A video of a RCMP officer apparently kneeling on a man's neck at the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport was presented in court and released by media. This video was presented without previous notification to the Crown or the RCMP. I was made aware of the video the morning of August 11, 2021.
I found the video very disturbing. Hearing a man clearly informing police officers that he cannot breathe is all too present in our collective consciousness. Let me be very clear, the RCMP does not teach nor endorse any technique where RCMP officers place a knee on the head or neck. This applies to the teaching of cadets at the RCMP Academy, Depot Division, as well as in-service training and police intervention re-certification.
When a suspect is on the ground, police officers may place a knee on the upper body of an individual to gain control to allow them to handcuff the person. In this technique, police officers are taught to place a knee just below the shoulder blade and to avoid applying pressure directly on the neck or spine.
That being said, I believe there needs to be as much context as possible provided regarding the incident in question, recognizing the case remains before the courts and the absolute need for procedural fairness. The court has ordered unedited surveillance video from the airport to be released, which I believe shows the totality of the events that occurred that night, to which I will now refer.
RCMP officers of the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport were called to an incident in front of the terminal building alleging that an intoxicated male had assaulted a member of the public. When officers arrived on the scene, they tried for an extended period of time to de-escalate the situation and deal with the male, without the use of force. During their efforts to speak with the individual, he was non-cooperative and became combative, striking a police officer in the face without apparent provocation. A brief altercation ensued and he was arrested. After the individual had been placed in handcuffs, he kicked the arresting officer in the groin and thigh area. The individual was taken to the ground at which point the officer appears to place his knee to the individual's neck.
It is completely unacceptable for anyone to assault a police officer. Our officers responded to assist a member of the public who reported being assaulted, and they were assaulted in turn. This is a difficult situation for any police officer to deal with. However, a knee to the neck is not the response for which our officers are trained, and this incident needs to be further examined.
Upon becoming aware of this incident on August 11, the Manitoba RCMP referred this incident to the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba. We are also conducting a comprehensive internal review of the officer's actions, known as a Code of Conduct investigation. As part of this internal process, the duty status of the officer involved is being reviewed.
Public trust is essential for the RCMP to effectively police the communities we serve. As a result, RCMP employees are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that meets the rightfully high expectations of Canadians. Please trust me when I say we are looking into this. I will not let this go unexamined; I owe it to the individual involved, the public, and the RCMP officers under my command, to take the time to review this properly and determine the appropriate way forward. Public safety and the safety of my officers have always been, and continue to be, my top priorities.
Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy
Commanding Officer, RCMP Manitoba