B.C.’s police watchdog says excessive force was not used when a woman’s arm was broken as Salmon Arm RCMP were removing her from a house party.
Around 9:14 p.m. on Feb. 13, 2022, RCMP responded to a report of a disturbance at a residence in the 200 block of 27th Street NE. According to the Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIOBC), officers found several people at the residence including one woman who was reportedly intoxicated and asked to leave. The woman declined leaving and was subsequently placed under arrest. In the process of being handcuffed, the woman’s arm was broken, prompting an investigation by IIOBC.
In his report on the incident, IIOBC chief civilian director Ronald MacDonald refers to statements from two civilian witnesses and two RCMP witnesses. One of the civilian witnesses, a party guest, recalled seeing three officers standing close to the woman – referred to in the report as “affected person” or AP – who was yelling, and refused to leave with a friend. They saw the three officers moved to arrest AP – two male officers on either side, and a female officer directly behind AP. AP was heard yelling that the officers were hurting her, but the witness said they didn’t see any of the officers do anything that would have caused an injury, so they thought “perhaps AP was simply experiencing discomfort from being handcuffed behind her back.”
According to the report, the female officer, described as “Witness Officer 1” (WO1), said when it was evident AP was “not going to avail herself of a ride home with a friend,” it was decided “enough is enough,” and that AP needed to be removed from the party. WO1 said AP began flailing, making her difficult to control, so WO1 pushed AP against a parked vehicle and started to apply handcuffs. WO1 said AP was able to free the arm and swung it at WO1.
“Wo1 took hold of the hair on the back of AP’s head and pushed her face against the side window of the vehicle while SO (the subject officer being investigated) took control of AP’s right arm,” reads the report. WO1 believed the second witness officer (WO2) stepped in to assist on AP’s left side and AP was placed in handcuffs.
As WO1 was driving AP away from the scene, she received a radio call from WO2, directing her to hospital as AP “probably has a shoulder injury.” SO told WO1 he thought he’d heard AP’s arm “pop” while she was struggling against the officers, and that, according to WO1, “he seemed upset to think that he had harmed a small female.”
“At the hospital, a doctor who examined AP stated that there was no injury to her arm, but SO requested that the doctor re-examine it,” reads the report. “Upon doing so, the physician realized that the arm was broken, and AP was admitted for treatment.”
MacDonald said nothing in the evidence gathered led him to conclude the force used by any officer was unnecessary or excessive in the circumstances. Though SO appeared to have caused the injury, MacDonald said there is no suggestion that he did any more than control the arm to the degree necessary for handcuffs to be applied.
“The fact that AP’s humerus was broken does not, on its own, necessarily show excessive force,” reported MacDonald. “This office has seen frequent examples of similar injury occurring to individuals who actively resist lawful attempts at arm control.”
In addition to there being no evidence of excessive force, MacDonald noted evidence showed SO displayed a significant level of concern for AP, as it was his intervention “that ensured she received the medical care she needed.”
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