A young First Nations man kneeling with a gun pointed at his chest. A young black man thrown to the ground in handcuffs before being tossed into the back of a police cruiser.
Videos of recent police encounters in Saskatchewan and Quebec involving visible minorities show a “startling, but not surprising” excessive use of force, according to policing experts, who say more de-escalation training is needed for front-line officers.
One video, taken in the community of Pelican Narrows, Sask., just over 500 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon, shows an RCMP officer putting handcuffs on a young man while another leans towards him, weapon drawn, shouting: “I’m gonna f–king kill you” and “shut the f–k up.”
The incident has led to an investigation by the RCMP — the officer has been temporarily relocated — and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) is calling for him to be fired altogether.
“When you just look at that clip itself, it’s eerily reminiscent of a kind of cowboy culture in policing that has existed in Canada for a long time,” said Kevin Walby, an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Winnipeg.
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Walby cautioned against drawing too many conclusions without seeing what happened before the 10-second clip but said the officer’s actions constituted an extreme example of excessive use of force.
“The person is down on their knees, their hands are already behind their back and they’re fully compliant,” he said. “The police officer, his level of threat is like three times greater than that. Their gun drawn, the bead is on the boy’s chest, and he appears to be very agitated, very angry in a way that seemed out of place given how compliant the boy is.”
A second video, which began circulating on social media on Tuesday, appears to show an officer wearing a similar uniform and pointing a gun at a different man on the ground, yelling: “Shut the f–k up” and “don’t f–king move,” according to the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.
“What the f–k did you do with that stick?” the officer can be heard saying before putting the suspect in handcuffs.
Pelican Narrows RCMP said in a statement that they are aware of two videos being shared online involving two different arrests by the same officer. Both are related to calls involving weapons, according to the Mounties.
“In the videos, the police officer has a firearm drawn on the persons being arrested. Very strong language and profanities are being used by the officer,” the RCMP said.
“Due to the age of the person being arrested in one of the videos, under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, we cannot confirm the identity of the suspect. A machete was seized during this incident.”
The officer featured in the videos has also been relocated outside of the community and “reassigned to non-front-line work, pending the outcome of the investigation,” the RCMP said.
The RCMP also said it’s aware of a third incident involving the same officer and that a code of conduct investigation has been initiated.
The FSIN said its executive is calling for the officer’s “immediate termination” and for charges to be laid.
“This video, which we have, clearly shows the racist and ignorant actions of this RCMP member in Pelican Narrows and reaffirms that racism still exists within the force,” the FSIN said.
The most recent federal statistics show that police use of force is rare, with less than two per cent of encounters with the public involving use of force. A report examining racial profiling and discrimination by the Toronto Police Service found that black people were nearly 20 times more likely to die in a police shooting than their white counterparts.
Walby, who has written extensively about the impacts of the militarization of Canadian police, said police forces, namely the RCMP, need to focus on building relationships with the communities they are policing and implementing tools of conflict resolution and restorative justice. Global News has also reported on the need for more female Mounties as a way to reduce excessive force incidents.
“We have police institutions in Canada that are still colonial in many ways. It’s still about enacting those forms of marginalization and oppression. And this is [incident] is kind of an example of that,” Walby said. “To get away from these kinds of scenarios, we have to have police who are, in a sense, de-militarized.”
Meanwhile, a video filmed outside a subway station in Montreal is drawing similar concerns about excessive use of force by police.
The cellphone video, posted to Facebook, shows a young man in handcuffs being slammed to the ground by an officer, who yells at him to get into a police cruiser. The officer then picks the young man up and throws him in the back of the cruiser, feet first.
“I respect those who protect & serve without abusing their power. I was SOO mad That [sic] I couldn’t do anything besides film and verbally defend him,” Jahmensky Lubin wrote in a Facebook post along with the video. “They had no idea what they were saying or doing! They frisked the kid for a couple minutes, pulled down his pants! And the whole time the kid was calm.
“Just because someone called for a complaint and he fit the description.”
Dave Perry, a former Toronto police detective, said the video appears to show a clear example of excessive use of force.
“It’s always dangerous to have someone in handcuffs and take them down,” he said, cautioning that the video doesn’t show the moments leading up to the incident. “Did he try a knee strike or kick the officer? Was there some kind of personal danger to the officer?”
Perry said there are other tactics the officer could have pursued, rather than throwing the individual to the ground.
“I look at that video, and it doesn’t look good,” he said.
Montreal police said they are aware of the video but refused to comment.
“Some elements are still being verified to determine what led to this police intervention. Montreal police is in charge of the file. Therefore, we cannot comment so as to not interfere with the investigation,” the statement said.
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