Saskatoon police officer placed on leave after video surfaces of arrest

SASKATOON — A Saskatoon police officer has been placed on leave after a video surfaced of a man being repeatedly punched during an arrest.

The footage shows part of the arrest that unfolded in the city Saturday, when an officer responded to a complaint of a suspicious person.

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In the 6 1/2-minute clip posted on YouTube, an officer is seen on top of a man, who is on the ground.

The officer is heard telling the man to "stop resisting." There is a bit of a struggle and the officer punches the man several times and repeats the order.

"Stop grabbing my legs. Stop grabbing my arm. Put your hands behind your back," the officer can be heard saying.

The police service said in a statement Monday that the video doesn't capture the entire interaction, and the Saskatchewan Public Complaints Commission will be investigating.

"The officer involved has been placed on leave until an initial review of his response and use of force can be completed," said the statement.

"The effects of addictions and related mental health issues were present during the incident and this will form part of the investigation as well."

Police have alleged the man who was arrested was causing property damage. They said the 27-year-old had resisted arrest and struggled with an officer, who used pepper spray, but it was ineffective.

As the video continues, the man on the ground says at one point, "Why do you want to shoot me?"

"I don’t want to shoot you, man. I don’t want to shoot you," the officer says.

As the man yells that he's being hurt, the officer says: "Just comply. You broke the law. Now you're fighting me."

As more punches are thrown, the officer yells: "Let go of my radio. Let go of my radio."

The video later shows more officers arriving at the scene, surrounding the man. One officer repeatedly says "Taser," before there is a loud crack.

Shortly after, when the man is told to move his arm back, he cries out that his arm is broken.

Police said in the statement that the man sustained a non-life-threatening injury to his face.

An advocacy group in Saskatoon that released the video is calling for the officers involved in the arrest to be fired. It said the arrest is an example of police brutality.

"We know that the answer cannot be more 'sensitivity' training for police, nor relying on police to keep each other in check," the Indigenous Joint Action Coalition said in a statement.

"We call for an end to violent police responses directed toward substance users and those with mental health and wellness concerns."

A man who was identified by the group that released the video faces charges that include assaulting an officer, mischief and possession of a controlled substance.

"I recognize this incident was a traumatic event for our community, for those involved and for those who witnessed it," Saskatoon police chief Troy Cooper said in a statement.

"Whenever force is used, we are accountable. And I want to assure the public that this is being taken seriously and we will do our utmost to be open and transparent as the investigation unfolds."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 6, 2020

— By Stephanie Taylor in Regina

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