A Smithers police officer is being investigated over an accusation he used excessive force to try to handcuff a 61-year-old woman outside Mark's clothing store on Dec. 6.
Irene Joseph made a formal complaint to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) for the RCMP about an officer she claims used excessive force when he allegedly knocked her to the ground.
The CRCC is the federal government's independent investigator for complaints about the conduct of RCMP officers.
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association is also investigating.
Joseph claims the officer hurt her knees and chest and damaged her walker and glasses when he tried to handcuff her.
She said the incident occurred when the officer was questioning her about a suspect in a theft at the store.
Joseph claims she became confused and upset about why she was being questioned and she tried to get away from the officer.
She said there was a shouting match before the officer tried to handcuff her.
When she resisted, she claims he knocked her to the ground
“He knocked me down, I was trying to get my walker and by then he knocked me down and he was just on my back,” she said.
“He had his leg on my back and he had the other leg in my side where he was trying to reach my arm.
“Knocking me to the ground and stuff like that, it wasn't necessary.”
Joseph said the officer did not handcuff her after the scuffle and he did not take her to the station.
RCMP staff Sgt. Kirsten Marshall said Joseph was detained because she did not comply with verbal directions from the officer.
“During the detention, the police officer restrained the person when they resisted and called for a second officer,” she said.
“Despite the officer's attempts, the individual failed to comply with commands and was eventually restrained and arrested.
“The officer asked if the individual required medical attention, which was refused.”
Marshall said no criminal charges had been made regarding the initial theft and that the investigation was ongoing.
She said the detachment helped Joseph with her request to make a formal complaint with the CRCC.
BC Civil Liberties Association executive director Josh Paterson said his organization was investigating the claim and it would assist Joseph wherever possible, although the association does not provide legal representation.
“Our interest is that police forces, wherever they are in the province, be held accountable for the excessive use of force and from everything that we have heard about this case, it certainly seems that there has been an excessive use of force here,” Paterson said.
“We were not there on the scene but from what we can glean at the moment, it is difficult to imagine any set of circumstances in which taking a 61-year-old Wet'suwet'en elder to the ground would have been necessary in this situation.
“Our role is as a public watchdog to basically ensure that the public are made aware of what happened.”
Mayor Taylor Bachrach was at a community food drive in the Safeway parking lot when someone told him about an incident outside the nearby Mark's.
“There was an elderly woman there who said that she needed to get to the hospital and I arranged for her to get to the hospital,” he said.
“She was distraught.”