A Prince George Mountie who tasered an 11-year-old first nations boy should not face criminal charges for his conduct, says an external review by West Vancouver Police Department that left a native organization “dumbfounded” for its brevity.
Chief Constable Peter Lepine of the West Vancouver police announced the finding in a short open letter, concluding after a six-month investigation that there was no violation of the Criminal Code.
“We are not recommending charges,” he wrote of the April incident in which RCMP responding to the stabbing of a 37-year-old man in a group home pursued and tasered an 11-year-old suspect who had barricaded himself in a neighbouring property.
He said his team spent much of the spring and summer interviewing witnesses, collecting and analyzing evidence and consulting legal and use-of-force experts as part of a “thorough, fair and transparent” investigation into the matter, which he acknowledged roused concern in Prince George and across Canada.
The child was taken into custody and the victim of the assault survived. The Mountie who deployed the taser, who had 18 months experience, was placed on administrative leave.
West Vancouver police said Chief Constable Lepine would not be available for comment on Thursday.
The finding outraged the Native Courtworker and Counselling Association.
“I am absolutely dumbfounded by the shortness, brevity and sheer gall of the West Vancouver police’s so-called report. It does nothing to give the people of B.C. confidence when police investigate themselves,” said Hugh Braker, the organization’s president.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said he could not imagine any defence for not proposing criminal charges.
“I don’t think there’s anything that will convince me it was necessary to taser an 11-year-old child,” he said.
Chief Phillip said the conclusion was a new argument for preventing police from investigating police.
B.C. has announced the creation of an Independent Investigation Office to look at in-custody deaths or incidents of serious harm involving police.
B.C. Solicitor-General Shirley Bond said in an interview that she respected the strong feelings generated by the case, but that until the Independent Investigation Office is running, there is no other means to deal with such incidents.
Ms. Bond said she received a fax of Chief Lepine’s open letter and does not expect any elaboration.
However, she noted that other agencies are reviewing the matter, including the Ministry of Children and Families and the RCMP Public Complaints Commission.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.’s representative for children and youth, said in a statement that she will consider the review in an ongoing probe into the Prince George incident and a special report into group homes.
“In reviewing this particular Prince George incident, I became concerned about a wider issue of police being called by group-home staff to attend and act as a disciplinarian of sorts,” she said.
Claire Trevena, NDP critic for children and family development, said the police statement leaves many questions unanswered – among them why officers went into a group home, how things escalated or why the child was in care.
“We can’t forget that we are talking about police tasering an 11-year-old,” she said.
Since the 2007 death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport, the RCMP allows officers to use tasers only when risk of bodily harm or death is imminent.