The union representing RCMP officers says its not fair or accurate for the media and public to "speculate on the appropriateness" of specific arrests "based on brief and sensational footage."

The union representing RCMP officers says its not fair or accurate for the media and public to "speculate on the appropriateness" of specific arrests "based on brief and sensational footage."

The statement comes after the Free Press revealed an officer kneeled on a suspect's neck — who then shouted "I can’t breathe" — while taking him into custody at Winnipeg's airport in August 2019.

An officer kneels on the neck of Nathan Lasuik during a 2019 arrest at the Winnipeg airport. (Supplied)</p></p>

An officer kneels on the neck of Nathan Lasuik during a 2019 arrest at the Winnipeg airport. (Supplied)

The Mounties referred the matter Wednesday to the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba, which has since confirmed it will investigate.

"I found the video very disturbing. Hearing a man clearly informing police officers that he cannot breathe is all too present in our collective consciousness," Manitoba RCMP assistant commissioner Jane MacLatchy said in a written statement Wednesday.

"Let me be very clear, the RCMP does not teach nor endorse any technique where RCMP officers place a knee on the head or neck."

Nathan Lasuik, who is from Fort McMurray, Alta., is on trial, accused of assaulting a man following a dispute in the arrivals area and assaulting two Mounties who responded to the incident. Lasuik is arguing police officers breached his Charter rights by using excessive force in the arrest.

"While we understand that an edited video clip that Nathan Lasuik has chosen to release publicly is disturbing to watch, it is important to keep in mind that this is just a small portion of a much longer incident," reads a statement from Brian Sauvé, president of the National Police Federation.

The cellphone video of the arrest in which Lasuik is heard to shout "I can't breathe" was shown in court earlier this week, as was airport security video.

"Our members have a responsibility to restrain violent offenders to protect themselves and the public from injury, or worse," Sauvé said in Thursday's statement.

"Following his arrest, while being transported to hospital for treatment related to intoxication and mental health issues, Mr. Lasuik was physically aggressive with health-care workers and required restraining to avoid further injury to himself and others."

Meanwhile, the Manitoba police watchdog said its civilian director has determined public interest demands an independent investigation. However, because the trial remains before the courts, it will provide no further comment.

— with files from Dean Pritchard and Ryan Thorpe

erik.pindera@freepress.mb.ca

Erik Pindera
Multimedia producer

Erik Pindera is a multimedia producer at the Winnipeg Free Press.

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