LEDUC — A former Red Deer Mountie has been acquitted of charges laid against him in connection with the arrest of a Red Deer teenager in the summer of 2012.
Const. Eric Pomerleau, 30, went to trial in Red Deer provincial court on May 10 and 11 of this year on charges of assault with a weapon, common assault and assault causing bodily harm. The charges were laid after a member of the public accused Pomerleau of using excessive force during the arrest of the boy, whose name is withheld because he was a minor at the time.
Judge Marilyn Smith, normally based in Leduc provincial court, heard that Pomerleau had pepper sprayed the youth to subdue him while he was in the back of the police car; pushed him to the floor while taking him to his cell, and bloodied his nose after reentering the cell to conduct a second search.
In a decision announced from her courtroom in Leduc on Monday, Smith said she found Pomerleau’s actions were reasonable in each of the three incidents, given that Pomerleau had been confronted with an aggressive and combative “client” and that there were no other police officers available to provide backup. She also pointed out that he is both smaller and lighter than the boy he had arrested and was not aware until later that day that he was only 16 years old.
Witnesses testified during the trial that Pomerleau was called at about 4 a.m. on Aug. 19, 2012, to attend a location in the Deer Park subdivision, where two young bicyclists were causing trouble and damaging vehicles.
Pomerleau handcuffed and arrested a young man, whom we believed was high on drugs, and then placed him in the back seat of his police car. The teenager kicked at the car’s doors and windows and would not settle down despite warnings, said Smith. Pomerleau therefore felt justified in using pepper spray to subdue the boy long enough to deliver him safely to the detachment, she said.
The boy’s aggressive behaviour continued at the booking desk, including swearing, refusing to give his name or address and striking “kung fu-like” stances while challenging Pomerleau to fight him, said Smith.
He actively resisted as Pomerleau led him to the cell and his aggressive behaviour continued after he was locked inside. Video taken while he was in the cell shows him climbing onto the sink and then using both hands to “give the finger” to the camera mounted on the wall before returning to the concrete bench.
One of the matrons then noticed that the boy had pulled a cigarette out of one of his pockets and was holding it in his mouth, said Smith. While he did not wish to reenter the cell, Pomerleau felt he was required to search the boy a second time in case other contraband had been missed, such as a lighter, which could pose a safety threat, she said.
Citing testimony from an expert witness, RCMP Staff Sgt. Leonard McCoshen, Smith reiterated that police officers are entitled to use as much force as necessary to protect their own safety and that of others.
While acquitted on those charges, Pomerleau was found guilty on Friday of assaulting a man he had arrested for impaired driving. Sentencing on that charge is to be held in Red Deer provincial court on July 19.
He had been assigned to administrative duties at a different detachment while awaiting results of the criminal proceedings against him.
Criminal proceedings involving police officers are heard in the jurisdiction where the charges were laid, but are carried by judges and prosecutors from other jurisdictions to avoid any conflict of interest which may arise through their professional relationships as officers of the court.