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No charges against RCMP officers in arrest of St. Albert youth with autism

Click to play video: 'Alberta police watchdog investigating arrest of 16-year-old boy with autism'
Alberta police watchdog investigating arrest of 16-year-old boy with autism
Alberta's police watchdog is investigating the arrest of a teen with autism earlier this week. It comes just days after RCMP said the matter would be reviewed internally. As Nicole Stillger reports, the family is looking at potential legal action – Oct 9, 2022

On the recommendation of the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS), no charges will be laid against the RCMP officers involved in the arrest of a St. Albert youth with autism in October 2022.

While the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) found there were “reasonable grounds to believe that an offence may have been committed by the subject officers,” the case was referred to the Crown, as required under the Police Act, which did not recommend charges be laid.

On Oct. 2, 2022, a 16-year-old boy with autism was arrested at a playground in St. Albert after police received 911 calls about an individual who was displaying erratic behaviour or was possibly impaired.

A number of officers arrested the boy, who is non-verbal and who attempted to harm himself while in custody and was taken to a hospital in Edmonton.

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Click to play video: 'Alberta police watchdog investigating arrest of 16-year-old boy with autism'
Alberta police watchdog investigating arrest of 16-year-old boy with autism

The ASIRT investigation, the results of which were made public on Wednesday, included interviews with seven civilian witnesses and six police officers, including the ones that responded to the call. ASIRT investigators also spoke to the youth’s mother and reviewed surveillance video from the area.

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The RCMP officers thought the youth was in his early 20s, noted he was making strange noises, repeating things and said his pupils looked dilated, the ASIRT report detailed.

ASIRT determined that, while responding, the RCMP officers checked licence plates for vehicles in the adjacent parking lot and found that one was associated with a person an officer “recognized as a drug user who lived in the area … then thought that the person he had just dealt with was” that person.

However, the person was not intoxicated. In fact, he was a non-verbal youth with autism, ASIRT said.

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“Three of the four civilian witnesses who observed (him) recognized that he could be or was likely neurodivergent,” the ASIRT report said.

However, the officers arrested the youth.

“Two officers came from behind (him), grabbed his arms, and handcuffed him,” ASIRT said, noting the youth was “yelping, making loud sounds, and yelling erratically.”

The youth was “very distressed” and continued to “scream and repeat words” on the drive to the RCMP detachment, ASIRT said, kicking the door and hitting his head against the partition.

His handcuffs were removed when he was moved to a cell at the detachment, where he paced and pounded his fists on the door, ASIRT said.

“At 6:09 p.m., he hit his head on the cell door four times,” the report detailed. Five officers and two paramedics arrived and medical records show a sedative was given.

The paramedics took the youth to the hospital, ASIRT said. “His injuries were mild swelling to the front of his head and redness on his wrists.”

The boy was reported as missing and police were then able to identify him and connect him with his family.

The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP is also investigating the arrest and detention.

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