Mountie who kicked suspect lacked experience, trial hears
Const. Geoff Mantler is seen kicking Buddy Tavares in the face in this Jan. 6, 2011 video courtesy of Kelly Hayes/Castanet.net.
Published Friday, November 30, 2012 6:47PM PST
KELOWNA, B.C. -- The Mounties who helped arrest an Okanagan man who was kicked in the face during the takedown lacked experience and supervision and had minimal information to work with, a policing expert testified Friday in Kelowna.
Const. Geoff Mantler and three colleagues who dealt with Buddy Tavares each had less than fours years with the RCMP when they responded to a complaint someone had fired a shotgun at a golf course, yet no senior officer attended the arrest or communicated with the officers, said Sgt. Jeremy Lane.
Mantler is on trial, charged with assault causing bodily harm.
"If I have a squad of three-year-and-under officers, that's a significant concern to me. They just don't have the level of experience ... to handle that situation safely," said Lane, who teaches use of force at the Abbotsford Police Department.
"One of the things that stands out was the obvious lack of supervision here, from either NCO (non-commissioned officer) or senior officers."
Lane knocked Mantler for failing to follow proper procedure when he arrested Tavares and kicked him in the head in January 2011.
Mantler got out of the car when he should have waited for backup officers to arrive, stood too close to Tavares with his gun drawn and overreacted as Tavares kneeled on the ground, he said.
Lane questioned Mantler's level of training in high-risk takedowns. He should have stood farther back from Tavares and ordered him to get out of the truck instead of opening the door for him.
"If that door were to be opened with some force, he's too close. He's going to get hit with the door. Who knows what that will do to the firearm in his hand," Lane said.
Assuming Tavares carried a loaded weapon or another shooter was in the truck, Mantler put himself in danger. The kick to the head amounted to "hard physical control" even though Tavares was complying with Mantler's demands, Lane said.
"I'd characterize it as an over-aggressive approach that disregarded some basic officer-safety principles."
During his cross-examination Friday, defence lawyer Neville McDougall steered the criticism to the Kelowna RCMP.
Based on the information officers had at the time -- shots fired and the suspect has a brain injury from a recent accident -- the call was a serious one that required tactical procedures and supervision, Lane said.
"This is a very junior patrol watch. There's not a lot of experience on the road. I have a lot more concern about how this is going to go down," he said. "They don't go over tactics. There's no code-five refresher or review of . . . (how to) extract a dangerous subject."
Officers at the scene testified they received a half-day of training in takedowns at gunpoint and a full day in block training, but Abbotsford police receive more, Lane said.
Confusion over what Tavares had done at the golf course added to the tension. Radio broadcasts failed to reveal he'd been firing his shotgun at geese until after he was kicked and collapsed on the pavement.
"To me, that's an obvious question. Because if he's shooting at geese, that makes it a little bit different from shooting at people," Lane said.
He admitted that police have changed their tactics when dealing with active threats such as a man firing shots.
Since the 1999 Columbine massacre, a shooting at a Colorado high school that left 15 dead, police no longer wait for a special unit to go inside a building and stop the threat.
"Does that raise the risk?" asked McDougall.
"Huge -- to the officer. We can no longer sit back and wait, because there's too much risk to the public," said Lane.
Crown counsel Will Burrows will call several bystanders to testify on Monday and Tuesday.
The defence is expected to adjourn the trial until the new year.