A Mountie whose career started in the Red Deer city detachment has been given a conditional discharge for punching a man he had arrested on suspicion of impaired driving.
Const. Eric Pomerleau, currently on administrative duties with the Brooks RCMP, was tried and found guilty before Judge Gregory Lepp in Red Deer provincial court in June on an assault charge laid after the incident, which took place at the Red Deer city detachment on Nov. 7, 2012.
Sentencing arguments were heard on Tuesday, with Calgary-based Crown prosecutor Photini Papadatou asking for a fine in the range of $500 to $1,000.
Papadatou stressed that a police officer in charge of a prisoner is in a position of trust and that all police officers must be held to a higher standard than ordinary citizens.
Defence counsel Robb Beeman, also from Calgary, asked for a conditional discharge, which would uphold the conviction without creating a criminal record for his client.
Beeman argued that Pomerleau, 31 and married to a police officer, had suffered multiple effects as a result of the charge, including public humiliation, emotional stress and a financial shortfall because he was unable to perform extra duties that would have been available to him.
Beeman submitted 11 letters of reference from colleagues, professionals and family members describing Pomerleau as a public servant with a caring and kind nature and a good father.
Lepp said that, while Pomerleau is certainly guilty of assault, the nature of the incident was relatively minor in comparison to other cases where police have been brought before the court for the “gratuitous” assault of a suspect or prisoner.
He said Pomerleau had punched a man three times in the stomach and once in the head in a dispute over signing some documents before he was to be released from custody.
In this case, Pomerleau was an inexperienced member who over-reacted to a situation that could have been handled differently, said Lepp.
“This does not excuse his conduct, but puts it in perspective.”
Lepp found that the effects Pomerleau has suffered during criminal proceedings against him should discourage other police officers from using excessive force, while the public would not be well served if he were given a criminal record.
Citing Beeman’s submission, he noted that Pomerleau had worked as a public servant before joining the RCMP and that a criminal record would place hurdles in his path should he wish to continue as a public servant, whether with the RCMP or in another capacity.
“Society is better off if Const. Pomerleau can continue without the burden of a criminal record in the way,” said Lepp.
He granted Pomerleau a conditional sentence with one year of probation, including an order that he perform 50 hours of community service within the next six months.
Criminal charges could follow if Pomerleau breaches the conditions of his probation.
Pomerleau was previously acquitted of an assault charge laid in connection with his handling of a Red Deer teenager arrested for mischief in the early hours of Aug. 19, 2012.