A Saskatoon police officer has been placed on leave after video surfaced of an arrest that took place on July 4.
The video, which is six minutes long and posted to YouTube, shows an arresting officer sitting on an Indigenous man and repeatedly punching him. It appears the 27-year-old man is resisting.
The Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) said the officer was responding to a complaint of a suspicious man in the 500 block of 11th Street.
On the video, the man is seen being punched by an officer and complains that his arm is broken before several other officers arrive at the scene and fire pepper-spray and then a taser.
Watch the video below:
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), an advocacy group that represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, described the arrest shortly after 2 p.m. on July 4 as a “brutal assault.”
FSIN called on the SPS “to immediately review and amend their use of force policies and bring an end to police brutality against First Nations people.”
The SPS said it was aware of the video that showed only part of the arrest. It also confirmed the accused was injured.
“During the arrest and following a several minute struggle with the first responding officer, the arrested subject sustained non-life threatening injury to his face,” SPS said.
“He was assessed by paramedics at the scene of his arrest, and was observed while in custody by the on-duty paramedic in detention.”
The outcry comes as more attention is being focused on how police deal with people of colour following the death of black man George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., while being arrested in May.
SPS said the officer will be on leave while his arrest response and use of force are reviewed.
It noted the review will also consider the “effects of addictions and related mental health issues [that] were present during the incident.”
Saskatoon Police Chief Troy Cooper promised the investigation would be open and transparent. He said the Saskatchewan Public Complaints Commission would do an independent investigation.
“I recognize this incident was a traumatic event for our community, for those involved and for those who witnessed it,” Cooper said in a release. “Whenever force is used we are accountable and I want to assure the public that this is being taken seriously.”
An advocacy group in Saskatoon that released the video is calling for officers involved in the arrest to be fired. It said the arrest was an example of police brutality.
“We know that the answer cannot be more ‘sensitivity’ training for police, nor relying on police to keep each other in check,” the Indigenous Joint Action Coalition said in a statement.
“We call for an end to violent police responses directed toward substance users and those with mental health and wellness concerns.”
Another advocacy group, Black Lives Matter YXE, also said the officers involved should be fired.
Police said Evan Penner, who has since been identified as a member of the Nisichiwayasihk Cree Nation in northern Manitoba, was charged with resisting arrest, assaulting a police officer, disarming a peace officer, mischief and possession of a controlled substance.
He was released on bail and now the Indigenous Joint Action Coalition and Black Lives Matter YXE claim he is missing.
“Evan Penner’s family is currently very concerned about his wellbeing and safety,” the two groups said in a joint statement Wednesday.
“Evan has not been heard from since a phone call into court on July 6th, nor since his alleged early release from Saskatoon Correctional Centre yesterday. As far as we know, Evan has not been seen by anyone following his severe assault by Saskatoon Police that occurred on July 4th.”
The groups caution anyone with information not to contact police but the Saskatoon Crisis Intervention Service instead.