The Mexican consulate in Vancouver wants answers after one of its citizens in Abbotsford was allegedly punched and kicked by officers and attacked by a police dog Sunday evening.
The man, a temporary worker at an Abbotsford berry farm, was taken bleeding and bruised to hospital Sunday and later released. The next day, the General Consulate of Mexico sent an email to Abbotsford Police Chief Mike Serr detailing the incident, which occurred while officers were searching for two suspects in a major drug smuggling case near the U.S. border. The consulate said two farmworkers were detained at gunpoint, and it called for an investigation into the officers involved.
“For the Mexican government, this incident and the way it was carried out is extremely worrying,” the consulate wrote.
The Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner (OPCC) is now investigating.
In a news release that didn’t mention the incident with the farmworkers, the RCMP announced Thursday that officers had arrested one of two men suspected of using an ATV and a trailer to smuggle a huge amount of methamphetamine over the border near Mt. Lehman Road. Officers from the RCMP’s Border Integrity Enforcement Team, Abbotsford Police and US Border Patrol were all in the area at the time.
But the Mexican consulate said the search for the suspects left an innocent farmworker bleeding and bruised after being punched and kicked by a police officer and attacked by a police dog. That farmworker was one of two who were held at gunpoint by officers.
On Monday, the Mexican consulate wrote Serr to ask for an investigation. In the diplomatic note, which was provided to The News Thursday, the consulate said that on the night of the drug bust, two workers called its emergency line to request help “after being assaulted by police officers.”
Both workers were temporary foreign workers at Berry Haven Farm on Mt. Lehman Road, close to where the drug smugglers crossed the border from the United States.
The first worker reported that he was outside housing at the farm and using his phone, when he was “suddenly ordered to lay on the ground and was punched, kicked and attacked by a police dog, as well as being pointed at with a gun,” according to the consulate note. “The second national reports that he was also using his phone and was surprised to see his coworker attacked and, while that happened, was also told to lay on the floor at gunpoint by police.”
The first worker was released from police custody and taken to hospital, where he was treated for bleeding, scratches and bruises across his body, the consulate told The News. He was later released from hospital.
“Based on the foregoing, the Consulate respectfully requests the initiation of an investigation into the motives and conduct of the police officers who carried out the assault, in order to determine the possible sanctions that correspond according to the law and the compensation of the damage caused to the victims, where appropriate,” the consulate’s complaint says.
The complaint identified an Abbotsford Police officer as the dog handler, but was unclear about the affiliation of the two other officers involved in the incident.
Copies of the complaint were sent to Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun, Premier John Horgan, B.C. Police Complaint Commissioner Clayton Pecknold and Carla Qualtrough, the federal minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion.
“The Consulate avails itself of this opportunity to renew to the Abbotsford Police Department the assurances of its highest and distinguished consideration and will be thankful if the Department acknowledges receipt of this note.”
The consul general told The News that more than 1,000 seasonal workers come to Abbotsford each year to work on farms around the city.
The Abbotsford Police Department issued a statement that said that, during the search for the drug-smuggling suspects, “individuals were found, detained and later released when it was determined they were not the suspects.”
The statement confirmed that the OPCC has begun an investigation and assigned the Vancouver Police Department to conduct the probe. The OPCC investigates complaints involving municipal police departments, but not the RCMP, which has a separate complaints process.
“The Abbotsford Police Department and RCMP have ensured there are open lines of communications between our agencies and the Mexican Consulate in order to address the matter and the concerns raised,” the statement says. “We are confident that the investigation will ensure that the circumstances and actions of the officers are fully investigated.”
RCMP Cpl. Dan Michaud, the media relations officer who spoke about the drug bust, said the force had no comment on the complaints about the conduct of officers. He said no such complaint had been made “at the RCMP level.”
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