A Kinngait RCMP officer who struck an intoxicated resident with the door of a pickup truck while the vehicle was in motion and knocked the man to the ground did not break the law, according to an investigation by the Ottawa Police Service.
The Ottawa Police investigators determined that “the vehicle did not intentionally strike the community member with the vehicle door – whereas the vehicle came to a sliding stop on a snow and ice-covered track, the driver’s front tire went off the track, the vehicle dipped forward and the opened driver’s door swung forward and struck the community member.”
This does not meet the threshold of a criminal offence such as assault or assault with a weapon under the Criminal Code of Canada, according to the Ottawa Police Service.
Investigators also found no evidence of dangerous operation of the vehicle or criminal negligence and they concluded that the June 1 arrest of the man, involving several officers and at least one blow to the individual, was lawful.
The Ottawa Police Service declined to comment further.
The Nunavut RCMP would not comment on the findings of the Ottawa Police investigation because the RCMP’s internal review process and an investigation through the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP are ongoing.
Timoon Toonoo, Kinngait’s mayor, also declined to comment on the arrest until the RCMP’s internal investigation is complete.
“The hamlet of Kinngait cannot provide any comments at this time as there are still internal reviews,” he said.
Toonoo said he has been in contact with RCMP about the Ottawa Police Service report’s findings, but he is unable to talk about it yet.
“We had a hard time understanding it. It was helpful that we had a conference call with the headquarters in Iqaluit,” said Toonoo.
Toonoo added that the man who was struck may also decide to appeal the findings of the report.
“We’re not sure of the position of the individual involved in the incident,” he said. “They may or may not accept the findings of this report.”
In a written statement, justice minster George Hickes said he “cannot comment on the investigation itself.
“The incident in Kinngait in June was very unfortunate,” he wrote. “I understand this event caused a great deal of concern in the community and across the territory and I recognize we have more work to do to promote reconciliation between the police and Inuit in Nunavut.”
Hickes added that the justice department is working on a number of initiatives to support policing in Nunavut and ensure transparency, accountability and community involvement including the implementation of body worn cameras and the creation of a Nunavut-based police council.
The officer involved in the Kinngait incident was removed from the community shortly after it went viral in an online video posted by a resident of the community. That video can be seen below.
Following the arrest, police said were responding to a report of an intoxicated man who was allegedly fighting with other individuals. In the video, a man is seen staggering. The door to an approaching police truck flies open, sending the man sprawling to the ground. Eventually, five officers are subduing the man. Despite the numerical advantage, an officer on the ground to the left of the screen can be seen drawing his knee back and appears to deliver a blow to the suspect.
– with files from Cody Punter