A North Battleford community safety officer, Kevin Swansburg, was found not guilty ofassaulting Robert Eaket during an arrest in 2017, Judge Dan O’Hanlon said in a decision Friday.
A trial took place last week, and evidence included body cam video and dashboard video.
According to Judge O’Hanlon’s decision, on Aug. 19, 2017, community safety officers Swansburg and William Gabriel were called to the provincial liquor store in North Battleford, where a drunk man had broken a bottle of wine.
The CSOs told the man, who was leaning into the front passenger side window of a white Alero near the liquor store, to leave, O’Hanlon said.
Eaket, who was in the Alero’s passenger seat, opened the door, got out, retrieved a bike and started to walk away.
Swansburg leaned into the vehicle and “he could be heard saying ‘hand it over,’” O’Hanlon said.
According to the CSOs, they could smell marijuana in the vehicle. Gabriel searched the driver’s side, and Swansburg searched the passenger side.
Eaket, meanwhile, walked towards the officers and could be heard saying “Hey, I’m the one with the joint here, so leave him alone.”
Eaket put a joint to his lips, took a puff, and blew smoke “in the general vicinity of both officers,” O’Hanlon said.
Eaket was standing by the CSOs, and Gabriel grabbed his left arm. Swansburg grabbed his right arm, and told Eaket to go to the ground several times. Eaket resisted and didn’t comply, said O’Hanlon.
The officers forced him to the ground, Eaket pulled his knees up to his chest under his body, O’Hanlon said, and resisted officers. The officers managed to cuff him and RCMP arrived.
O’Hanlon said the officers hadn’t told Eaket he was under arrest before they pulled him to the ground.
“It was also very clear … Mr. Eaket was committing one or more criminal offences at the time he was grabbed by the officers,” O’Hanlon said, including smoking marijuana and attempting to obstruct officers searching for marijuana they believed was in the car.
Eaket said in the patrol vehicle and in court he bought a $4 joint off the man in the Alero, who had marijuana in the car.
Eaket also testified he couldn’t remember if he was drunk at the time, although O’Hanlon said the video showed Eaket was.
Community Safety Officer Ross MacAngus testified, and said CSOs are peace officers and can make arrests, although they seldom do.
O’Hanlon said a peace officer can “arrest without a warrant a person whom he finds committing a criminal offence,” and also said that the officers not telling Eaket he was under arrest until after they cuffed him didn’t make the arrest illegal.
O’Hanlon said Swansburg didn’t use excessive force and “had the right to use reasonable force to effect that arrest.” O’Hanlon added no blows were landed and the officers weren’t angry or hostile.
O’Hanlon called the video evidence helpful.
“It would be beneficial to have this caliber of evidence before the court more often,” he said.