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Mantler: Threat clues and use of force

The extent that stress affects threat assessment in law enforcement was the focus of provincial court proceedings Friday in the case of RCMP Cst. Geoff Mantler. 

Mantler is charged with assault causing bodily harm during the 2011 arrest of Buddy Tavares, who was pulled over January 7 on K.L.O. Rd., after Kelowna dispatch received a call from the Harvest Golf & Country Club reporting shots were fired.

A video of the apprehension, shot by Kelly Hayes of Castanet, shows Mantler deliver a kick to the face of a down Tavares, who appears to be complying with Mantler.

Sgt. Jeremy Lane, a member of Abbotsford Police was brought in as an expert in “use of force”, and testified Friday that if he received the same call from dispatch he would have considered it “very serious”.  He still, however, believes the use of force was “overly aggressive”.

Cst. Mantler admits he broke several procedures that day and according to his attorney Neville McDougall, was “in a heightened state of arousal”.

Threat cue assessment is vital in cases such as this, and much of expert witness Sgt. Jeremy Lane’s testimony focused on how threats are assessed and what effects stress has on those assessments.

“During heightened states of arousal,” said Lane, “peak performance is reached but begins to suffer as levels (of stress) increase.”

According to Lane’s testimony, “once heart beats reach 180 per minute, tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, spatial distortions and other effects become relevant”.

The video shows several mistakes were made by Cst. Mantler and his partner, according to Sgt. Lane, who viewed the video and has been investigating the incident since Sep. 26, 2011. 

Among them a failure to keep enough distance between himself and the suspect, conflicting vocal commands that likely left the suspect confused and unsure what was being asked of him and leaving lights and siren on, possibly making it more difficult for the suspect to hear those commands.

When asked if there were any “threat cues” visible on the recording, Sgt. Lane said “not that I can see,” but even if there were, “threat cues do not necessitate action” and while Mr. Tavares may have been a threat, that threat does not appear to have been “imminent”.

Cst. Mantler is expected to testify sometime next week.

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