THE BC Civil Liberties Association wants an independent investigation into a May 15 incident in which a local man had a spit hood placed over his head by police officers.
In a press release this morning, the association says William Watts, 36, received “multiple head injuries and alleges he was punched after he was handcuffed, subjected to racial taunts and had his head put in a bag by police.”
A spit hood is a bag which, when placed over the head of someone, prevents a person from spitting onto another person and can catch and retain blood, vomit and other material.
The civil liberties assocation said Watts had originally called 911 asking for help with a family member.
According to a Terrace RCMP detachment news release for the 24-hour period in question, officers did respond to a call for assistance.
“A man reported that a woman was breaching her conditions of no consume alcohol on Davis Ave. Police arrested the woman for breach,” the police release on the incident stated.
“The man became aggitated and aggressive towards others in the residence including children. Police arrested the 37-year-old man. The man was aggresive and non compliant and stated that he was going to spit into the face of the police officer. A spit hood was placed on his head to prevent this,” the release continued.
“Charges of breach of being forward on the 35-year-old woman for breach to Crown Counsel,” the release on the incident concluded.
The civil liberties association said the Watts incident is the second this spring involving an aboriginal person and Terrace RCMP officers.
In the first incident, Robert Wright, 47, suffered a head injury April 21 and was taken from detachment cells to Vancouver via air ambulance for treatment.
New Westminster police are investigating this incident.
That incident began when he was placed in custody after his wife called for assistance, according to the association.
The civil liberties association news release says Wright has “recently come out of the coma he is in, but is seriously brain injured.”
The two incidents, together with one in Prince Rupert where the arm of a 15-year-old girl was broken after her family called RCMP for assistance, “suggest to us that there is a serious systemic problem,” says civil liberties association president Robert Holmes.
“No group in society should be afraid that calling the police for help is more likely to result in serious injury for a family member or friend than a peaceful resolution of a problem,” said Holmes.
He called for better training of RCMP officers.
“What they’re doing right now isn’t working,” said Holmes.
Terrace RCMP Constable Angela Rabut, who speaks for the Terrace detachment, says the man in the spit hood incident was arrest for assaulting a police officer and the woman was arrested for family to comply with an earlier undertaking.
Information on both people was forwarded to provincial Crown Counsel lawyers for charge approval, she said.
“Both of these people were arrested and released when sober the next morning,” Rabut said in a statement.
She said an outside agency was not called in to investigate.
“Outside agencies are called in for an investigation in matters of death or serious injury,” said Rabut. “In this matter, there were not injuries to prompt consideration of an outside police force being called in for an investigation.”