Policing the police

Recent incident in Kelowna sparks outrage regarding accountability

Matthew Welch

The recent incident of alleged police brutality by a Kelowna RCMP officer is raising concerns about police procedure relating to accountability in cases of excessive force.

A shocking and disturbing video of this alleged police officer assault, which occurred on Jan. 7, was recorded by a freelance reporter and posted online. It quickly went viral and garnered outrage from the public.

The video shows the suspect of an alleged domestic dispute, Buddy Tavares, stepping out of his truck at gunpoint and complying with police orders by kneeling on the ground.

That’s when it gets ugly.

A plainclothes RCMP officer, identified as Constable Geoff Mantler, then winds up and forcefully kicks Tavares in the face, in what appears to be a deliberate and intentional assault.

Tavares does not appear to be resisting arrest in any way and his civil rights seem to have been clearly violated by this officer’s actions.

Under sections seven and 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, everybody has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.

Moments later in the video, Tavares is handcuffed and observed lying in a pool of blood, his face also covered in blood.

Tavares was recovering from a recent brain injury suffered during a motorcycle accident and has claimed that he doesn’t even remember the officer kicking him. Tavares has been charged with careless use of a firearm.

Mantler has since been suspended from the force with pay and is being subject to a criminal investigation by the Abbotsford Police and an RCMP internal code of conduct investigation will be examining his use of force.

The behaviour of this officer, who is trained to enforce and uphold the law, was completely unacceptable.

Due to the amount of power and authority given to police officers, which includes using force, they need to be held to a higher standard than the general citizen and must be held accountable for wrongdoing.

It is clear from the video that Mantler abused the limits of the reasonable use of force, which raises questions as to why he has yet to be criminally charged and why he has been suspended with pay as opposed to without.

The behaviour of this officer, who is trained to enforce and uphold the law, was completely unacceptable.

It is almost guaranteed that if this exact video surfaced showing a civilian assaulting another individual, they would be charged immediately given such damning evidence.

Police are not immune to the law and when suspected of criminal wrongdoing or abuse of power, they must be held accountable for their actions.

Mantler should be charged with assault, like any civilian would be.     

Canada needs an independent civilian oversight board tasked to investigate allegations of police misconduct and excessive force in order to ensure accountability in police actions of wrongdoing.

An external oversight body, free of political interference, may help to restore some of the trust, confidence and respect of the RCMP, which has been undermined by recent incidents of police brutality and misconduct, such as the high profile taser death of Robert Dziekanski by
RCMP officers at a Vancouver airport in 2007.

RCMP officers should not be conducting internal investigations on members of their own force, as questions regarding lack of objectivity and impartiality raise serious concerns.

Incidents of police brutality are being revealed more often as a result of more advanced technology, especially the video recording capabilities of cell phones.

That being said, it is concerning and disturbing to think of the instances of police brutality that are not exposed to the public.

We must question why this type of activity appears to be happening more often.

Is it due to a lack of proper training? Inexperience? Rage? A lack of accountability from an independent board?

Whatever the answer, this essential question needs to be researched and police procedures must change.

Brittany Thiessen is the communications officer for the University of Winnipeg Criminal Justice Students’ Association.

Published in Volume 65, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 20, 2011)

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