Outside force to investigate Yukon RCMP

An Outside police force will investigate accusations Whitehorse RCMP members broke the shoulder of a First Nation man who was in their custody on January 15.

An Outside police force will investigate accusations Whitehorse RCMP members broke the shoulder of a First Nation man who was in their custody on January 15.

Wayne Hare, 48, alleges police officers beat him up, stripped him of his clothes and left him naked and shivering in the RCMP lockup for six hours.

Hare doesn’t remember being hit by the RCMP. But, following what happened to Raymond Silverfox, he’s far from the only Yukoner to suspect the worst of the police.

Hare’s memories from the preceding evening are bleary, he told the News. He was drunk, standing outside Flippers Pub and waiting for a taxi to take him home.

The next thing he knew, he was naked in the drunk tank.

Between these two moments he remembers little, other than a vague memory of being inside the squad car.

He doesn’t remember being picked up by the police, or being hit by them. Yet he’s convinced that’s what happened.

“This was a blatant attack,” said Hare. “There was no reason for them to pick me up.”

He dismisses the possibility he may have blacked out and taken a bad tumble, or gotten in a fight.

The Tr’ondek Hwech’in member said he is not violent. He used to have run-ins with the police when he was younger and “wild,” but he hasn’t since 2001.

Hare now has a steady job as a trucker.

“I’m known as a working man,” he said.

He insists he isn’t big enough to pose a threat to an officer. He’s slight, weighing 140 pounds.

And if Hare was violent, he wonders why he wasn’t charged with a criminal offense.

Hare felt humiliated when he woke up naked. He never received an explanation for why he was stripped, he said.

The most common reason for prisoners being stripped would be if they had soiled themselves.

Hare suspects police mistook him for a street person. “A lot of them do get beat up and they don’t say anything,” he said.

Now Hare says he’s afraid of the police. “When I see a cop coming, I turn my face away,” he said.

A broken shoulder makes all sorts of simple tasks painful for Hare. He has trouble getting changed, washing his hair or cooking. “I can’t even cut open a baked potato,” he said.

Hare’s case will be investigated by the Lacombe Police Service. Lacombe, Alberta is a town of 12,000 people, located 20 kilometres north of Red Deer.

The Outside force was asked to investigate to avoid the heavily-criticized conflict of interest of having the RCMP examine its own members.

Hare’s allegations come at a time when trust between Yukon’s First Nations and the RCMP is at an all-time low, following three explosive cases last year.

First, two Mounties in Watson Lake were charged with sexual assault. They were found not guilty by the court, but this verdict meant little to many onlookers already suspicious of the RCMP.

Then, a damning coroner’s inquest revealed that Raymond Silverfox, a 43-year-old Carmacks man who died in RCMP custody in December 2008, was mocked and ridiculed by members as he died from acute pneumonia after being locked up for 13 hours.

Last, Robert Stone, 34 years old and extremely intoxicated, died at the Yukon’s Detox Centre after being picked up by police. Stone’s family accused the RCMP of assaulting Stone.

An autopsy was inconclusive as to the cause of death, yet ruled out violence as a cause. But, on the heels of the Silverfox case, many saw a pattern forming.

Earlier this month, the Yukon government announced the new Whitehorse Correctional Centre will feature a bigger, better drunk tank that will be staffed by nurses and correctional staff, rather than RCMP. The secure assessment centre is expected to open by mid-2011.

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