'He had no other recourse but to squirm around': FSIN questions measures Saskatoon police used in forceful arrest
SASKATOON -- The mother of Evan Penner, a man whose arrest has raised questions about the use of force by Saskatoon police, spoke Thursday morning during a Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) press conference.
A video of Penner's arrest was released on Monday by the Indigenous Joint Action Coalition and Black Lives Matter Saskatoon, with members of the two groups alleging that excessive force was used.
In the video an officer can be seen punching Penner multiple times while he is pinned to the ground before additional officers begin assisting with the arrest. Penner is eventually Tasered.
"I couldn't even finish watching the video," Sherri Penner said.
"As a mother, it's very hard to see something like that to your child," Penner, who made the trip to the city from Manitoba, said. "He did not deserve that."
According to police, after responding to a call about a suspicious person, an officer attempted to take Penner into custody. He resisted and attempted to disarm the officer, SPS said.
On Monday, Police Chief Troy Cooper said the Saskatchewan Public Complaints Commission will be responsible for an independent investigation into the arrest.
FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron also spoke during the news conference. Cameron said he feels the level of force seen in the video was unnecessary and that Penner was trying to protect himself.
"He had no other recourse but to squirm around," Cameron said.
During the news conference, FSIN Vice Chief Dutch Lerat said while the Criminal Code does permit police to use reasonable force while performing their duties, that protection is lost.
"Police officers need to be reminded they do not have unconditional authority in the performance of their duties," Lerat said.
He questioned why Penner was not handcuffed sooner once additional officers arrived and suggested less forceful techniques could have been used.
"There is a lot of force used on this young man where it could have been contained in a more peaceful manner," Lerat said,
Both Cameron and Lerat pointed to what they called "systemic" issues with policing and said more education is needed for officers. The leaders also renewed calls for a civilian-led oversight authority with the power to investigate incidents involving police.
Lerat said such a regulatory body should have the power "to investigate all allegations of unnecessary force."