RCMP officers in Behchokǫ̀, N.W.T., drag 16-year-old girl across snow during arrest

A screenshot from a video posted to Facebook that shows a 16-year-old girl being dragged across the snow by RCMP officers in Behchokǫ̀, N.W.T. on Feb. 9. (Facebook)

Warning: This story contains a video and details of the arrest of a minor.

On the night of Feb. 9, a 16-year-old girl was dragged across the snow by two RCMP officers during an arrest in Behchokǫ̀, N.W.T.

She said she feels humiliated from the experience which she described as aggressive and unnecessary.

Because the 16-year-old is a minor, CBC News is not naming her to protect her privacy.

Cpl. Matt Halstead, a spokesperson for the N.W.T. RCMP, said in an email the arrest on Feb. 9 happened because the teen allegedly assaulted an officer by punching him in the face and charges have been laid against her.

He said there will not be a internal RCMP review of the officer’s handling of the situation.

A nearly four-minute video of the incident was posted on Facebook early on Feb. 10 by a friend of the girl and has now been viewed thousands of times. The video doesn’t include any audio.

It shows the girl sitting on the ground outside with two officers standing over her. Just past the video’s one-minute mark, the officers grab her by both arms and attempt to lead her to the vehicle.

She appears to resist and the officers continue pulling her. She then falls to the ground and the officers begin dragging her across the snow toward the cruiser. She nearly loses her shirt and pants as a result. She is then lifted into the vehicle.

The 16-year-old told CBC News she was in tears by the time she was placed in the vehicle.

“No one has ever treated me like that,” she said.

CBC News decided to publish the video with consent from the teenager and her mother, to show the arrest. It was determined the girl’s face can’t be identified from the video.

CBC News could not confirm whether the video has been edited or if there is additional video that was taken at the house.

Before the arrest

The 16-year-old said before she was detained by officers, she was at a gathering and was intoxicated.

She said she was at a house that included her ex-boyfriend and his friend, whose home they were in.

She said she was arguing with her ex-boyfriend when the police showed up.

“They said I was getting beat up by two boys … When none of that happened — I wasn’t even getting beat up,” she said.

She said she was trying to leave but everyone, including the two boys and the police, were crowding her at the door.

“Everyone talking at once and I was just intoxicated. My mind just felt like it was just going to like explode. Like, I felt so uneasy in this situation,” she said.

She said at some point an officer grabbed her by the hair. She said this occurred in the house and is not shown on the video.

“That was the first thing he went for, was my hair,” she said.

Halstead, the RCMP spokesperson, said that on the night of the arrest the Behchokǫ officers were at a residence on an unrelated call.

While they were leaving, they were flagged down and made aware of a fight happening nearby.

Halstead said the officers attended the scene and were trying to gather information about the incident.

“While they were speaking with those involved, the female in the video assaulted one of the officers by punching him in the face. The female was placed under arrest and then resisted being taken to the police vehicle which resulted in the action seen on the video.”

The 16-year-old wouldn’t say for certain whether she had swung at an officer or not, but said she was barely able to stand because of how intoxicated she was.

She said that even if she had taken a swing, she was a youth who was in distress and under the influence and didn’t deserve to be handled the way she was.

“The way they treated me, the way I handled the situation, they think it was OK.”

Tom Engel is the chair of the Alberta-based Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association’s policing committee. He said the youth being held for nearly 13 hours could be a violation of her rights. (Jamie McCannel/CBC)

Nearly 13 hours in a holding cell

After being arrested, the 16-year-old said that she was then held in a holding cell for nearly 13 hours to sober up.

Her mother says when she was contacted, she’d already seen the video of the arrest.

“I was in disbelief. I was in shock. I kept pacing back and forth. I didn’t know what to do,” she said.

“As a mother, seeing somebody dragging your daughter like that … It was so disturbing. I cried.”

There was some miscommunication around picking the 16-year-old up and as a result she ended up staying in the holding cell.

Tom Engel is the chair of the Alberta-based Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association’s policing committee.

CBC News sent him the video and discussed the details of the incident.

He said 13 hours is beyond the reasonable amount of time for anyone and she likely shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

“Why didn’t they take her home? She’s a youth,” he said.

“She shouldn’t have been taken into custody in the first place, not unless they thought that she was going to repeat the crime or not show up to court or something like that.”

Behchokǫ is a Tłı̨chǫ community, which has self-government, meaning it has authority over its services including health and education. Some Indigenous communities have started creating their own police departments.

CBC News reached out to the Tłı̨chǫ Government to speak with Grand Chief Jackson Lafferty about policing in communities and sent the video of the arrest to its communications officer at their request, but an interview was not granted.

The RCMP says although there will not be an internal review relating to this incident, anyone unhappy with their treatment by the RCMP can file a civilian complaint.

The 16-year-old’s mother says she plans to file a civilian complaint on the officers’ conduct, but hadn’t done so as of Feb. 15.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Investigator escalates Fort Smith man’s complaint against N.W.T. RCMP, CBC News

Finland: Police response times up to an hour slower in Arctic Finland, Yle News

United States: Violence Against Women bill would expand power of up to 30 Alaska tribal courts, Alaska Public Media

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