The RCMP is looking into why the force did not publicly disclose criminal charges against one of its officers that were laid for an off-duty incident months before he threw Chief Allan Adam to the ground in March.
Alberta RCMP spokesman Fraser Logan said it is unusual for an officer to be charged and for that information not to be made public. The charges triggered an internal discipline process, which was taken into account when the force decided to leave Constable Simon Seguin on duty as he awaited trial on charges that include assault.
He said the force is looking into why those charges weren’t already public knowledge at the time of the incident involving Mr. Adam, who is Chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.
“In the past, we’ve disclosed pro-actively any time there’s been a criminal charge against a member,” Mr. Logan said in an interview. “We don’t know why that wasn’t the case this time.”
Mr. Adam told The Globe and Mail earlier this month that police beat him up and manhandled his wife after approaching them outside a casino in Fort McMurray, Alta., because of an expired licence plate. A 12-minute dashcam video released later showed Mr. Adam arguing with an unidentified officer and complaining about police harassment before Constable Seguin tackled him.
Prosecutors dropped charges against Mr. Adam of resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer this week. Alberta’s police watchdog is investigating the officers’ conduct.
Mr. Adam’s lawyer revealed this week that Constable Seguin was charged with assault, mischief and unlawfully being in a dwelling last August. The RCMP said he attempted to get into a residence, where he had an altercation with two people, including someone with whom he had a personal relationship.
Mr. Logan said the force launched a code of conduct investigation, the RCMP’s internal discipline process. The RCMP doesn’t disclose the results of such investigations, he said, although it would have factored into the decision to allow the officer to remain on duty.
“His duty status would have been the result of an assessment made by his managers, and regularly reviewed while an internal code of conduct investigation is conducted,” Mr. Logan wrote in a subsequent statement.
Constable Seguin had not previously been the subject of a code of conduct investigation, Mr. Logan said.
Handwritten notes from Constable Seguin provide details of his first-hand account of the arrest. The notes, heavily redacted, were among court documents related to a legal challenge by Mr. Adam of his charges.
Constable Seguin writes that he “charged” at a man with the intention of bringing him to the ground, and that he wrapped his hand around the Chief’s jaw and “started squeezing.”
“I then wound up placing my left knee on the back of the male’s head and cranked the [male’s] left arm up,” he wrote. “The male was complaining of police brutality.”
Mr. Adam’s lawyer, Brian Beresh, said in an interview on Thursday that it is hard to understand why it was necessary for Constable Seguin to use his knee on the back of his client’s head.
He also said Mr. Adam told the officers he was having trouble breathing.
“This appears to be consistent with when the officer takes his left arm off my client’s neck and puts the knee on,” Mr. Beresh said. “My client has complained to me about having a neck issue and he is being examined by a specialist, and his neck has not been broken or damaged in any way, but it appears to be that would have been the cause of it.”
Corporal Caroline Duval, an RCMP spokeswoman at national headquarters in Ottawa, said the force “does not teach or endorse any technique where RCMP officers place a knee on the head or neck.”
Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, who has called for an independent investigation of the RCMP and its use of force, said on Thursday that he also finds it unbelievable that an officer who faces very serious charges could walk around with a gun.
“It is a very dangerous situation,” Mr. Fiddler said.
The use of a knee to the neck has been the subject of public scrutiny in North America since the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, at the hands of police in Minneapolis. Prosecutors said a Minneapolis police officer put his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said in a statement on Thursday that he’s called for zero tolerance of excessive use of force, and that it is unacceptable that Constable Seguin is still on duty.
“To re-establish trust, the RCMP must address incidents of brutality head on,” he said.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair’s office said reports of force used against the Chief are deeply disturbing and that it is following the independent investigation closely.
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