Kelowna cop pleads not guilty to assault charge

Suspended RCMP officer Geoff Mantler's lawyer says his client used appropriate force in his controversial arrest of Kelowna resident Buddy Tavares.

The Kelowna cop charged with assault after being caught on video kicking a suspect in the head was “thrown under the bus” by higher ranking police officials, says his defence lawyer.

“Quite frankly I expect more from people of the rank of superintendent and deputy commissioner than to look at 30 to 45 seconds of video and take that as the complete story,” said Const. Geoff Mantler’s lawyer, Neville McDougall, outside the Kelowna courthouse Tuesday afternoon.

Minutes earlier, McDougall entered pleas of not guilty for assault charges relating to an Aug. 30, 2010 incident involving Mantler and Majit Singh Bhatti as well as the Buddy Tavares case which took place in January.

While little has been made public regarding the Bhatti matter, Mantler became a lightning rod for RCMP criticisms after he was filmed kicking Tavares in the head during an arrest.

That footage was posted to YouTube and picked up by national, as well as local, media sources and became fodder for protests against alleged police brutality.

Mantler was  suspended from duty Jan. 10, just a few days after the video footage went viral, and in May the RCMP decided to suspend his pay as Crown counsel pursued criminal charges. A code of conduct review is ongoing.

“The consensus amongst a lot of (RCMP) members was that Geoff Mantler was thrown under the bus based on public perception and trying to maintain the integrity of the RCMP as a unit as opposed to what he was acting on that day,” said McDougall, pointing out that there was a lot more to the story than the brief video clip could convey.

“There’s been a lot of miscommunication as to what the nature of the call was and what the RCMP were responding to. There’s been no discussion as to supervision provided to these junior members.”

The most senior police who went to Harvest Golf Club in response to reports that shots were fired, said McDougall, had just over three years experience.

“A lot of things play out in the not guilty plea, beyond the 30 second videotape,” he said.

“Const. Mantler was faced with a situation and he conducted himself in a way he thought was appropriate and whether or not it’s found to be mistaken, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s criminal.”

A court date for the Bhatti charge will be set July 19 while the Tavares case won’t be scheduled until a pre-trial hearing has concluded.

Meantime, Tavares is moving forward with a civil suit in which he accuses Mantler, the B.C. government, the City of Kelowna and another unnamed female officer of negligence and misconduct.

The lawsuit, filed with the court June 24, said the officers pulled Tavares over as he was leaving Harvest Golf Club, ordered him from his vehicle at gunpoint and told him to lie on the ground.

“The defendants used oppressive, arbitrary, unconstitutional, malicious, high-handed, reprehensible and/or oppressive actions in the assault and battery, or negligence,” reads the civil lawsuit file.

The document also lists injuries to Tavares, such as a broken nose and injuries to his mouth, teeth and brain, as well as shock and trauma.

“The plaintiff suffered loss of dignity and humiliation resulting from the defendants conduct,” states the lawsuit document.

Tavares is looking for a payout for damages, as well as payment for loss of income both past and prospective.

A charge brought against Tavares on the day of his arrest was dropped.


Kelowna Capital News