should discipline Eegeesiak any further.

McVarnock suspended Eegeesiak with pay in late February 2010.

Eegeesiak had been on desk duty since the incident until then, unable to earn overtime hours.

McVarnock said the adjudication board can fire Eegeesiak, demote him or suspend him for up to 10 days without pay.

McVarnock could not say when the board might convene because of the logistics of assembling the three qualified members it requires. Some such processes have taken up to two years.

In the meantime, the RCMP’s human resources personnel will review Eegeesiak’s suspension and decide if he should return to duty until his adjudication hearing.

If so, he’ll still serve in an administrative role, away from the public.

That decision should happen “very soon,” McVarnock said, though he avoided making an estimate as to how soon that might be.

In pronouncing sentence, Veale pointed out that when a police officer assaults a prisoner, the prisoner is in a very vulnerable position because the prisoner can be charged with a criminal offence if he fights back or runs away.

As such, the court needs to send a message to other cops that police brutatity will not be tolerated, Veale said.

“I have no doubt that both men were traumatized by their treatment in RCMP cells,” Veale said.

On the other hand, Veale said that Eegeesiak’s attacks were on people he knew personally,and were not part of the stranger-to-stranger interactions that constitute most police officers’ work with people in custody.

He also noted Eegeesiak’s “exceptional” record of RCMP employment, and that Eegeesiak had shown immediate remorse for his actions and pleaded guilty as soon as possible.

Eegeesiak is the third Nunavut RCMP officer who resolved their criminal charges in the last two months.

Cst. Eric Ootoovak has been on leave in Pond Inlet ever since he pleaded guilty to two counts of assault. Ootoovak received a conditional discharge for those offences

Another member was acquitted of a charge of indecent act on June 23. His name cannot be published because of a publication ban.

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