Whitehorse man fights for his rights, and wins

When Stewart Jamieson was handcuffed and searched by two RCMP members last year, he told the officers they were violating his rights, but they didn't listen. Now he's got proof.

When Stewart Jamieson was handcuffed and searched by two RCMP members last year, he told the officers they were violating his rights, but they didn’t listen.

Now he’s got proof.

The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP ruled that Jamieson should never have been arrested when police stopped him while walking along Robert Service Way in February 2012.

Cpl. Christopher Hutchings and Const. Ian Crowe were responding to a 911 call about someone wandering in the middle of the road, obstructing traffic. Jamieson fit the description, so they stopped him.

Jamieson gave the officers his name, but refused to provide his identification. The officers arrested him for obstruction.

“I had been out for a hike out to Miles Canyon,” Jamieson recounted. “I was almost home, on Robert Service Way. I was almost within sight of home. One police officer got out (of his car), and said I answered the description of someone obstructing traffic … I said I didn’t know anything about anyone doing that. I said he doesn’t need my name if I’m not in any trouble.

“Then he insisted that he also needed to see my ID. So there was a big argument about that and he called for backup on his two-way (radio). This second cop showed and we went through the whole thing all over again. I got handcuffed and shoved in the car,” Jamieson said.

Once the officers searched his wallet and decided he wasn’t the person they were looking for, they let him go. Jamieson went straight to the Whitehorse detachment to complain.

But the Whitehorse detachment refused to hear his concerns, so Jamieson went up the ladder to the commission for public complaints, which ruled that his arrest and any force used to execute it was unreasonable. That process took over a year.

“Here we are, finally, it’s much more than a year later but better late than never. I was almost starting to wonder whether anybody ever gets a favourable ruling,” Jamieson said.

The problem, according to the Whitehorse detachment’s Insp. Will Tewnion, is that the officers misinterpreted the Yukon Motor Vehicles Act, which the officers incorrectly believed gave them the authority to demand Jamieson’s ID.

“Basically anything that happens on a highway, which includes pretty much any road, is governed under that legislation,” Tewnion explained.

“What happened is the commission found that while the members were engaged in an authorized investigation, they were authorized to obtain the name and address of the individual, but they lacked the authority to demand his identification and that his failure to provide proof of his identity was not a legal basis for his arrest,” Tewnion said.

The two officers involved will receive “operational guidance” to make sure they understand the limits of their authority under the motor vehicles act.

“My personal view is that if I get handcuffed and locked in the back of a police car and I’m not charged, somebody should be,” Jamieson said.

It was an honest mistake, Tewnion insisted, and one that will be clarified for the officers involved ensuring that it doesn’t happen again.

“To me, this is a good news story in that it shows that if somebody is concerned about the actions of the police, they can make a public complaint, that we have a system in place that actually verifies – or not – our findings,” he said.

Tewnion said that in some cases, the police do have the power to demand identification, but it depends on the situation and the particular act that the officers are operating under. There is no blanket rule either way.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com

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