RCMP conduct in arrest “disgraceful,” review concludes
Officers used illegal choke hold and removed shoeless, shirtless man on -50 morning
Two RCMP officers unlawfully arrested a Pangnirtung man when they entered his home without a warrant in a “disgraceful incident” three years ago, according to a report by the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.
The report also says Constables Shawn Devine and Richard White used “shocking methods” to arrest Darryl Qaqasiq during the early hours of Feb. 13, 2003 — including use of a dangerous chokehold that police outlawed 25 years ago.
And the two officers defied both RCMP policy and common sense when they escorted Qaqasiq from his home without shoes, shirt or jacket to protect him from -50 C temperatures.
The report, conducted by a federal body independent of the RCMP, also has harsh words for members of the “V” Division who conducted their own investigation into the case earlier, and cleared both officers of wrongdoing.
Police are only permitted to use one kind of chokehold, and that’s only when they’re in a life-threatening situation. Yet the “V” Division’s own public complaints investigation raised no questions over the conduct of both officers, who faced no serious danger while they choked Qaqasiq until he blacked out twice.
“I am dismayed with the apparent lack of knowledge in the field regarding the force’s policy respecting these forms of restraint,” the report’s author writes.
The report recommends that Constables White and Devine, who both currently live outside Nunavut, receive extra training on handling conflicts. It also recommends both officers apologize to the Qaqasiq family, and that Nunavut’s commanding officer consider disciplining them.
But Commanding Officer John Henderson has said the two officers won’t face discipline. And Darryl Qaqasiq, now 28, says he’d like to hear an apology, although he isn’t sure if he will accept it.
“I feel they should be fired,” Qaqasiq said in an interview.
The Qaqasiq family will continue to pursue a $4.5 million lawsuit they launched against the RCMP last March, although they hope the report will bolster their case and help them settle outside of court.
Among the family’s complaints is that the struggle between their son and police, witnessed by the rest of the family, traumatized their grandson, who was six at the time.
Darryl’s mother, Leesee Qaqasiq, says she hopes the report’s outcome will encourage other Nunavummiut wronged by police to file complaints of their own.
The trouble started around 2:30 a.m. on Feb. 13, 2003, when Const. White and Devine arrived at the Qaqasiq home to investigate complaints that Darryl had threatened to kill his ex-girlfriend, who was at the time safe in another home.
The officers were told to assess whether Qaqasiq was dangerous. But they had no orders to arrest him, because he wasn’t posing a threat.
Qaqasiq answered the porch door and angrily told the officers he wouldn’t talk. When he turned away, Const. White grabbed Qaqasiq’s arm. Qaqasik took a swing and a fight ensued, waking the rest of the family and ending with Qaqasiq pressed against a fusebox with Const. Devine’s fingers wrapped around his throat. Qaqasiq’s mother says she watched her son’s face turn blue.
When Qaqasiq regained consciousness, he began to struggle. To subdue him, Const. White choked him a second time before the two officers handcuffed him and dragged him to the police vehicle.
En route to detachment, Qaqasiq told the officers he had overdosed on pills, so they stopped at the nursing centre. A third struggle began there, following a staring match between White and Qaqasiq. After Qaqasiq hit White in the face with his handcuffs, White grabbed Qaqasiq by the throat and pinned him to the cot.
Qaqasiq originally faced eight criminal charges stemming from the evening, including uttering threats and assaulting a police officer.
But in October 2003 Justice Earl Johnson acquitted Qaqasiq of six of the eight charges and stayed the other two, based on violations of his rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.