A Black man who was bitten by a police dog and then laughed at and mocked by Calgary police officers when begging to be taken to hospital faced a “cruel and unusual punishment” and “suffered needlessly,” a judge has ruled.
As first reported by CBC News, in September, provincial court Judge Heather Lamoureux ruled that Latef Reakwon Tag El Din, 24, had his charter rights of life, liberty, and security of person violated by several Calgary police officers.
“Not a single officer expressed any empathy towards the injuries sustained by the accused,” she wrote. “There is laughter, sarcasm, song, and judgement. All of this conduct by police is completely inappropriate and unprofessional.”
Tag El Din, 24, is currently facing a number of charges but his lawyer, Andrea Urquhart, is requesting the firearms charges be dropped as a result of the officers' actions. Tag El Din was arrested just after midnight on November 23, 2019, on an outstanding attempted murder charge. Officers spotted him in a Calgary gas station, and forcibly restrained and sicced a police dog on him.
According to court documents, Tag El Din claimed that during his arrest one of the officers pulled his hair, struck him in the head, and shoved his head into the pavement while saying, “Oh, you’re not crying.” He said the cops told him to “shut up or we’ll let the dog have another go.” Lamoureux's decision said that while the police dog didn't use excessive force at least one of the officers arresting Tag El Din did. Bodycam footage filmed only a portion of his arrest.
Lamoureux’s decision says that Tag El Din received injuries to his arm as well as “serious soft tissue abrasions and contusions as a consequence of his face being forcibly pinned to the ground.” An EMS on the scene cleared Tag El Din as being “OK for cells” but Lamoureux notes this was his first time dealing with a dog bite injury as a paramedic.
According to the court documents, in the back of the police car Tag El Din begged officers to bring him to the hospital and said he was dying. One officer responded, “We’re all dying.” The other questioned Tag El Din if he was faking his injuries to “get out of going to jail.”
Upon their arrival at the police station, body cam video shows Tag El Din in “acute pain" and shows blood seeping through and over the top of the bandage put on his arm, the ruling says.
When being patted down and having his handcuff removed, the bodycam footage shows Tag El Din doubling over in pain. He again asked to be taken to hospital but police continue to refuse. The officers, much like the ones in the car, cited the paramedic's decision to clear him as the reason they're not taking him.
After Tag El Din was put in a cell, the bodycam footage shows the officers in the precinct making fun of him and his injuries. One of them told the others Tag El Din wanted medical treatment because “his arms hurt,” prompting laughter from the other officers. Another officer advised him, ”If the police give you a command, follow it.”
At one point the police officers even sang a song mocking Tag el Din and his injuries. Lamoureux wrote the “general gist” of the conversations conducted by the officers aware of Tag El Din's situation is “one of dismissiveness and utter disregard for the well-being of the accused.”
According to the decision, Det. Jennifer Doolan, who was in charge, saw the suspect and heard his pleas to go to the hospital shortly after his arrival, but it wasn’t until hours later, after another officer recommended a trip to the hospital, was Tag El Din taken there. Portions of the audio also caught Doolan possibly calling Tag El Din a “fucktard"—during cross-examination she told the defence she didn’t “recall” if she said the insult. Lamoureux agreed with the defence's position that Doolan held “an absolute disregard for the well-being of the accused.”
Lamoureux said the officers’ comments and joking were “unprofessional in the extreme” and “demonstrate a lack of empathy towards a fellow human being, a lack of professionalism, and a disregard of their duty to protect the accused while he is in custody.”
Calgary Police Service told the CBC they’re investigating the claims but cannot comment because of the “ongoing investigation.”
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