A former Lake Babine First Nation chief councillor says there’s been an increase in police brutality against Indigenous people and is calling for more transparency and accountability after his niece’s leg was fractured during an arrest.
Lindsey Tom was arrested by Burns Lake Mounties on Aug. 4 after calls of a disturbance at a local residence. Police claim she resisted the officers when they tried to put her into the back of a police vehicle.
In a follow-up statement a few days later, the police claimed there was an altercation between the woman and officers before she was placed into a cell at the detachment, as well. B.C.’s police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office, is reviewing the incident to determine whether police action or inaction played a role in the injury.
Wilf Adam, who served as the Lake Babine Nation’s chief councillor for four terms and also sat on the BC Treaty Commission, said he will be talking to the Burns Lake detachment commander and other senior officers.
“These are the people [RCMP] that are sworn to protect the citizens and there’s no need to attack, especially a female… it’s totally wrong,” Adam said.
According to Adam, his niece had an altercation with her boyfriend and she was singled out by the police. She resisted arrest because in her mind she was not the person the police should have arrested, he said.
“When she resisted, the officer came behind her and kicked her right below the kneecap, from the back in the back of the knee area, and kicked her so hard that she fell down and it busted her kneecap.”
Adam also said his niece told police at the scene she had been injured but was still taken to the RCMP detachment. She kept pleading with them until morning that she was in great pain, Adam said.
Tom was sent to Prince George hospital for surgery, and is scheduled for a second surgery in coming days.
Adam claims there have been several violent altercations between the police and members of Lake Babine Nation, especially those members experiencing homelessness, on reserve and in downtown Burns Lake.
Adam said he had worked with the RCMP while chief to put agreements into place about policing to ensure safer lifestyle for their members.
But it’s not like that anymore, he says, and attributes this change to the tensions that have mounted in the region due to the ongoing pipeline protests, which have seen violent clashes between police and Indigenous opposition groups.
“A lot of us have noticed – ever since the pipeline incidents with our neighbouring nations, with their hereditary chiefs. And we can see the police have become more aggressive and more mean to our people. So even though we’re not part of that we’re feeling the effects.”
The RCMP said they will not be commenting on Tom’s case since it is under investigation.
However with regards to Adam’s claims of rising police brutality in the area due to pipeline protests, RCMP north district commander chief/supt Warren Brown said he “respectfully disagrees” with it.
“The police are sometimes called upon or directed to do things in situations that we really would prefer not to be involved in, for instance protests,” Brown said. He also said that while the police prefer not to be involved in any sort of violent confrontation, there are unfortunate times when force has to be used.
Brown further said that police have good relationships with people in the northern communities and are making strong efforts to work with Indigenous communities and look at initiatives and programs to improve the quality of policing and relationships.
The police commander also encouraged people from northern communities to report any instances of police misconduct, including excessive force, through public complaint mechanisms or directly to him.