A Yellowknife man who had his ribs fractured by an RCMP officer while he was handcuffed in a cell in the summer of 2017 is crying foul after an investigation cleared the officer of any wrongdoing.
Mounties requested that the incident be investigated independently by the Edmonton Police Service.
In a news release issued by RCMP last month, Mounties stated that Edmonton Police conducted a “thorough” investigation and determined that the officer acted lawfully in the execution of his duty.
The man who had his ribs broken, Michael Cotchilly, wants to know how it can be described as a thorough investigation when Edmonton police never contacted him and didn’t speak to him.
“It doesn’t make sense. I’m the victim and I was never spoken to by police.” Cotchilly told CKLB this week.
His lawyer at the time, Jay Bran, wondered the same thing.
“I wasn’t surprised at all. Anytime a police agency investigates another police agency, I’m always concerned about its impartiality,” Bran said.
He added that it is time that the Northwest Territories looks at tapping into Alberta’s civilian police watchdog to investigate alleged RCMP misconduct in the territory.
“Absolutely I think that having a civilian oversight committee or agency would be great. Whether it was something that was done here independently or in conjunction with another jurisdiction would be a great idea.”
CKLB reached out to ASIRT – Alberta’s Serious Incident Response Team to see if they would be willing and able to include the NWT in its mandate but has not heard back from them.
Bran says he has seen closed circuit video of the incident in the cells but has since returned it to the Crown prosecutor’s office.
It was never played in court.
He said he does not know whether Edmonton Police came to Yellowknife as part of their investigation.
Bran says he would have gladly connected investigators with Cotchilly had they reached out to him which he says they did not.
Cotchilly does not have a phone.
He had been charged with assaulting the officer prior to his arrest for spitting on him.
RCMP in the NWT currently ask Alberta police forces like Edmonton city police as well as Lethbridge and Medicine Hat RCMP to investigate alleged police misconduct.
Frame Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly agrees with Bran that an independent police warchdog agency in the territory is something that should be looked into.
“It’s an interesting idea. It would probably provide an additional level of oversight,” he said.
O’Reilly says he may bring the idea up with Justice Minister Lou Sebert when the legislative assembly resumes next month.
He points out that the territory does not directly oversee the RCMP which is federally controlled but adds the GNWT should have some input because it contracts and pays the Mounties to provide police services in the territory.
The latest developments follow the announcement last month that a Tuktoyaktuk teenager is suing the RCMP for $600 million in a class-action lawsuit for excessive use of force on Indigenous people across all three territories.
The boy claims he was Tasered and harassed for no legitimate reason by Mounties in Tuk in late 2017.
Police have so far refused to comment on their investigation into the alleged Tasering.
They have also refused to comment on why Cotchilly was never interviewed and are not releasing the report that cleared the officer of breaking Cotchilly’s ribs.