The Hamilton Regional Indian Center (HRIC) is making recommendations to the Hamilton Police Service (HPS) to help address “law enforcement harm” to Indigenous people after an officer allegedly attacked an Indigenous member during an arrest.
“This needs to be stopped. Education, prevention and accountability should be the top priority for law enforcement,” HRIC Executive Director Audrey Davis told reporters during a press conference Tuesday, in which she listed several recommendations.
Police say officers were investigating a stolen car at a gas station on Mt. on May 26. The investigation led to the arrest on the same day of Patrik Tomchuk.
The arrest was filmed by a citizen and a nearby business, prompting Hamilton police to suspend Const. Brian Wren. According to his lawyer, Tomchuk, meanwhile, has been charged with multiple theft offenses related to an auto theft investigation and, in one assault, resisting arrest. The video has not been released publicly or with CBC.
Initially, Tomchuk reported injuries sustained during his arrest, and the police said they contacted the Special Investigations Unit, but the monitors did not investigate because they found that the injuries were not serious enough.
This prompted the Hamilton police to conduct their own criminal investigation and ultimately frame Wren for the June 16 attack.
Olga Tomchuk, Patrick’s mom, said on Tuesday she wants justice.
“I just want this cop to stop doing this,” she told reporters.
Tomchuk’s lawyer has previously stated that a member of the State Penitentiary Service attacked him at least once.
HPS head Frank Bergen said the service is looking at its files, but has yet to find any documented instances where this has happened.
The police chief says he welcomes the discussion
Davis listed numerous recommendations, including:
- A third-party investigation into the alleged attack.
- Consideration of Wren’s charge of hate crime.
- Investigation of any past incidents of police violence against Tomchuk.
- Establishment of the HPS Indigenous Liaison role.
- A special seat for indigenous peoples on the board of directors of HPS.
- Indigenous training support for HPS.
- Temporary public review circle for hate crimes without the presence of an HPS employee.
- Indigenous consultant or HPS consultant position.
- Body cameras and dashboard cameras for all officers and police cruisers.
- A committee that works to implement calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Davis said that instead of cutting off funding or disbanding the police service, indigenous representatives should be able to come to the negotiating table. She also said the recommendations stemmed not only from the incident between Tomchuk and Wren, but also from what she says is “a long history of violence between colonial law enforcement against the indigenous peoples of Canada.”
It “was an incident that finally got attention because of the allegations, because of the video. There are many other incidents that we could talk about,” she said, adding that this particular incident was one in which an officer crossed the line.
“I clearly understand that sometimes the police have to use a little more force when people resist. But when it comes to overuse, when there’s serious bodily injury, it’s over the top… The brutality goes beyond what’s needed to take this person into custody,” she said.
Bergen also spoke to reporters after Davis and others left the area.
He called the video “disturbing” and said he wanted to talk to indigenous leaders. He has already contacted them after the incident originally happened and plans to meet with them.
“The community wants action, not just words,” Bergen said on Tuesday, adding that he is inviting the wider community to provide feedback on the service.
“When we can do something better, it’s better to sit down at the table to discuss it, to find a way together.”
He said Tomchuk did not speak to police at the time of the incident, making it difficult for police to consider the possibility of a hate crime charge. He said that if an officer committed a hate crime, HPS would take appropriate action.
- Community groups in Hamilton are ‘very concerned’ about alleged police attack on a native
- Two Hamilton police officers charged with assault in separate incidents
Bergen added that over the past year he has been working on hiring an Indigenous Liaison Officer. Regarding changes to the police department, Bergen said the province should make that change.
As a board member of Mississaugas Credit First Nation, police board chairman Pat Mandy is a First Nations representative, but Davis said that is not the same as a First Nations board member.
Bergen also said that the introduction of DVRs in police vehicles is already in the pipeline thanks to a grant that should be ready by 2023.
He said the board would need to consider how the introduction of body cameras would impact the service’s budget, and there is currently no pilot project underway.
Tomchuk’s bail hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, with Wren’s next trial scheduled for August 18.