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Sydney teenager alleges police brutality, but security video goes missing

by Robert Devet

A teenager alleges that police beat him up after he was arrested and  handcuffed. The police officers say that's not what happened. Meanwhile, the security video that may have captured the incident was allowed to be erased.
A teenager alleges that police beat him up after he was arrested and handcuffed. The police officers say that's not what happened. Meanwhile, the security video that may have captured the incident was allowed to be erased.

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Somehow a teenager got hurt on October 14th, 2014, just after he was arrested for breaking into a transport trailer, trying to steal some fireworks.

The mother of the sixteen-year-old boy charges that police used excessive force after he was already handcuffed. The arresting police officers say that there was just a bit of a scuffle while the boy was trying to escape.

By the time a formal investigation was launched the security tape that a store owner suggests contained video of most of the arrest had been erased.

A recently released report by the Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT), an independent organization that is tasked with investigating incidents like this one, looks into the situation.

The teenager claims that after being handcuffed he was struck in the abdomen by police officers, the report states. He says the same officers then kicked the feet from under him, causing him to fall, and dug their knuckles into his temples, all this to force him to identify a companion who had managed to evade arrest.

The officers counter that no excessive force was used and that the injuries were sustained while the boy was trying to escape.

An emergency room physician who examined the boy shortly after the arrest noted some soft tissue injuries, small bruises and mild swelling.

We'll never know for sure what happened, says the SIRT report. “In the end both (the teenager) and the officers 1 and 2 gave credible versions of what occurred. The objective evidence does not help to resolve the issue.”

If the security video had not been erased we might well have know much more. So what happened to that video?

“The officer goes in to see the video, evidence of the break-in attempt, viewed it with the (store) owner and asked the owner to hold it,” Ron MacDonald, director of SIRT, tells the Halifax Media Co-op.

The store owner however erased and re-used the video after the meeting, well before SIRT started its investigation.

“The owner understood that (the police officer) didn't want it, (the police officer) said he didn't need it,” MacDonald explains.

Both the store owner and the police officer who viewed the tape say that the video did not reveal anything out of the ordinary. The two disagree about the extent that the tape covered the arrest. The store owner suggests that it covered most of the arrest, the police officer asserts that most of the arrest was out of view of the camera anyways.

“I can only tell you what we have been told,” says MacDonald when asked whether evidence often gets lost like that.

Why wouldn't the officer just take the tape back to police headquarters right there and then?

|”I guess the best question is what is best practice for a police agency when they go to get a video, and was it applied in this case. Was it good enough to say keep that for us,” MacDonald wonders aloud.

“Now to be fair it wasn't a murder case, it was an attempted break and enter, and to be fair as well, they were not aware of any accusation,” says MacDonald.

Last week we asked the Cape Breton Police Department to explain how the tape got erased, but we have not yet received a response.

Meanwhile, several recent allegations of wrongdoing have lead to charges against police officers in the Cape Breton Police Department.

Last month a member of the Cape Breton Regional Police, was charged with assault against one woman, and two charges of assault against another. Last week another officer with the department was arrested and charged with identity fraud.

Follow Robert DeVet on Twitter



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