The Sûreté du Québec internal-affairs division is investigating a Waskaganish police officer after allegations that the officer assaulted a Cree prisoner.
Christopher Stephen, a Waskaganish Cree, said he was assaulted by a police officer while being detained in the community jail on Sunday, Aug. 6.
“It’s not right what he did to me. He beat the s**t out of me,” said Stephen, who claims the officer punched and kicked him for “five or 10 minutes.”
Cpl. Jean Finet, SQ spokesman in Montreal, said two SQ internal-affairs investigators traveled to Waskaganish to investigate a police officer in the community.
Finet declined to name the officer because no charges have been laid yet.
He said the investigation is continuing because there are other people who still have to be interviewed. Investigators may travel to the community again. Finet wouldn’t say who initiated the complaint.
Once the inquiry is over, the file will be passed to a prosecutor who will decide whether to lay charges, Finet said.
Jimmy Hester, Waskaganish chief of police, refused to comment. “I can’t disclose any information. I don’t see why it’s a big issue,” he said.
Ernest Blueboy, the community’s public-safety officer, wouldn’t discuss the file because he was heading out of town.
He said only, “The officers (here) were upset when they (the SQ) were here.”
Stephen, 29, said the incident started when he got drunk and disrupted a church service. “I was drunk — I was my old self. I went to the church and was talking to the church. This was in the middle of the service.
“I was being a crazy guy. I have to apologize (for that),” Stephen added.
Police were called, and Stephen was taken away to the community jail.
Stephen told The Nation that he was charged with assaulting an officer outside the church, but can’t remember what happened. However, no one else could confirm that Stephen faces any charges.
Once in jail, Stephen admitted he was verbally abusive toward the same officer.
“I was swearing at him. I was being an ass — you can write that,” Stephen said. “Then he (the officer) came to my cell.”
Stephen acknowledged he was no angel that day, but said the police shouldn’t be allowed to abuse prisoners.
He said he didn’t file a complaint with police because he was afraid of the officer. The complaint was filed by another Cree who was in a neighbouring jail cell and heard the assault, he said. That person could not be reached before press time.
Stephen got alcohol counseling after the incident and says he’s stopped drinking. He has since enrolled in school in Timmins.
A Cree police officer contacted about the case said he hopes Stephen’s allegations don’t tar the reputation of all Cree police. He said Cree police are on the receiving end of all the social problems in the communities.
They are understaffed, paid less than other Quebec cops and get lower benefits, while facing higher crime rates, he said. “I want to let the people know it’s not an easy job. You would never see a white cop working the hours we do,” he said.