Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut December 07, 2015 - 8:34 am

RCMP brass say OPS excessive force investigation is sound

“We have full confidence that these external investigations are thorough and independent"

THOMAS ROHNER
Iqaluit RCMP Insp. Don Halina says he has confidence that the Ottawa Police Service did a thorough job investigating two local police officers on allegations of using excessive force against Bernard Naulalik, during Naulalik's incarceration in police cells in July 2014. Those two officers were cleared of any wrongdoing. (FILE PHOTO)
Iqaluit RCMP Insp. Don Halina says he has confidence that the Ottawa Police Service did a thorough job investigating two local police officers on allegations of using excessive force against Bernard Naulalik, during Naulalik's incarceration in police cells in July 2014. Those two officers were cleared of any wrongdoing. (FILE PHOTO)

The Nunavut RCMP has dismissed concerns about the transparency and independence of an external investigation that recently cleared two Iqaluit RCMP officers of using excessive force.

“We have full confidence that these external investigations are thorough and independent and we accept their findings,” Insp. Don Halina of Nunavut’s “V” Division told Nunatsiaq News Dec. 4.

Halina said no other details of the investigation, conducted by the Ottawa Police Service, will be publicly released by the RCMP.

The RCMP in Nunavut asked the OPS to investigate an allegation from Bernard Naulalik, 25, who was arrested in Iqaluit in July 2014 for breaking court orders and for possessing a small amount of marijuana.

Video footage of the Iqaluit detachment that night, published this past March, shows two officers restraining Naulalik: one of the officers holds the prisoner’s legs down, and the other officer sits on Naulalik’s chest and delivers five punches to the prisoner’s head and neck.

The OPS investigation, which took about nine months, cleared the officers of any wrongdoing, concluding that the RCMP members in question acted “within the scope of their duty.”

When the RCMP announced the OPS investigation in March, Halina told Nunatsiaq News, “Any consideration for internal discipline [of the officers] will be done after the review is completed.”

But Halina said Dec. 4 no such consideration was necessary.

“The independent investigation into the incident revealed that the allegations were unfounded… As such, no internal discipline would be warranted,” Halina said.

An expert on civilian oversight of police in Canada, however, told Nunatsiaq News in a recent interview that the problem with an investigation like this is, without knowing any details of scope and findings, members of the public can’t be sure it was thorough and sound.

“Ottawa police might have conducted the most thorough investigation in the world, but we don’t know if it was thorough. And that goes to the issue of transparency,” said Ian Scott, the former director of Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, a civilian oversight body that investigates allegations of serious police misconduct while on-duty.

A lack of transparency in such investigation erodes public confidence, Scott said, because the public is kept in the dark about methods and materials collected by investigating officers.

As the former Special Investigations Unit director, Scott said he issued detailed news releases following investigations to provide full disclosure to the public.

But the Nunavut RCMP news release on the Naulalik investigation contained no details of what actually happened between Naulalik and police.

Halina said Dec. 4 that independence and transparency for such investigations involving the Nunavut RCMP are addressed in an agreement between the Government of Nunavut and the OPS.

“In an effort to ensure independence and transparency, there’s a [Memorandum of Understanding] between the government and the OPS for them to act as an independent investigative agency,” Halina said.

The RCMP in no way influences those investigations, he added.

Scott said that most jurisdictions in Canada are moving towards a civilian-led agency to investigate allegations of police misconduct, in part because there’s an apparent potential, perceived or otherwise, for bias when one police service investigates another.

Halina disagreed.

“That’s his thoughts. I can’t comment on his thoughts… The investigation is based on facts, not on prejudice or bias,” Halina said.

But when asked, Halina did not provide any of those facts.

For example, Naulalik said Dec. 2 that he suffered a dislocated shoulder, a black eye and extensive bruising as a result of being restrained by police in 2014 and that police failed to offer him access to medical assistance for the five days he was in custody.

“I’m not in a position to confirm or deny that at this point,” Halina said.

In a similar incident reported in February, the Nunavut RCMP referred another allegation of excessive force used by Iqaluit RCMP members to the OPS for investigation.

That investigation — involving Eetooloo Ejetsiak who, in police cellblock footage, appears to be punched in the face by the hand of an officer holding a taser gun — is still on-going, Halina said.

“I can’t speculate when it’ll be completed,” Halina said.

In yet another recent case, this one involving Iqalungmiut Michael Naglingniq, the Nunavut Court of Justice found Iqaluit RCMP violated Naglingniq’s Charter rights when they deleted police footage showing Naglingniq strapped to a restraint chair for over two and a half hours at the Iqaluit detachment in June 2013.

The Nunavut RCMP has since changed their policy and now retain cellblock video footage longer before deleting it, Halina said.

Earlier this year, the Nunavut court heard that Const. Alexander Benoit, the acting detachment commander and supervisor on duty the night Naglingniq was arrested, broke a number of policies in that incident including failing to document the use of the restraint chair, failing to notify medical professionals after keeping Naglingniq in the restraint chair for more than two hours and failing to flag the video footage showing the use of the restraint chair.

In relation to that incident, “no internal discipline is being contemplated,” Halina said. He added Benoit is no longer stationed at the Iqaluit detachment.

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