The training and experience level of the Kelowna RCMP officers involved in the Buddy Tavares arrest were under scrutiny as Const. Geoff Mantler’s assault causing bodily harm trial continued Friday.
Mantler’s charge stems from a kick he delivered to Tavares’ head while arresting the man in relation to a shots fired complaint. Tavares has testified that he had been shooting to scare off geese at the Harvest Golf Club on Jan. 7, 2011 when RCMP were alerted to the gunshots.
Sgt. Jeremy Lane, an expert in the area of police use of force, told the court that experience may play a part in an officer’s perception of threat cues present in a situation.
Your concern was that the junior officers had no experience to perceive threat cues, suggested defence lawyer Neville McDougall.
“That’s possible,” said Lane.
All five officers who eventually converged on the scene of the arrest had less than four years of experience and the court has heard no supervisor took charge of the situation prior to the completion of the arrest.
All of the officers had six months of on the job training after graduating from Depot in Regina; one officer’s trainer had only one year of experience, the court heard.
[That’s] basically a recruit training a recruit?” asked McDougall.
“Yes,” said Lane.
“And that concerns you?”
“A great deal,” Lane replied.
Earlier, Lane was asked if he believed the officers appeared to be well trained.
“Not in respect to code five vehicle stops,” he said. Code five is the term used by police to refer to high risk traffic stops. “Generally, police officer’s in Canada are well trained…. Every organization has their weaknesses.”
Lane earlier testified that Mantler didn’t follow his training in performing the vehicle stop, and that he put himself in harm’s way by approaching Tavares’ truck.
“A reasonable, well-trained officer would have remained behind cover,” Lane added later.
Lane found that Mantler’s kick to Tavares, which was caught on video, was “not appropriate, justified or reasonable” and that Mantler put himself in a vulnerable situation that could have created an “exaggerated perception of threat.”
He based his finding on available information, which did not include a statement from Mantler.
He said his opinion “may not be” the same if he had heard from Mantler and agreed during defence questioning that if Mantler believed he was at risk of death or grievous bodily harm, the kick “could be justified.”
“Was a threat of death or grievous bodily harm imminent to Const. Mantler?” Crown counsel William Burrows later asked.
“I don’t see that,” said Lane.
Mantler’s decision to draw his gun in the situation, however, was deemed appropriate by Lane.
The trial continues next week.