An Abbotsford police officer was acquitted of assault today (Thursday) after a two-day trial in Abbotsford provincial court.
Judge Paul Dohm found Const. Doug Lemna, a 21-year member of the Abbotsford Police Department (APD), not guilty of the charge.
“I’m not able to reject his (Lemna’s) evidence, and I’m left with a reasonable doubt about the amount of force used to stop (the suspect’s) behaviour,” Dohm said.
Both Lemna and defence lawyer David Butcher declined to comment after the verdict.
Abbotsford Police spokesperson Const. Ian MacDonald said Lemna “handled himself admirably in spite of the many challenges the situation placed on himself and his family.”
“We (the APD) are satisfied that the matter was appropriately investigated and received a transparent review through the court system,” he added.
Constables Rene Hansen and Eddie Gilmartin testified Wednesday in court that Lemna placed the toe of his foot on the face of Daveen Disbrow, who was being detained after police received a report of mischief on Sept. 2, 2009. She was lying face-down on the ground and was handcuffed, while Hansen controlled Disbrow’s torso and Gilmartin sat across her legs.
Hansen also said that Lemna made contact with Disbrow’s teeth.
Lemna testified earlier today that he tapped Disbrow on the chin twice with the toe of his boot, but the contact was minimal.
He denied touching her mouth or teeth, and said his intention was to end her screaming and the disturbance to the neighbourhood.
Disbrow testified Wednesday that she has been upset about her 16-year-old son, who was also being detained and had been knocked off his bike by a police car in the parking lot of the Abbotsford provincial courthouse.
In his closing submission this afternoon, Butcher said Lemna was justified in using the “minimal amount” of force to get Disbrow to halt her screaming, which could have awakened residents of two nearby apartment complexes.
“He used his experience to calm the situation down that two much-less-experienced officers had not been able to calm down.”
Crown counsel John Hempstead argued that no amount of force was necessary, because the other two officers had Disbrow physically under control, and she was in a vulnerable position.
The judge said it was difficult to determine the “exact nature or force” of the actions Lemna used, but no injuries were reported by or to Disbrow.
He agreed that Lemna’s intentions were to stop her screaming and he was within the law to use force, although he said other tactics could have been used, such as moving Disbrow to the back of a police car.