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Williams Lake RCMP officer accused of beating teenage girl

Seventeen-year-old Jamie Haller was repeatedly punched in the face while in the custody of the Williams Lake RCMP, says the girl's mother.

But the detachment's commander disputes the claim, asking that the public "remain open-minded until the full story comes out."

"My daughter…was punched and beaten by Cst. Yung, while her hands were cuffed in the back of a police car," writes Martina Jeff, Haller's mother, in an official complaint filed with the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (CPC). "I witnessed this while other officers stood around."

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) is calling for an independent investigation into the September 10 incident.

According to Jeff, her daughter called the police on the night of the 10th, claiming that she was being chased by a local gang and asking the RCMP for assistance. Jeff, having also received a call from her daughter, drove to meet Haller and found her surrounded by a number of police, handcuffed and lying facedown on the ground.

In her written complaint, Jeff describes what took place upon her arrival at the scene:

"[T]wo officers grabbed her and threw her roughly into the cop car. They shut the doors. She started kicking the windows and yelling 'mom,' 'mom'…Two officers then opened the car doors, one of each side. I heard one say 'keep kicking and you'll see what happens'. The officer on the passenger side door was Cst. Yung. He put his whole upper body in the car and started punching."

Haller was released the next morning without charge.

But in a conversation with The Tyee this morning, Sgt. Warren Brown, Detachment Commander at Williams Lake, says that Haller will be charged with assaulting a police officer and that reports of the incident filed by the officers present a "dramatically different version" of what took place.

"I'm trying to remain as neutral as possible," says Brown. "But I've seen the report written by the police. Let's say that there are certainly very different views of what happened."

Brown has formally requested that a neighboring RCMP detachment conduct an investigation into what took place.

According to the BCCLA, this is not the first allegation of excessive force filed against the Williams Lake detachment of the RCMP.

"We keep getting called about the Williams Lake RCMP," says BCCLA executive director David Eby. " I don't know what's going on there but, I do know that there's a long history of conflict between Aboriginal communities there and the RCMP."

In September of last year, the BCCLA called for an investigation into the Williams Lake detachment for three separate incidents of alleged excessive force involving three Aboriginal men. An investigation is currently underway.

Both Jamie Haller and her mother are Aboriginal.

The BCCLA's press release, which includes links to Martina Jeff's official complaint and photos of Haller taken after the incident, can be found here.

Ben Christopher reports for The Tyee.

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