The municipal enforcement officer in Happy Valley-Goose Bay is back on active duty following the completion of an independent investigation.
The officer, Larry Baker, was placed on administrative duties two months ago when a 0:51 video circulated on social media showing an altercation between him and a homeless Inuk man who was thrown to the ground while he was handcuffed.
The town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay hired law firm Stewart McKelvey to contract an independent investigator to look into the arrest shortly after. Now the council has received the results of that investigation, which has cleared Baker of wrongdoing.
Happy Valley-Goose Bay mayor Wally Andersen said a number of people were interviewed through the course of the investigation and there was a body camera video of the incident, approximately 10 minutes in length. He said he wanted to make it clear that at no point in the investigation was any member of the council contacted or interviewed.
A number of people on social media have been calling for the town to release the video but Andersen said that will not happen. He said it’s a workplace human resources issue and that under those rules the video and report are confidential.
“This is not a choice of the council,” he told SaltWire. “It’s not that we don’t want people to see the report, it’s just a part of the rules and regulations, privacy rules that have to be adhered to. That’s the reason why the body cam portion of the report will not be made public.”
Andersen said with this report, the matter is complete and as of this time, they haven’t received a complaint from any member of the public regarding the matter.
When contacted by SaltWire, Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael Harvey said in a written statement while there would certainly be privacy implications under ATIPPA if the town disclosed video records or documents relating to the investigation, “it’s not quite so simple as to say, flat out, that the Town can’t release any of them because it is a HR matter, though that may indeed be the final conclusion.”
“I hesitate to give advice on the application of ATIPPA, 2015 to the proactive disclosure of these records as I have not seen them and would need to maintain my office’s ability to investigate the matter should the town make a disclosure and someone complain about a breach of their privacy,” he wrote.
The video was first shared on social media by Torngat Mountains MHA Lela Evans. When asked about the results of the investigation Evans said she wasn’t there to be judge and jury and simply wanted answers when the video was sent to her.
Evans said she just wanted to make sure the incident was investigated, and the investigation was done properly but said she can’t say that it was without seeing the report or video.
“I can’t answer that question. I think it needs to be out there, people need to look at it and people need to question it and the answers are there,” she said. “The questions I brought forward were part of the investigation. I was glad we got an investigation, someone had to speak up.”
Evans said she does understand this situation puts the council of Happy Valley-Goose Bay in a difficult position and as far she’s concerned the video and subsequent conversation it generated highlights the larger issue of homelessness in the region.
It concerns her another winter is coming with people living in tents in the woods near town. It concerns her both for the transient and homeless population and for the residents of the town, who have been dealing with the growing associated issues for years.
“The local residents need to have these issues addressed, and they’re getting upset about it, very upset. If you solved the homelessness issue, then the resident’s issues would be looked after.”
The community needs more resources to deal with the issue, she said, and if it isn’t solved it would get worse. It isn’t fair to the homeless people or the residents, she said, and something needs to be done.
“I do think the council has their heart in the right place and they’re doing the best they can but they are not getting the support they need from the province,” she said. “The people who are suffering are the homeless people themselves, the local residents, and anyone who is serving on the council having to deal with it. It’s not right, it needs to be addressed.”
Evan Careen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram