Some 375 people gathered in Kelowna Sunday to call for changes in policing and an end to what’s been described as police brutality.
The rally was organized after Kelowna RCMP Const. Geoff Mantler was caught on video kicking Buddy Tavares in the head during an arrest earlier this month, and commenced an hour after Abbotsford Police announced that they would be recommending to Crown counsel that the officer be charged with assault causing bodily harm.
“It’s the right call,” said rally organizer John Hewitson of the announcement, later calling the announcement a “win” for the group who attended the rally.
He noted that Tavares was complying with police when he was arrested on KLO Road on Jan. 7 and said the kick was “uncalled for.”
“That’s the kind of police work that is tarnishing the work of every police force in this country,” he said.
The man finding himself at the centre of the controversy also said his arrest has also negatively affected the reputation of the police.
“He’s [Geoff Mantler] put a serious blemish on the police and, seriously, I don’t believe they deserve it,” said Tavares as protestors marched to the RCMP detachment.
He said he’s always had good experiences with the police in the past and hopes the outcome of the rally will result in police “cleaning house.”
Like with a box of apples, if one’s rotten, you throw it out, rather than get rid of the entire box, said Tavares.
He said he attended the rally after receiving “an incredible amount” of phone calls and Facebook and email messages.
“It’s to support everyone else who is supporting me,” said Tavares, noting his isn’t the only case of someone who has tangled with the RCMP.
Police estimate some 375 people marched to the RCMP detachment from City Park and the protest proceeded peacefully, although some in attendance jeered at the sight of a police officer on the roof, filming the afternoon’s events.
Hewitson called for an end to police investigating themselves and suggested police cars needed to be outfitted with dash cameras and officers with wireless mics so that all potential incidents are captured on tape.
In addition, he said the practice that officers are suspended with pay while under investigation should end.
He said taxpayers are currently paying $1.3 million for officers under suspension. “Why should we have to pay for that?” he asked.
Mantler, the officer who was the focus of the protest, was suspended with pay on Jan. 11. In addition to the criminal investigation by Abbotsford Police, he is also subject to an internal code of conduct investigation for his actions Jan. 7.