The head of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association is questioning why three local Mounties are still on active duty nearly two years after an alleged incident in Oceanside cells that has the officers facing charges.
“Police are entitled to a fair process, but when they are being actively investigated for crimes, they should not be responsible for enforcing the law,” Josh Paterson, BCCLA executive director/lawyer, told The NEWS in an e-mail. “When an officer is being investigated for potential criminality, they should not be on public-facing enforcement duties because it raises a question in the public’s mind as to whether they can appropriately do their job in upholding the law.”
Last Tuesday, the Criminal Justice Branch of the Ministry of Justice approved charges against three Oceanside RCMP officers — Const. Scott Kennedy Jones, Cpl. Michelle Rene Lebrun and Const. Mick Donald White — for assault with a weapon.
The incident is alleged to have happened June 10, 2013 in Parksville’s detachment cells, where the police officers allegedly used oleoresin capsicum spray, commonly known as pepper spray, in a manner that allegedly constituted excessive force.
Paterson said “it’s important that the police be held accountable if they break the law.”
The Criminal Justice Branch also approved charges last week against Nanaimo RCMP Const. Tim Bedard for assault causing bodily harm in relation to an alleged incident that occurred in Nanaimo’s detachment cells in June, 2014.
However, Bedard has been assigned to administrative duties since those allegations came forward.
At a Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce dinner last month, Staff Sgt. Brian Hunter said the Oceanside RCMP detachment has eight members funded by Qualicum Beach, 16 by Parksville and 13 by the Regional District of Nanaimo — a total force of 37 members.
Three officers represent approximately eight per cent of the Oceanside detachment.
Asked why the three local Mounties with allegations of assault against them are still on active duty and how long each has worked for the RCMP, B.C.’s senior media relations officer Rob Vermeulen said “some of those questions will likely be addressed in court, we really can’t comment any further at this point.”
The police officers in question are scheduled to appear in court March 17 in Nanaimo.