Yellowknife RCMP officers being investigated for use of force still on duty

(File photo/CKLB)

The RCMP officers at the heart of an investigation into the possible use of excessive force remain on active duty.

On Jan. 27, CBC reported that Maskwacis RCMP is conducting the investigation stemming from an incident on Oct. 14, 2020.

According to the CBC, officers arrested Tracella Romie that day after she allegedly assaulted employees at a Yellowknife liquor store. The 25-year-old said she was intoxicated at the time and doesn’t remember much of the incident, except that she spit up blood and was in pain when handcuffed. The CBC wrote that Romie considered filing a complaint against the officers but decided not to. Romie said investigators told her that another officer at the Yellowknife detachment reported their colleagues.

CKLB was unable to confirm these details with Romie.

CKLB asked about the origin of the investigation and whether a Subject Behaviour/Officer Response report was filed for the incident. Officers must file these reports when there is use of force.

“As this is an ongoing investigation, we will not be able to provide the items you requested, nor comment on how the incident that is part of the investigation was reported,” said Marie York-Condon, spokesperson for NT RCMP.

“Without the presence of an Independent Police Oversight body in the NT, we requested a separate jurisdiction and requested assistance from Alberta RCMP,” she said.

NT RCMP did not share the names of the officers, saying they are “afforded the same privacy considerations as citizens” and, when asked, did not provide any policies around suspensions.

A case of integrity 

RCMP Headquarters told CKLB that members can be suspended with pay if they are found to contravene the code of conduct, Act of Parliament of the legislature of a province or territory.

The code of conduct has a single line on the use of force, which does not offer much clarity.

“Members use only as much force as is reasonably necessary in the circumstances,” it reads.

“The decision to suspend a subject member may be taken in cases where the integrity or operations of the RCMP would be seriously jeopardized if the subject member was not suspended, taking into account the public interest,” wrote Cpl. Caroline Duval, the national RCMP spokesperson.

CKLB asked NT RCMP whether keeping the officers on active duty affected the force’s integrity.

“The Yellowknife Detachment Commander made the decision to have anyone involved in the incident in question remain on active duty,” said York-Condon. “A variety of factors contribute to the decision, but it is important to understand that the member’s status is subject to a continual assessment as the investigation continues. It is for reasons of integrity that we have requested the investigation, and await the results.”

It’s still unclear how many officers are being investigated. When asked, NT RCMP said it would not be providing any more details.

York-Condon clarified the above quote saying, “The information provided is general information, hence the use of the word ‘member’s’, it is not reflective of the ongoing investigation other than to clarify and reinforce that there is a continual assessment of duty status in relation to the investigation.”

Those in question may still be suspended if the investigation results in a conduct hearing.

The Maskwacis detachment is about one hour south of Edmonton; its coverage area includes several first nations.

Ongoing court case

Court documents show that Romie is still facing charges related to the alleged assault at the liquor store.

Jessi Casebeer is Romie’s lawyer appointed through legal aid.

Casebeer declined to comment specifically on Romie’s case and how it would be affected by the use of force investigation.

“An internal investigation regarding police conduct is a separate process from the court proceedings,” she said. “While the findings could have an impact on the court case, the consideration of excessive use of force in a criminal case is separate and, should a case go to trial whether or not excessive force is used, is determined by the trial judge.”

York-Condon said NT RCMP didn’t have a timeline for when the investigation would be complete, or whether the detachment would release the results.

Updated Feb. 2, with a response from NT RCMP on how many officers are being investigated.

About the Author

Francis Tessier-Burns
Francis was a reporter with CKLB from January 2019 to March 2023. In his time with CKLB, he had the immense pleasure and honour of learning about northern Indigenous cultures.