The Kamloops RCMP is defending how its officers handled two incidents in which complainants told Vancouver media outlets the detachment needs more diversity training.
On July 6 at about 3 a.m., police responded to the Duchess Nightclub in North Kamloops, where Ashcroft man Johnathan Hall claimed he was assaulted and called the N-word — an incident his mother described as a hate crime that local Mounties did not take seriously.
On June 16 at about 11:30 p.m., Ben Fulton, who is blind, ended up handcuffed and in the back of a police cruiser following an incident at a Valleyview gas station. Fulton said there was a confrontation with a clerk who told him his guide dog wasn’t allowed inside the store, despite the fact the canine was legally allowed to be inside the store.
Fulton said he believes officers’ actions show a lack of training on the part of the RCMP.
Kamloops RCMP Cpl. Jodi Shelkie told KTW the officers involved in both cases followed proper protocols.
“In neither of these situations is it something where race or disability came in [to play],” Shelkie said, noting the detachment has heard criticism that officers didn’t handle the incidents appropriately.
The complainants and the RCMP have differing accounts of the incidents.
Shelkie said police officers attended the Duchess, where they discovered a fight had already broken up, observing that the 27-year-old Hall and a 34-year-old man from Vernon had sustained minor injuries.
Hall told Global News a brawl broke out between himself, a friend and two white men after they called him racial slurs, including “darkie” and the N-word. Hall said one man threw him to the ground and kicked him in the head while using racist language.
Hall claimed that when officers arrived, they tended to other parties first, didn’t take a statement and didn’t take photos of his injuries, despite him mentioning it.
According to Shelkie, those involved were unco-operative with police.
“At that time, neither man wished for police assistance or further investigation, nor were there any indicators at that time that [the assault] was hate-motivated,” she said.
Hall’s mother, Carrie Hall, who lives in the U.S., told Global News that police did not treat her son as a victim. She saw the incident as an opportunity for the RCMP to improve training around hate crimes and racial sensitivity — noting responding officers were white.
Shelkie said there are three types of hate crimes in the Criminal Code for which someone can be charged: hate propaganda, public incitement of hatred and mischief relating to religious property.
“None of those fit this [incident],” Shelkie said, noting there is no criminal offence for someone calling another person racially charged names. But if someone is found guilty of an assault, those facts could be taken into consideration upon sentencing.
Shelkie said the assault investigation is ongoing.
“If charges are approved, then we need that information for sentencing,” she said.
Fulton, the blind man, told CTV News he tried to show his guide dog identification card to the gas station clerk.
The clerk, however, maintained his position and said he would call police, Fulton said.
Shelkie said Mounties received a call from an employee who reported a man and woman had brought their pet in the store and became verbally aggressive when told it wasn’t allowed inside.
Two officers responded and found the man and woman yelling in the store, Shelkie said, adding they also yelled at the officers and refused to leave when asked by police to do so.
Fulton told CTV he wasn’t confrontational, spoke in a calm voice and wanted to show the officers his guide dog identification card. He said the situation demonstrates a lack in training because the officers were not able to recognize immediately that his dog is a guide dog.
Shelkie said Fulton was arrested and taken outside to de-escalate the situation.
“Once the woman conveyed that the man was blind, he was released from handcuffs and released without charges,” Shelkie said, noting officers weren’t told the man was blind until they took him outside.
She said it was not apparent the man had a guide dog, noting it was sitting by itself off to the side and behind the man and woman when police attended.
Asked if additional training was something the Kamloops RCMP is considering in light of the incidents, Shelkie said it is not believed officers acted improperly, and pointed out that police already receive diversity training.
Shelkie said RCMP officers receive training at the RCMP Depot Academy in Regina and on the job.
She said courses related to race relations, gender identity and dealing with people who have mental illness and physical disabilities are applied at the academy through lectures and scenario training at Depot and again through online courses on the job whenever the course is updated.
She said courses are updated sporadically, but noted this type of training comes into practise essentially on a daily basis.