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Winnipeg officers cleared of wrongdoing in 2009 arrest

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The lawyer for a Winnipeg man whose arrest by police was captured on film said he’s disappointed an investigation by Mounties into the officers’ actions won’t result in charges.

Dan Manning, the lawyer for Cody Bousquet, said his client was informed this week that no officers would be charged for their actions in February 2009.

The RCMP D division released a statement Thursday afternoon saying that the results of a two-year-old investigation into the Feb. 27, 2009 arrest of Cody Bousquet were turned over to an independent Crown counsel from Ontario, who concluded criminal charges are not warranted against the Winnipeg police officers involved in the arrest.

"Obviously, we’re disappointed with this decision," said Manning, who represents Bousquet. Manning and he doesn’t know why the decision was made.

"I saw the injuries on Cody the next day. He was hardly recognizable. He was beaten," said Manning.

The RCMP investigation was prompted by comments from Provincial court Judge Ray Wyant when the then 18-year-old Bousquet, appeared in court for sentencing in January 2010.

The court was shown a video of the arrest, where six Winnipeg Police officers beat and twice Tasered Bousquet as he lay curled on the ground. In February 2009, an extremely drunk Bousquet stole a pick-up truck, rammed it into a police cruiser, cut across a crowded downtown sidewalk and crashed into a parked car and light standard.

At the sentencing, Wyant said Bousquet did not show any "overt resistance" to police and the force used by Winnipeg Police was "out of measure" for the situation.

"I thought the video spoke for itself," said Manning. "We don’t know why they’ve decided to do this.

I mean, they’ve said they’ve consulted with these people, but we don’t know why they made that decision."

Bousquet was convicted of two counts of assault with a weapon for driving at two officers and one count of stealing a motor vehicle over $5,000. Seven other charges were dropped following a plea agreement between defence and Crown counsel. Wyant sentenced Bousquet to 11 months time already served.

One of the officers involved in the incident, Const. Ryan Law, is a nephew of Winnipeg Police chief Keith McCaskill. At the time, Law was on administrative leave after being charged for assault in the alleged beating of Henry Lavallee in a Public Safety Building interview room in November 2008.

Following a preliminary hearing, Law was ordered to trial in Queen’s Bench. No trial has been set yet.

Although the incident and alleged use of excessive force happened on Feb. 27, 2009, the Winnipeg Police did not ask the RCMP to conduct an external investigation until Feb. 1. of the following year.

Winnipeg Police said they only learned of the existence of the controversial video at Bousquet’s sentencing and decided to ask the RCMP to conduct the investigation to conform with the province’s intent to have an independent agency review allegations of police wrongdoing.

The RCMP said its own investigation into the incident was concluded on Dec. 2, 2011 and turned over to Manitoba Justice, which then forwarded the file to a Crown counsel from Ontario.

The RCMP said that Manitoba Justice informed it on March 20 that the Ontario counsel did not recommend criminal charges.

RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Line Karpish said the reason for the two-week delay between then and today’s announcement was because the RCMP wanted to inform the Winnipeg Police Service of the decision first, and WPS Chief Keith McCaskill had been away.

Karpish said the RCMP only conducted the investigation, adding it was the decision of the Ontario Crown counsel not to lay charges.

"We were only the fact gatherers in this situation," Karpish said, adding she would not comment on whether the RCMP believed charges were warranted.

The Winnipeg Police Service did not have a comment Thursday afternoon on the announcement, but Mike Sutherland with the Winnipeg Police Association said he was "pleased" by the decision by the Crown.

One of the most dangerous situations for a police officer is when they’re trying to secure a suspect who’s on the ground with their hands beneath them, who won’t allow officers control, Sutherland said.

"While [it's] unpleasant and does not reflect the apparent ease with which suspects are restrained on many TV police dramas, the fact is that in real life, unappealing force is sometimes needed to keep people safe and apprehend the dangerous," he said.

"We do not have months or years to author carefully composed soliloquies on the various legal virtues of specific crimes and the balancing of societal and individual needs or previous case precedents. We have a split second to react, and sometimes we don’t even have that long."

Manning said his client has considered pursuing civil action.

"I think what was most important to him was that the police decide what they were going to do with the officers (who) were involved in the video," said Manning, who said he handles only criminal cases.

"Now that the question regarding the criminal charges is dealt with, what Cody chooses to do, really, it’s up to him, and to some degree, I think he kind of wants to move past this."

gabrielle.giroday@freepress.mb.ca

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 3:39 PM CDT: Adds comment from RCMP spokeswoman.

4:20 PM: Adds background on the case, video.

5:05 PM: Adds comment from Bousquet lawyer

5:32 PM: Adds comment from police association.

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