Nunavut RCMP officer removed from community after video of arrest posted online
Video appears to show Kinngait officer knocking down man with vehicle door
An RCMP officer in Kinngait is under investigation after a video circulated online that appears to show the officer knocking a man down with the open door of his vehicle.
The officer in question has been removed from the South Baffin community of about 1,400, which recently changed its name from Cape Dorset, and “placed on administrative duties,” an RCMP news release said.
“This morning, the commanding officer of the V Division RCMP, Chief Superintendent Amanda Jones became aware of the video after it was posted on social media. The contents of the video gave rise to the concern of the actions of the officer in conducting the arrest,” the release states.
The RCMP has ordered an independent external investigation into the incident, as well as an internal investigation. When asked by Nunatsiaq News who will conduct the external investigation, the RCMP did not immediately respond.
The RCMP said they were notified around 11:30 p.m. on June 1 about “an intoxicated male who was reported to be fighting with others.”
The video, posted on Facebook by a Kinngait resident after midnight, shows a man dressed in a dark jacket and dark pants lying down on the side of the road.
Soon after the video starts, the man gets up and starts walking towards the road, clearly stumbling. He steps through a puddle when an RCMP truck pulls up, flashing its lights. The truck pulls over to where the man is stumbling, and the officer driving the truck opens the driver’s side door, while the truck is still moving, knocking the man to the ground.
The officer then gets out of the truck, with the door still open, and begins handcuffing the man. Four other officers also enter the scene. The man is arrested and put in the truck. Residents can be heard yelling in the background of the video.
The man was checked over by medical staff while in cells, the release said. No information has been released on the condition of his health following the incident.
The man who was arrested has not been identified by police.
“The RCMP takes the conduct of our officers seriously and want to assure the public we have confidence in the process of the external investigation to determine the circumstances of the event and whether criminal charges should be sworn against the officer. As the matter is now subject of an external criminal investigation and an internal conduct investigation, we cannot comment any further at this time,” Cpl. Jamie Savikataaq, the Nunavut RCMP’s media liaison, said in the release.
Justice minister, Legal Aid Nunavut, South Baffin MLA respond
This is the sixth incident in Nunavut involving the RCMP under external investigation since Jan. 1.
Three of those incidents were police-involved shootings: first in Kinngait in February, then in Apex in April and most recently in Clyde River. Another incident took place in Iqaluit when an individual was arrested under the Mental Health Act, went into medical distress on the way to the hospital and later died. The fifth is an incident in Pond Inlet where a child tobogganing down a hill was hit by a police vehicle and died from their resulting injuries.
David Joanasie, MLA for South Baffin, said in an emailed statement to Nunatsiaq News that the situation in Kinngait was “unacceptable and very concerning,”
“I am available for my constituents. I am working with the minister of justice to see that changes are in place quickly to ensure this won’t happen again,” Joanasie said.
Nunavut’s justice minister, Jeannie Ehaloak, issued a statement late on Tuesday afternoon addressing the incident.
“I have seen the video from Kinngait circulating on social media and am very concerned by the unnecessary force, the violence and the lack of respect I have seen. Nunavummiut should not fear this kind of treatment and disregard for safety and basic rights,” Ehaloak said.
Ehaloak also said she had spoken with Amanda Jones, chief superintendent of the RCMP, and had been notified of the external and internal investigations.
“I have notified the Civil Review Complaints Commission and will formally request a review once the external investigation is complete,” Ehaloak said.
“The past several months have been difficult for our territory and I want to assure you that I take this very seriously and I am taking decisive actions to address this situation. It is only through accountability that the RCMP will continue to build a strong and healthy relationship with Nunavummiut.”
Benson Cowan, chief executive officer at Legal Aid Nunavut, called the incident “clearly an unnecessary and gratuitous use of force” and “a stark act of violence against an intoxicated and vulnerable person.”
“Policing is a service, and it should be delivered as a service to the community. And there’s nothing in that video that does a service to anybody,” Cowan told Nunatsiaq News.
Cowan also called on the Government of Nunavut, the RCMP and the federal government to come together and address the high rates of police violence in Nunavut and create “safe and credible policing for communities in Nunavut.”
“We shouldn’t be waiting until the next example of this.… I think we should look at that video and we say, no one should think this is the way policing in Nunavut should look. It is so problematic. It is so disturbing. We should all stop and say this is where we are, how do we get to a better place? Let’s engage in a dialogue about that. Let’s not focus on recriminations and punishments. Let’s focus on accountability and reconciliation,” Cowan said.