Overcrowded cells led to ‘grossly inadequate’ conditions at Kinngait jail: report
RCMP Civilian Review and Complaints Commission investigation follows violent arrest of man in June 2020
A new RCMP watchdog report says Kinngait officers provided “grossly inadequate” services after a violent arrest three years ago that led to an inmate waiting 16 hours to receive medical treatment.
A video of the June 1, 2020, incident shows a man being knocked down by the door of an RCMP vehicle during an arrest.
Three years later, that report finds the 22-year-old man, identified only as A.B., wasn’t taken to a health centre for 16 hours.
A man who assaulted him while he was in cells, identified as J.J., had been pepper-sprayed prior to being brought to the detachment. There was no running water in the cell’s sink, so the man used toilet water to wash out his eyes.
These are just some of the 36 of the report’s findings into the incident, including that under-resourcing at the detachment was a factor in “every aspect” of what happened to the man that night, raising concerns “about possible systemic discrimination.”
Five Kinngait RCMP officers fielded 37 calls on June 1, 2020.
The detachment has four cells, but 15 people were detained. This led to multiple people being held in one cell, others being held in an interview room and one person placed in the back of an RCMP vehicle.
Overworked staff, a lack of cells, equipment and insufficient training for the detachment guard all contributed to A.B. being placed in a dangerous situation that resulted in him being assaulted and contributed to a failure to pass on critical information about the medical attention he needed, the report concluded.
“While there were some failures by individual RCMP members, as well as some deficiencies in training, supervision, and compliance with policies, the commission observed that, for the most part, the RCMP members made considerable efforts to manage a nearly impossible workload within constraints that created unsafe situations,” the report states.
The commission offered 20 recommendations in its report.
“We’re certainly not shocked by some of the findings,” said Nunavut RCMP Chief Supt. Andrew Blackadar, speaking to Nunatsiaq News on Thursday.
The commission released an interim report last year, so the RCMP “had a good idea what was coming” and began implementing most of the recommendations, Blackadar said.
That includes building a new detachment that will include eight cells, doubling the current facility’s capacity. The project is in the design phase and community consultations will take place this winter, Blackadar said.
The detachment now has an authorized establishment of seven police officers, up from five in 2020.
Blackadar said other “deficiencies” with the detachment that night have been remedied. The detachment now has a decontamination station available and running water in the cell that previously had a broken sink, he said.
“The North is an interesting place to police, because we don’t have the luxury of having access to trades people as quickly as we do in the south or even tools to repair things,” he said, adding that it is often officers themselves who are cleaning and repairing the detachment.
Blackadar said the RCMP has also implemented new training for police officers on how to treat detainees who have been pepper-sprayed, “specifically our police officers that were involved in the incident back in June 2020.”
“We’ve given operational guidance and we’ve updated the policy with respect to checking on prisoners,” he said, including the importance of treating inmates who have been pepper sprayed.
Blackadar said the Nunavut RCMP are also looking filling positions for an Indigenous policing program in the coming years.
“I think we really have to really look at different ways of approaching communities and we can’t always criminalize substance abuse, we can’t criminalize mental health issues. Not everybody has to go to jail,” Blackadar said.
“I think we have to look at alternative ways of working with the community and other service providers to find other ways to help communities to get better in the long run.”