RCMP public complaints commission to look at allegation of Taser video tampering

Dirk Meissner
November 27, 2009
By Dirk Meissner
VICTORIA - The RCMP public complaints commissioner will look into an allegation that officers may have tampered with video evidence in the 2003 death of a B.C. man who was jolted by a Mountie Taser. Paul Kennedy, chairman of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, has undertaken an investigation of all RCMP in-custody deaths in Canada from January 2001 to January 2009 where Tasers were used. Among them is the July 2003 death of Clayton Alvin Willey, who died en route to hospital after his July 2003 arrest in Prince George, B.C.

VICTORIA - The RCMP public complaints commissioner will look into an allegation that officers may have tampered with video evidence in the 2003 death of a B.C. man who was jolted by a Mountie Taser.

Paul Kennedy, chairman of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, has undertaken an investigation of all RCMP in-custody deaths in Canada from January 2001 to January 2009 where Tasers were used.

Among them is the July 2003 death of Clayton Alvin Willey, who died en route to hospital after his July 2003 arrest in Prince George, B.C.

At the request of B.C.'s solicitor general, Kennedy will expand his review of Willey's death to include RCMP video of his arrest.

"The Solicitor General of British Columbia has on behalf of the residents of British Columbia, raised concerns directly with the CPC regarding this incident and in particular with respect to the integrity of the video evidence relating to the arrest and detention of Mr. Willey,'' said a statement released by the complaints commission Wednesday.

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association demanded last week that the raw video footage be released publicly, saying the tape they saw was brutal, but appeared heavily edited.

B.C. Solicitor General Kash Heed said Wednesday that he sent a letter to Kennedy on Nov. 20 asking him to review the circumstances surrounding Willey's death to ensure British Columbians have continued confidence in the RCMP.

Heed said he's seen the video RCMP did release to the family, but is leaving the decision to Kennedy to publicly release the footage.

"I strongly believe that he will do what's best in order for British Columbians to maintain confidence in the RCMP that police this province,'' said Heed, a former municipal police chief.

The RCMP say while they aren't publicly releasing the video at this time, they may do so in the coming months. And they say police policies around Taser use have changed since Willey died.

But Taser use by RCMP is an especially controversial issue in British Columbia, where Robert Dziekanski died two years ago after being stunned multiple times by an RCMP Taser at Vancouver airport.

The final moments of Dziekanski's life were videotaped by a witness. The footage prompted a massive public outcry and, eventually, a public inquiry into the use of Tasers in general and into Dziekanski's death specifically.

Willey, 33, was arrested for causing a public disturbance in a Prince George shopping mall and later died en route to hospital.

A 2004 coroner's inquest into his death found he died of a cocaine overdose, and noted that his autopsy revealed previous cardiac damage.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he recently saw the video showing Willey pulled from an RCMP vehicle, dragged through the station and shocked with a Taser several times while lying on the floor, cuffed and bound. Phillip could not be reached for comment on the expanded investigation.

Kennedy originally set out to examine whether RCMP officers involved with Willey complied with proper training, policies, procedures, guidelines and statutory requirements relating to the use of force.

His review was also slated to review whether RCMP policies, procedures and guidelines applicable to such in-custody incidents are adequate.

The expanded investigation will now review "whether any video evidence exists and whether any RCMP member concealed, tampered with or otherwise inappropriately modified in any way, any evidence, in particular any video evidence, relating to the arrest of Mr. Willey.''

It will also examine whether the investigation in Willey's arrest and death was adequate and free of actual or perceived conflict of interest.

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