Alberta police to investigate allegation RCMP mistreated woman at Inuvik detachment

·3 min read
An RCMP cruiser in Yellowknife on July 30, 2021. Police in the N.W.T. said they've called on Alberta RCMP to investigate an incident that took place inside a jail cell at the detachment in Inuvik in March 2020. (Liny Lamberink/CBC - image credit)
An RCMP cruiser in Yellowknife on July 30, 2021. Police in the N.W.T. said they've called on Alberta RCMP to investigate an incident that took place inside a jail cell at the detachment in Inuvik in March 2020. (Liny Lamberink/CBC - image credit)

RCMP in the Northwest Territories say another police service is investigating an incident that took place in the cell block of its detachment in Inuvik in March 2020.

N.W.T. RCMP said an incident involving a female prisoner being taken into custody would be investigated by Alberta RCMP "after recent attention to the incident brought this to the awareness of NT RCMP," in a statement to media on Sept. 3.

Cabin Radio first reported on a woman's allegations that two male officers forcibly removed her clothing after she refused to undress in front of them.

A court document by the woman's lawyer, Tú Pham, and obtained by CBC News, accuses police of violating the complainants' charter rights and of using excessive force after she was taken into custody early in the morning of March 20 as part of a domestic assault investigation.

The document is based on the woman's memory, police reports and surveillance footage, and it has not yet been tested in court. RCMP have said they would not be providing details about what happened.

The document says the complainant went into medical distress in a jail cell around 2:35 a.m and that she told officers she needed to go to the hospital. One of the constables said they'd call her an ambulance instead, but she would need to remove her clothing and wear a prisoner smock before he made the call.

"At that time, there were two male RCMP members present along with a male prison guard. No females were present other than [the woman,]" the document says.

The woman refused to undress in front of the three men, the document says, and one of the officers "threatened to forcibly remove her clothing" before both officers began "prolonged efforts" to remove her clothing.

One officer cornered the complainant against the back wall of the jail cell, and she kicked at him from a seated position on a cell bench, the statement reads. He responded by "kicking and punching [the woman] in the face a number of times with a closed fist."

"The two RCMP members then suddenly and violently pulled [the woman] off of the cell bench and onto the floor," the filing said, where they "pinned" her down.

They were able to successfully remove her tank top and pants in an ordeal that lasted about three minutes and 30 seconds, and the woman was then left crying in the corner of her cell wearing nothing but her panties, the document reads.

It goes on to say an ambulance was never called and the woman was not given medical attention until 10 a.m. the next morning when she was taken to the hospital, where a doctor diagnosed her with eight injuries including including swelling on the ride side of her face, bruising around her right eye, pain in her neck and recent bruising on her arms and right hand.

RCMP in the N.W.T. said anyone involved in the incident remains on active duty.

Police investigating police an 'absolute conflict'

Darryl Davies, a criminology professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, told CBC News it is an "absolute conflict of interest for police to be investigating police in any jurisdiction in Canada."

He said the country needs an independent national oversight body that's comprised of people who have experience in criminal justice and who aren't "political puppets" or former police officers.

"We need to have people who have knowledge of the law, the knowledge of criminology and knowledge of the criminal justice issues, and you never get that with these [investigating] bodies."

Davies said it's something people should think about when they head to the polls.

"No government at the federal or provincial level has had the guts, quite frankly, to step up to the plate and establish such a body and actually hold people accountable when they break the law."

There is no independent review committee for police investigations in the N.W.T.

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