A northern Alberta RCMP officer has been sentenced to 15 months probation for the assault of an Indigenous man in a police detachment in September 2017.
Const. Licio Soares, sentenced in High Prairie provincial court on Wednesday, must also perform 150 hours of community service at an institution or charity that services Indigenous populations in Alberta and 10 hours of instruction related to the difficulties Indigenous people have faced at the hands of the RCMP.
Judge Robert Marceau convicted Soares of assault on May 27, relying heavily on video of the assault at the Slave Lake RCMP detachment.
Soares had arrested Vernon Laboucan, who was intoxicated at the time, for mischief.
Laboucan was "vulnerable" and brought to the detachment for his "own protection," said Crown prosecutor Jason Neustaeter.
The video shows Laboucan taking off his shirt at the detachment and throwing it at Soares.
Soares took the shirt, pulled it over Laboucan's head and forced him to the ground. Soares tackled Laboucan, punched him in the head, kneed him in the back and pushed his head to the floor.
In his victim impact statement, Laboucan wrote, "After the assault when I was on the street I felt unsafe. I felt like, 'The cops are always out to get me.'"
His lawyer, Rory Ziv, said Labocucan "wished no ill will upon Soares" but wanted him to serve time in jail and lose his job with the RCMP.
Neustaeter had argued for a 90-day jail sentence while Soares' lawyer James McLeod called for a conditional discharge, leaving the officer without a criminal record.
McLeod said Soares had already been punished, including a $3,300 fine after an internal RCMP investigation and reassignment to a position where he can no longer arrest or detain people.
In court, Soares apologized directly to Laboucan.
"I'm sorry for contributing negatively to an already difficult life," he said.
He added that he takes responsibility for his actions and is ready to accept the consequences. He said at the time of the incident he thought he was "acting appropriately."
"I recognize now that I was not," Soares said.
He added that he is ashamed for damaging the RCMP's reputation.
"I admit institutionalized racism exists," Soares said. "I'm ashamed beyond what words can express for contributing to that image and I'm sorry."
Laboucan is a member of the Whitefish Lake First Nation 459, which submitted a community impact statement.
In the statement, the First Nation said its relationship with the RCMP has been tumultuous. It said incidents such as these are a step back in trust and reinforces members' fear of the police.
"Incidents like what happened with Mr.Laboucan cannot happen again if we want to move forward in healing," the statement said.