- Our Town
VIDEO: Assault charge recommended against Williams Lake RCMP constable
The Abbotsford Police Department has concluded its investigation of an incident involving the arrest of a 17-year-old girl in Williams Lake Sept. 10, 2011.
According to a news release from the Abbotsford Police Department sent out Wednesday morning, that girl sustained injuries while in the custody of the Williams Lake RCMP.
After a thorough examination of the totality of the circumstances, the Abbotsford Police are recommending a charge of assault against a Williams Lake RCMP officer.
No charges are being recommended against the teenager.
In September, Martina Jeff sent a letter of complaint to the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, accusing RCMP Const. Andy Yung of assaulting her daughter Jamie Haller.
Shortly after, Jamie told the Tribune she was punched in the face several times by an RCMP officer while she was handcuffed in the back of a police car.
Jeff, in her letter, said she watched the officer “put his whole upper body in the car” and punch Jamie.
“I was close enough to see the movement of his arms, as he was striking her,” the letter says.
On receiving phone calls from both the Abbotsford and Williams Lake RCMP detachment Wednesday morning about the recommended charge of assault, Jeff says she was speechless.
“It took my breath away,” Jeff said, adding she hadn’t been able to reach Jamie to let her know because she was out snowmobiling.
Since the incident Jamie has quit attending school, quit her job, and has been a lot quieter than normal, her mom said.
“It really fouled up her schedule, but I’m hoping when she gets the news about the charges, it will help,” Jeff said, adding every time they discuss the incident her daughter gets teary.
During a press conference held at city hall Wednesday, Supt. Rod Booth, acting commander for the North District BC RCMP, said it would be inappropriate to provide detailed comments while Crown counsel conducts its review of the report.
Booth, however, said it was necessary, given the seriousness of the allegations, to advise the public on the action the RCMP has taken.
“On Sept. 10, 2011 at approximately 10:15 at night, members of the Williams Lake RCMP responded to several 911 calls reporting a possible assault in progress involving a highly emotional, distraught female. All on-duty members responded to this call, which resulted in the arrest of 17-year-old female,” Booth said.
Following the incident concerns were raised about her treatment by a Williams Lake detachment constable, he said.
“A public complaints investigation was initially initiated by the commander of the Williams Lake detachment, Insp. Warren Brown. However, the decision was made to request an independent external investigation to be conducted by the Abbotsford Police Department,” Booth said.
He said the RCMP then invited an impartial First Nations observer who was chosen following consultation with the teen’s family. The observer’s job was to monitor the independent Abbotsford Police Department investigation.
Jeff says the observer was a chief from Canoe Creek who she asked to help out.
Booth says that as a result of a communication misunderstanding concerning roles and responsibilities of the independent investigation, the Williams Lake detachment submitted a report to Crown counsel, which resulted in charges being approved and then laid against the 17-year old.
“The misunderstanding centred around the belief that the Abbotsford Police Department were only investigating the allegations against the police officer, when in fact, the RCMP had asked that they investigate the totality of the circumstances,” Booth explained, adding when he realized this he immediately worked with Crown counsel to facilitate a stay of proceedings regarding the charges against the girl.
All investigative material was made available to the Abbotsford Police investigators and a separate investigation is underway to establish how this occurred, Booth added.
Booth said Brown has personally spoken with the girl’s family, but out of respect, those details will not be disclosed.
Jeff, however, told the Tribune she was really satisfied with Brown’s call.
“It made my day a little bit brighter,” she said.
While the constable cannot be named because the charges have not been approved by Crown counsel, Booth did say the RCMP has also ordered an internal code-of-conduct investigation, which will include a thorough report of the report submitted by the Abbotsford RCMP on March 7.
Once the RCMP received the report, the constable was immediately removed from operations and placed on non-operational duties, remaining at the Williams Lake detachment.
At the press conference, Brown said he was disappointed to learn of the recommended charge of assault against one of his constables.
“I hold the members and employees at my detachment to a high level of accountability and demand a high standard of moral and ethical behaviour. I’m responsible for the actions of the Williams Lake RCMP members,” Brown said, adding he assumed responsibility for the initial confusion regarding the recommendation of the charge against the girl.
The case illustrates the benefits of the independent investigations office and an investigative body being created, which the RCMP has long supported, Brown said.
“As the commander it is my responsibility to ensure clarity of all roles and responsibilities in all criminal investigations in Williams Lake. It is important to me to maintain the trust and confidence of the communities we serve and for those reasons I support the investigative process that has been undertaken,” Brown said.
In a news release, the Abbotsford Police Department said the case was extremely challenging to investigate.
“The pivotal contact between the police officer and the girl took place in the confines of the rear seat of a patrol car,” the release says. “That the rear seat and the area around the vehicle were in darkness. The accounts offered by the officer and the girl differed. However, after reviewing all of the available evidence, the Abbotsford Police Department has forwarded the report to Regional Crown Counsel in Prince George for charge approval consideration.”
Jeff’s younger daughter, 12, witnessed the incident on Sept. 10 and according to Jeff is also taking it day by day.
“She always tells me, Mom, what do I do if I need the cops, and I always tell her if you do need the cops, not all of them are the bad ones,” Jeff said.