While RCMP defends the neck grab, the minister says he has set out “very clearly” his expectations for reform
Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino says he has laid out “very clearly” the reforms he wants to see from RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki – comments that come as the RCMP continues to defend the use of a controversial neck grab.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau instructed the minister to work with the RCMP to ban “the use of neck braces in all circumstances”. The promise was reiterated in Mendicino’s letter of mandate to Lucki.
Earlier this month, the RCMP told CBC News that the carotid artery check technique is safe and effective and it will continue to instruct its officers to use the restraint on rare occasions.
“Well, the very first thing I want to say is that it’s important that we reform our law enforcement agencies,” Mendicino said on his way to a caucus meeting Friday.
“That is precisely why, after receiving my letter of mandate from the Prime Minister, I have taken the extra step to set out very clearly how we can achieve that reform within the RCMP.”
Vascular neck braces involve compressing the arteries on either side of a person’s neck, rendering the person being held unconscious.
When used correctly, the fixation does not restrict breathing. It differs from the hold in which George Floyd was killed in police custody in 2020, but the carotid artery has been closely monitored ever since.
Lucki promised to revise the technique after Floyd’s death. A number of US police departments have banned the carotid artery restriction.
RCMP spokesman Robin Percival said the national police “has not banned the use of the carotid artery check technique or put a moratorium on it”.
Instead, she said, the RCMP issued new guidelines to its officers late last year that include “definitions, oversight and accountability measures, the risks of applying the technique to medically high-risk groups, requirements for medical care, the threshold for use reinforce and clarify.” and requirement to re-certify annually on the policy related to the application.”
Percival said the carotid artery check technique was used 25 times in 2020 and 14 times in 2021 by RCMP officers.
Mendicino said he will continue to work with the RCMP to implement reforms.
“The point here is to make sure the RCMP sets the gold standard when it comes to the use of force so we can keep Canadians safe and make sure we do it in a responsible and professional manner,” he said Friday. .
“And we will continue to make sure that we work with the RCMP to get those things done.”
The RCMP Act says that the Commissioner serves “under the direction of the Minister” and has “the control and management of the force”.
‘They’ve been fighting over this for 50 years’
Brian Sauvé, head of a union representing more than 20,000 RCMP officers, said he thinks Lucki is acting within her authority by holding the carotid as an option for officers.
“For example, there was a lot of talk last year about operational independence of the RCMP. Use of force, the Incident Management Intervention Model, as far as I’m concerned, would fall under that operational independence,” he said in an interview last week.
Michael Kempa, a professor of criminology at the University of Ottawa, disagrees.
“The answer is an unequivocal no. It is absolutely the responsibility of the RCMP to adopt the policies of the Secretary of Public Security on any issue related to recruitment policies, the use of force, weapons, etc.” , he said.
“This is an issue that has complicated the RCMP and its relationship with their public safety minister… They have been fighting here for 50 years over what exactly operational independence means.”
Kempa described the power of the federal minister over the RCMP commissioner as equivalent to the power of the police forces over the municipal police forces.
The force’s operational independence came under the spotlight last summer when the federal government was accused of pressuring Lucki to have the Mounties release the types of weapons used by the gunman in the tragic mass shooting in Nova Scotia that killed in 2020. 22 people lost their lives.
Both Lucki and former Secretary of Public Safety Bill Blair have denied political interference.
During last year’s public inquiry into the government’s use of emergency law to end the convoy protests, Lucki suggested that the federal government define operational independence more clearly.
“It’s pretty clear to me. Anything operational, we advise what happens, but we don’t take direction on how to do things,” she testified on Nov. 15.
Lucki’s contract is renewed
Historically, disagreements between the federal government and the RCMP don’t end well for the commissioner, Kempa said.
“Ultimately they either get fired or their contract just doesn’t get renewed,” he said.
“I think instead of making a big public scene on this particular issue, if it’s important to the minister, it would just be one more reason not to renew the contract and go quietly that way. “
Lucki was appointed Commissioner in April 2018. While the RCMP Act provides that commissioners hold office for the “pleasure” of the government, most commissioners serve about six years.
In November, Mendocino said he would talk to the commissioner “at the end of her currently defined term.”
“And we’ll see where that takes us.”