Abbotsford Police are currently working on their report to Crown counsel, asking that the prosecutor’s office charge Kelowna RCMP Const. Geoff Mantler with assault causing bodily harm for his actions during the Jan. 7 arrest of Buddy Tavares.
The announcement of the pending recommendation came just an hour before a rally planned by people behind a Facebook page calling for the officer to be charged with assault got underway in Kelowna Sunday afternoon.
“It’s the right call,” said rally organizer John Hewitson of the announcement of a potential charge, later calling the announcement a “win” for the group who attended the rally.
And while the focus on seeing charges against the officer was an impetus for the rally, Hewitson said other changes need to be made.
He suggested police cars need to be outfitted with dash cameras and officers with wireless mics so that all potential incidents are captured on tape. He also called for an end to police investigating themselves. “People are sick and tired of this going on,” he said. “Police forces should not be investigating police forces.” Hewitson also called into question the practice that officers are suspended with pay while under investigation, saying taxpayers are currently paying $1.3 million for officers under suspension. “Why should we have to pay for that?” he asked.
The rally brought out an estimated 375 people, many carrying placards saying things like: “Police get paid for crime,” “RCMP to serve and protect—not kick them while they’re down” and “Stop the abuse.” The crowd marched from City Park to the RCMP detachment on Doyle Avenue, which was shut down for a block to accommodate the crowd. Police were on hand for the road closure and to watch the crowd, and one officer was seen on the roof, filming the group as they jeered at her.
Also at the rally was the man whose arrest prompted the event—Buddy Tavares.
Tavares 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.
Tavares, a Harvest Golf Club employee on disability following a motorcycle crash last summer, was arrested on KLO Road on Jan. 7 after someone reported a man with a gun on the golf course grounds. Police later received reports of shots fired.
Tavares said he was there to shoot at the geese, as he always did when he was actively working at the golf course. When he saw police that morning, he pulled over, assuming the officer would pass him, but instead found himself staring at the barrel of a police gun.
The arrest was captured on video and the images show Tavares on his hands and knees when Const. Mantler kicked him in the head. Tavares said the kick has set him back “months” in his recovery from the car accident. He has loose teeth, a constant headache and his bruised and bloody eye is healing. He also says he is still “wobbly.”
Still, despite the experience, Tavares said his view of police in general hasn’t changed. “He’s (Geoff Mantler) put a serious blemish on the police and, seriously, I don’t believe they deserve it,” said Tavares as protesters marched to the RCMP detachment.
He hopes the outcome of the rally will lead to police “cleaning house.” “You get a box of apples and one’s rotten, you throw it in the garbage,” said Tavares, applying the fruit analogy to the RCMP organization. “The rest are good. You don’t, you know, throw the whole thing out.”
Mantler has been suspended with pay since Jan. 10 and is subject to an internal code of conduct investigation for his actions Jan. 7, in addition to the criminal probe by Abbotsford Police. Tavares is facing a charge of careless use of a firearm.