Videos posted online of police arrests have sparked anger amongst some La Loche, Sask., residents, but a Saskatchewan RCMP official says the videos do not tell the full story.
One of the videos shows an arrest made in La Loche — a village 514 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon — on Sunday. The video appears to have been filmed by a person near an outbuilding.
In the video, police members are seen entering the building, shouting multiple commands for everyone to get on the ground, as the suspect was considered armed and dangerous.
According to police, one man refused to comply with police direction, leading to an exchange of words between police and the suspect.
La Loche Mayor Robert St. Pierre says when he watched the video, he heard a voice that he believed was a female member saying, “f–king savages” from inside the building.
“When I talked to the RCMP, they assured me that’s not what she said. What she said was ‘sack of shit.’
“But regardless, when you listen to it, that’s what you hear, is ‘f–king savage,'” said St. Pierre.
“All I know is when I got the reaction of that video and I was told about it, and I got multiple calls regarding that, I maintain that it’s unacceptable behaviour.”
Video of April 28 police arrest in La Loche (contains explicit language):
A statement from the police force said it had reviewed the video extensively.
“The RCMP is confident that a racial slur was not used. However, we acknowledge the video does contain expletive language and we are reviewing the use of this language.”
Filming allowed but position ‘dangerous’: RCMP
Another video showed the person filming being told to get “the f–k out of here,” with the video then going black.
Cpl. Rob King, a spokesperson for the Saskatchewan RCMP, said that people are allowed to film police interactions but in this case, the person was pushed out of the way because of the nature of the situation.
“They were in too dangerous of a position,” he said.
St. Pierre says he spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detachment and told him he was disappointed in how the situation was handled, and that the language used was unacceptable.
He said he would leave any further action to the detachment.
2nd arrest video also circulating
Police noted another arrest on Sunday in La Loche was captured on video, which was shared multiple times on social media and described as showing police “roughing up a [disabled] person for an open can of beer.”
In that case, according to the police statement, a group of intoxicated people were consuming alcohol in a public place and officers asked them to pour out their alcohol.
A woman did not comply and resisted arrest, which led to a struggle that was then captured on film, said police.
“This video does not capture the incident in its entirety, and begins halfway through the arrest,” police said. “During the arrest, a large group of people surrounded police and began to interfere with the arrest attempt.”
Police went on to arrest two people, laying charges of assault of a police officer, obstruction of a police officer, causing a disturbance and resisting arrest.
Mayor, police say they want to maintain relationship
Police said comments had been made calling for violence in the wake of these online video postings. Those comments are concerning, RCMP said, and “impact the important relationships our officers have with the communities and people we serve.”
“Community safety is a shared responsibility between the community and the police.”
La Loche RCMP and local elected officials met on Monday, with police saying they wanted to ensure their relationship remains strong.
Earlier this month, Saskatchewan RCMP issued a press release saying that someone had slashed tires on a police vehicle in La Loche, possibly in retaliation for a crackdown on dangerous ATV use there.
St. Pierre said he wasn’t aware of the circumstances around that incident. But when asked about the general relationship between police and La Loche residents, he said he believed there had been “a lot of headway when it comes to the relationship between the RCMP and the community on a lot of the deliverables we’ve been engaged with.”
“We don’t want to tarnish that.”