RCMP to review members’ actions, community safety officer training after release of video

RCMP officials have pledged to conduct a full assessment of members’ actions, and of the training of community safety officers, after CBC News obtained video of a young woman knocked unconscious in a northern Manitoba detachment in 2018.

Genesta Garson, then 19 years old, was detained on the night of Jan. 6, 2018, on suspicion of being intoxicated. While at the Thompson RCMP detachment, an altercation with a safety officer led her to being punched in the chin after she threw her belt at him.

She was knocked out and dragged into a nearby cell.

“The video released yesterday was difficult to watch, and I recognize that many people are troubled about what occurred in the cell area of the Thompson detachment,” Jane MacLatchy, commanding officer of the Manitoba RCMP, said in a statement emailed Tuesday.

“Let me be clear that the safety and security of everyone who is taken into custody is of paramount importance and the use of force or acts of violence within our cell area by any individual is concerning.”

Genesta Garson was detained at the RCMP detachment in Thompson, Man. on Jan. 6, 2018 after officers suspected her of being drunk. This is the security video taken from that night, which shows an officer knocking her unconscious. 1:49

MacLatchy said in the statement that RCMP reviewed the incident when it occurred and decided not to charge the safety officer who threw the punch.

However, after CBC News obtained the video through a court application and released it, she said she will review whether there was anything RCMP officers should have done differently.

“I have asked for a further assessment of the situation to determine if there is anything the RCMP could have done better that day and the days following the incident,” she said.

MacLatchy stressed that even though the safety officer who hit Garson is not employed by the RCMP, it is responsible for ensuring everyone taken into their cells is safe.

Safety officers are employed by the City of Thompson and have the power to detain someone under the Intoxicated Persons Detention Act if they suspect they are intoxicated in public. 

She said RCMP will examine the use of force training that safety officers receive through the City of Thompson and see if it requires any updating. 

“As an organization, we need to ensure that any peace officer who has access to our cells has the appropriate training, particularly as it pertains to use of force.”

Cell ‘not the best place’ for intoxicated people

MacLatchy also addressed the high number of arrests under the Intoxicated Persons Detention Act (IPDA) over the last five years in northern Manitoba. In that period, more than 27,000 people have been detained by police or safety officers under the act in the north. 

She added that a recent commitment by the government of Manitoba to fund a $2.8 million sobering centre will help address the issue. 

“We all know a detachment cell block is not the best place to house someone who is intoxicated; however, sometimes there is little other choice,” she said, adding there is a lack of available in the north.

But she also said that in northern communities, detaining someone can save their life in the winter. Five people died from exposure last winter in Thompson, she said. 

“We also know that people who are intoxicated are more likely to become victims of crime,” she said. 

“I can assure you that our senior officers are working with the province and partners across sectors to find solutions that do not involve arresting individuals and placing them in our cells.”

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