Penticton resident speaks out after acknowledged wrongful arrest by RCMP

'Justice' after troubling arrest

“I was thrown on the cement, kneed in the back and pressurized three times until I had no air."

A Penticton resident has received an apology letter from local RCMP after being arrested and injured years ago, but says she is not satisfied by actions from the independent body which oversees police.

Jamie* spoke to Castanet regarding her arrest that took place on Aug. 13, 2018, which the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) ruled was "unreasonable," as was the failure of RCMP to document her complaint.

She expressed frustration with what she viewed as a lack of accountability and transparency in the police department, and the decision made by the CRCC.

The CRCC was created in 1988 as an independent agency to review public complaints regarding the federal police force.

The commission receives complaints from the public and conducts reviews when complainants are not satisfied with the RCMP’s handling of their complaints.

Satisfied reports or final reports providing findings and recommendations to the RCMP are made public but do not include details such as the location of the offence or officers involved.

Castanet obtained the final report involving Jamie, naming parties involved.

Details from CRCC Report

The final report, some details of which Jamie disputes, states that RCMP members were interacting with a group of homeless persons and were issuing a ticket for open liquor when a woman, confirmed as Jamie, voiced her protest and said that the police should leave the homeless alone.

According to the report, an officer noted her slurred speech and issued her a ticket for being intoxicated in public.

“When the woman refused the ticket and the RCMP member tried to put it in her purse, an altercation ensued. The RCMP member took the woman to the ground while the other RCMP members assisted in handcuffing her,” the report reads.

“The woman was detained at the RCMP detachment until she was sober. She alleged that, while she was detained, she made several requests to receive medical attention for her injury and to file a public complaint against the RCMP member, and that her requests were denied.”

Jamie followed this up with a public complaint about her arrest, detention, and the alleged failure to provide medical attention and allow her to make a complaint.

According to the CRCC report and Jamie, the RCMP’s public complaint investigator discovered he had been involved in receiving the woman’s requests while she was in custody.

The officer raised his concerns about the conflict of interest with his chain of command and asked for another RCMP member to be assigned to investigate the complaint, but he was denied.

The RCMP’s report concluded that the woman’s allegations were unsupported.

Once Jamie asked the CRCC to review the matter, they concluded differently, finding the arrest was unreasonable and the use of force was unauthorized by law.

“While the woman was intoxicated, her actions were not criminal, because she was not causing a disturbance,” the report reads.

The CRCC recommended that the RCMP officer involved receive operational guidance about his legal authorities to arrest a person for public intoxication and for causing a disturbance.

The commission found there was a conflict of interest when the RCMP member who should have been identified as a subject member of the complaint was then assigned to investigate that same complaint.

It was determined that the detachment chain of command "unreasonably failed" to assign a different investigator after being alerted to the issue, and the conflict of interest made the RCMP’s report unreliable.

The commission highlighted that the public complaint investigator was not at fault, since he made multiple attempts to raise his concerns and have the file reassigned.

“The commission noted with concern that the RCMP’s report failed to mention evidence supporting the woman’s allegation about the requests she had made. In particular, it did not mention the public complaint investigator’s information confirming that he received the requests.”

The RCMP detachment reportedly failed to document reasons for denying the women’s requests or any action taken in response.

It was recommended that the RCMP issue an apology to the woman for its “inappropriate handling of her public complaint and for its failure to document the response to her requests.”

The detachment also recommended that the author of the RCMP’s report and the detachment leadership receive "operational guidance and training" about the conduct of public complaints investigations, including the requirement to avoid conflicts of interest.

The report stated that the RCMP commissioner agreed with all of the CRCC’s findings and recommendations.

Apology letter means little

Jamie received an apology letter from Staff Sergeant Robert (Bob) Vatamaniuck on Dec. 19, 2023, roughly five and a half years after her arrest.

While most of the apology letter contains the same information determined in the final report from the CRCC, it acknowledges the wrongdoing of the Penticton RCMP.

“On behalf of the Penticton RCMP, I apologize for the actions of Constable Wolchok, Superintendent Hunter and the Penticton RCMP Leadership team,” Vatamaniuck wrote.

“Please accept my apologies for any distress you may have experienced from this incident. I would hope that the corrective actions taken, and this apology, will assist in bringing closure to this matter raised with the CRCC.”

Jamie said she was unhappy with the recommendations that were made after the incident.

“I was brutally assaulted,” she claimed, adding that she was “slammed on the cement” even when she was trying to cooperate that day back in 2018.

“The whole thing is absolutely disgusting.”

Jamie alleged that she has had a few runs-in with the police where she claims to have been treated unfairly and was officially diagnosed with severe PTSD from the interactions.

She said she is still fearful of the police due to the incidents and claimed that while Vatamaniuck called her, wanting to offer the apology in person, she refused, not wanting to see the police.

Jamie said she was upset that the arresting officer was recommended to receive operational guidance and mentoring afterwards.

“I was thrown on the cement, kneed in the back and pressurized three times until I had no air," she claimed.

"I was unable to take air in…And [the police officer] wasn't charged with assault.”

Future action after report

In bringing her story public, Jamie said she hopes people will understand that they have the option to make complaints with the CRCC if they are not satisfied with dealing with RCMP.

Since she was not satisfied with the ruling from the CRCC in her case, she plans to request a judicial review of the file.

She has also sent complaints to the Minister of Public Safety of Canada, and the Minister of Public Safety of BC in regards to the incident.

Castanet reached out to the RCMP about what operational guidance the officers involved received, as per the direction from the CRCC, and if the Penticton detachment changed any of its arrest protocols following this incident.

With Jamie being unsatisfied with the direction given by the CRCC and still fearful of RCMP, Castanet also inquired as to what steps the Penticton detachment took to ensure citizens were safe during arrest situations.

Cpl. James Grandy of the RCMP's Southeast District said he could not provide commentary on the specifics of individual public complaints.

“The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission is the independent agency mandated to handle these,” he said in an emailed statement.

“The CRCC ensures that public complaints made about the conduct of RCMP members are examined fairly and impartially. The CRCC receives complaints from the public, and conducts reviews when complainants are not satisfied with the RCMP’s handling of their complaints.”

The CRCC states that summaries of reviewed public complaints have been depersonalized in order to protect the privacy of individuals who file public complaints against the RCMP.

Castanet reached out to inquire why the reviewed public complaints are limited in their details of the area where the offence occurred, as the CRCC states they are open and transparent on incidents found where RCMP members need to be found accountable for their actions.

Castanet also asked how long the complaint and review process takes, and what course of action can be taken if a complainant is not satisfied by the actions recommended by the CRCC for the incident.

Kate McDerby, director of strategic communications and outreach for the CRCC said, in answer to why the reviewed public complaints include limited details, "protecting the privacy of individuals who file complaints against the RCMP is paramount."

“We publish summaries of all the complaints we review – whether we are satisfied with how the RCMP handled the complaint allegations or whether we make finding and issue recommendations,” she said in an emailed statement.

“The location of the incident is not included in the public CRCC summary as this may identify the person involved in the incident.

“The CRCC and the RCMP have an MOU [memorandum of understanding] that sets out the timeline for the completion of the complaint and review process. Please note that the RCMP have publicly stated an internal service standard of a 120 days to finalize public complaints.”

For Jamie, the response felt lacking.

"A woman is brutally assaulted, and he gets mentoring. This is the whole problem,” she claimed.

“I want justice.”

*Castanet has agreed to shield Jamie's identity by using this pseudonym

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