YELLOWKNIFE — A report says a Mountie was wrong to use a Taser on a 15-year-old girl as she lay face down on the floor of a young offenders centre with her hands cuffed behind her back and under the control of three guards.
The investigation by the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP is the second time this week that Mounties have been censured over their Taser policy.
The report found that Const. Noella Cockney wasn’t certified to use the Taser and failed to consider other options when she zapped the girl on March 13, 2007, at the centre in Inuvik, N.W.T. It was also critical of how RCMP investigated a complaint filed by the girl’s mother and called one account by a senior officer biased.
Commission chairman Paul Kennedy said many of the problems found during the investigation parallel deficiencies outlined in other reports about how RCMP use Tasers, including one conclusion about police investigating police that found the RCMP’s approach to internal investigations is flawed and inconsistent.
“This incident is a compelling case which ought to cause the RCMP itself to be concerned and take action,” he said in the report.
“Most important among those conclusions, as they relate to this case, was the need for the RCMP to clarify to its members and to the public when it is permissible to deploy the Taser. It is clear that confusion in this area continues to reign.”
The report says the RCMP improperly tried to dispose of the mother’s complaint, that officers failed to follow rules about recording it and also neglected to properly respond to her concerns. Kennedy suggests the mishandling led to delays that resulted in the destruction of evidence.
He also said an internal RCMP report into the Tasering was “biased in favour of Constable Cockney” and another internal report was based on selectively reported evidence leading to a perception of bias.
“The investigative deficiencies and the RCMP response to the public complaint filed by (the girl’s) mother were significant enough to leave a strong perception of bias and call into question the ability of the RCMP to investigate its own members in cases in which serious allegations of misconduct exist.”
RCMP Commissioner William Elliott said he accepts most of the report’s recommendations, including a call for the force to restrict Taser use to qualified officers and to do a better job of dealing with public complaints.
“Obviously your report identifies a number of significant failures on the part of the RCMP and members involved in this matter,” Elliott said in a letter to Kennedy.
“I will discuss the report and your findings and recommendations with my senior executive committee.”
Kennedy’s report said the girl was shot with the stun gun because she refused to go to a segregation unit and was swearing at guards at the Arctic Tern Youth Facility. Cockney warned the girl three times that if she didn’t move she would be zapped.
The girl taunted Cockney and urged her to use the weapon. The constable then jolted the girl for five seconds as the teen yelled out “OK, OK, OK.” She then agreed to move to the segregation unit.
In a separate report released Tuesday, Kennedy found that Mounties acted inappropriately when they repeatedly shocked Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport on Oct. 14, 2007, before he died. Kennedy said he found the four officers’ notes and their testimony before a public inquiry unreliable.
He criticized nearly everything the officers did at the airport and chastised the force overall for inadequate training and an unwillingness to heed commission recommendations.
RCMP leaders have defended the actions of the officers, who have not been charged and have not faced any formal discipline.
Kennedy said their repeated use of a Taser on the Polish immigrant was wrong and their explanations unconvincing. He concluded the officers made no meaningful attempt to de-escalate the situation and failed to approach Dziekanski with a measured or appropriate response.
Kennedy’s recommendations aren’t binding on the RCMP or the federal government.