A Moose Jaw couple is alleging that police overreacted to their domestic dispute and used excessive force in handling the situation instead of helping settle their conflict diplomatically.
It was after midnight on March 16 and Dave and Sally were arguing in bed. Their room was dark, so when Sally put her hands on her common-law spouse’s wrist in a non-violent way, he reacted by pushing her off the bed.
Her ring left a small scratch on his chest, while she received a small bruise on her forearm.
(Editor’s note: Dave and Sally are not the couple’s real names. Their names have been changed to protect their children.)
Sally, 23, says she went downstairs and called her mother, but their call unexpectedly disconnected, prompting her mother to call the police to make a wellness check. Meanwhile, the couple talked through their differences before going back to bed.
There was then a knock at the door, and upon answering it, the couple found three male officers standing outside. The cops said they wanted to talk, so the couple let them in.
During the interview with the Express, Sally questioned why a female officer wasn’t present since one normally has been when she’s had other relationship disputes.
In a separate interview, Dave, 29, wondered the same thing, pointing out the Moose Jaw Police Service’s Police and Crisis Team (PACT) unit has a male officer and a female social worker who normally attend such events.
One officer spoke to Sally in the living room, while another spoke to Dave in the kitchen. It was still dark inside, so an officer shone his flashlight on her bruises.
Sally has a fist-size birthmark on her lower back, so she alleges the officer overreacted when he saw it — thinking it was a bruise — by walking into the kitchen and arresting Dave.
Dave was wearing just shorts, so the police ordered her to grab clothes for him while they took him to the squad car.
“He just comes in, he has his handcuffs, and he’s like, ‘Turn around,’” the man recalled. “That was it. No Miranda rights, no nothin’. I sat in the car for an hour, freezing (because the back door was left open); it was cold.”
Added Dave, “I don’t appreciate getting arrested without any explanation. … Emotionally, it’s rattled the whole house.”
Officers later decided to charge Sally with assault instead because her ring scratched her spouse’s chest.
“Neither of us wanted charges to be laid. We told them … couples have disagreements,” she said.
The Express inquired with the police about this situation. Spokesman Staff Sgt. Taylor Elder said provincial legislation compels officers to respond in a certain way to domestic disputes. If they can determine who the primary aggressor was based on injuries or evidence, they must lay a charge and make an arrest.
“If they’re unhappy with us, they can follow the public complaints process. But as for how our officers attended, I can’t comment on that … ,” he added. “We got to allow due process through the justice system to figure out if the charges are warranted or not.”
The cops wrote up papers and said Sally could no longer remain there. Moreover, she was forbidden from contacting Dave or being near the house until her first court appearance — in May.
The cops ordered Sally to visit the police station to provide fingerprints, making this her first criminal offence.
Officers also said if she didn’t leave immediately, they would take her to cells and child protection services (CPS) would take their five-month-old daughter, while her three-year-old son would stay with Dave.
Not wanting CPS involved, Sally packed a few things and stayed with a friend.
Since then, Sally says she has contacted a lawyer, the John Howard Society and Pro Bono Saskatchewan for legal advice. She noted that the police document says “assault” but not what type, while cops also wrote that her first court appearance is on May 14 — a Sunday.
Besides this situation, she is also stressed about her job, finances and sick kids. She is currently on maternity leave.
“My baby’s been extremely fussy today since it’s happened. … this all could have been avoided had they given us some community support like I’ve gotten (previously elsewhere),” Sally said.
She alleges that the police never seriously listened to either of their stories but moved quickly to make an arrest.
“It’s (been) emotionally distressing for both of us,” she said.
Her partner plans to contact Victims Services and the Crown to remove the no-contact clause, which is important because her three-year-old son is in school — she can’t pull him out — and Dave wants to see their baby. Meanwhile, she is staying with a friend until this is cleared up.
“I feel they went straight to excessive force instead of settling the conflict in a civil way,” said Sally.
“The police are told to use their judgment when making calls like something like this,” said Dave. “And I don’t feel the right one was made (here).”