Report: Police stop suspect from swallowing cocaine

Following a complaint by a man who claimed police used unnecessary force to restrain him, the Ombudsman has found that the officers had restrained the man to prevent him from swallowing cocaine discovered during a search.

According to a press release on the Ombudsman investigation, the complainant said he had been grabbed by the throat, thrown onto a bed in his home and handcuffed by police officers during their search of a property last year. “The complainant asserted this conduct represented an unreasonable use of force by RCIPS officers,” the release noted.

Ombudsman investigators established that the police had obtained a lawful warrant for the search, during which one of the officers saw the complainant picking up a small plate containing a white substance that the officer believed was cocaine.

“RCIPS officers intervened to prevent the complainant from swallowing the substance. The complainant resisted the officers and continued to try to swallow the substance,” the Ombudsman statement said.

Following the struggle, the complainant was taken to hospital and it was determined he had suffered no serious injuries from the incident.

The Ombudsman noted that Section 153 of the Police Act allows an officer to use as much force as is reasonably necessary to effect an arrest. “In doing so, an officer must have regard to the nature and gravity of the threat, as well as the potential for adverse consequences resulting from the use of force,” the release stated.

The investigators found that in this case, it took a “considerable amount of effort” from RCIPS officers to restrain the complainant to prevent him from swallowing the cocaine, and the Ombudsman found it was reasonable for the officers to believe the complainant would have done so, if they had not stopped him.

“The Ombudsman accepted the officers’ statements that they were concerned about the complainant’s health and safety and that they believed he was attempting to swallow something that appeared to be cocaine. The Ombudsman found that, if the officers had not restrained the complainant, he would likely have ingested the substance which was subsequently identified to be cocaine. The Ombudsman found that the force used was necessary and reasonable in these circumstances,” the release stated.

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