Mountie dodges discipline after punching man
Jon Woodward, CTV British Columbia
Published Monday, August 13, 2012 5:25PM PDT
Last Updated Tuesday, August 14, 2012 6:59AM PDT
A Terrace man wants to know why an officer who repeatedly punched him after an arrest was never disciplined, even though the Mounties agreed what the officer did was wrong.
Most of the event was caught on a police surveillance video that was obtained by CTV. However, the RCMP took too long to investigate 24-year-old Shane Parker’s complaint – and admitted they ran out of time before they could hand out discipline to the officer.
“I want to see some sort of awareness brought into the RCMP that they can’t just hurt someone so badly and that’s it, have that be okay, sweep it under the rug or something,” Parker told CTV News. “That’s not how you treat a person.”
Parker’s mother Karen said she was shocked at the injuries that her son received from the incident. She said he has never been the same since.
“It was heart-wrenching to see my son like that,” she said. “We feel totally helpless.”
Records show two officers, Const. Chad King and Cpl. Travis De Coene, were found by the RCMP to have used force inappropriately during the June 19, 2010 incident.
While King was sent to special training, De Coene was not disciplined, according to a letter to the family from RCMP North District.
“Unfortunately, due to time limits associated with the issuance of discipline, no discipline was administered,” wrote Superintendent Rod Booth in a May 28, 2012 letter – almost two years after the incident.
It began when Parker asked an officer why he was taking someone else into custody outside a nightclub in Terrace. Parker maintains he was concerned for the welfare of the person – a stranger to him – while the RCMP say he was interfering with an investigation.
Police records show other officers were called, and Parker was handcuffed and taken into custody. Parker, who his lawyer says is undergoing a mental health assessment, began to resist and scream, records show.
The surveillance video shows Parker entering the detachment in the back of a police car. Officers ask the young man to leave the vehicle, but he refuses.
Parker explained later in an interview that he was scared.
“It was terror. The fear of not knowing what was going to happen to me,” he said.
In the video, King can be seen putting some pepper spray in the vehicle. When Parker still does not get out of the car, De Coene pulls him out, striking him repeatedly.
Then De Coene brings Parker to the ground, as other officers watch. One officer grabs Parker’s legs while another moves in front of the camera. The video then shows De Coene’s elbow rise three times. Afterwards, Parker is put in a restraint chair and spit mask and wheeled into a cell.
During the investigation, records show De Coene said he punched Parker to respond to his struggling and spitting. But Parker’s lawyer Terrance Hudson says the video shows Parker was punched many more times than that.
Hudson says he doubts whether the RCMP was interested in disciplining one of its own.
“I don’t think it’s independent and I don’t think it’s objective,” he said. “When I look at the photos and the medical records I think he was subjected to assault causing bodily harm. That’s an indictable offense and he should have been charged criminally.”
Hudson is representing Parker in a lawsuit against De Coene, the RCMP, and other officers who were present during the altercation.
Parker says that was the first time he was ever arrested. Since then, he has had two run-ins with the RCMP, and he is now facing assault and resisting arrest charges in one of those incidents.
Use of force expert Orville Nickel says he felt that the officers were using force as a part of their duties, but they just went too far with the punches. One option would be to have more of the five officers help subdue Parker so that the punches wouldn't be necessary, he said.
"When you have five officers and one prisoner, it's difficult to justify punches under any circumstances," Nickel said.
The RCMP would not comment on the specific incident because of the lawsuit, but Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens said the force welcomed legislation that would update its disciplinary procedures.
Until that happens, he has set a strict 90-day deadline for all Code of Conduct investigations, Callens said.
“I am holding my senior managers accountable to these timelines and if they do not meet my expectations their actions will be subject to consequences,” he said.
The whole event has been traumatic for the Parker family, Karen Parker said, especially for her son, who has become withdrawn and fears the police.
She said she doesn’t believe all RCMP officers are interested in using too much force, but fears what could happen if internal discipline allows violence to go unchecked.
“I think they should respect that. They should understand when they step over those boundaries there should be repercussions,” she said.