National police complaint commission finds fault with Revelstoke RCMP arrest and detention of young woman

A young Revelstoke woman was arrested and jailed by Revelstoke RCMP, leading to a complaint process that spanned four years and escalated to a national complaint commission. Ultimately, she was vindicated of her arrest and detention, but has the complaint led to any change?

The Revelstoke RCMP detachment building on Campbell Avenue. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

Harley Reiner had her hoodie zipped up to protect herself against the cold late November weather in Revelstoke, which hovered just above zero on November 16, 2013 at around 2 a.m., as she walked to her home at Poppi’s Guest House at 313 First Street East.

Reiner, who was 19 years old in 2013, had been out at the bars with friends that night, first stopping in at the Regent Inn then heading over to Traverse for more drinks. She says she was intoxicated at the time, and was heading home to the three-storey guest house her mom, Poppi Reiner, has operated since around the time Revelstoke Mountain Resort opened for business.

Her friend, Rebecka Grenier, was among the crowd of people who had migrated towards Nico’s Pizzeria for an after-party bite. The pizzeria was located in the 200 block of First Street East at that time and was open late.

Harley continued on home, walking down the south side of the sidewalk. She was a block and a half away from home when the trouble started.

An RCMP cruiser with RCMP Const. David Segers and Const. Joel Chenard of the Canadian Pacific Police Service inside approached her. Const. Segers got out of the car and asked Reiner to show him some ID.

Reiner, who is open about the fact she was intoxicated but insists she was fine to get home, told the police to buzz off, saying she was on her way home, hadn’t done anything wrong, and didn’t need to show them ID.

That’s when things went south, leading to a four-year legal odyssey that included an in-house RCMP investigation that found Harley was at fault and the police had done nothing wrong.

This was followed by a national Civilian Review and Complaints Commission investigation that found the Revelstoke RCMP were in the wrong on almost everything they did that night and in the subsequent internal investigation.

The confrontation

According to the Revelstoke RCMP version of events, Cpl. Segers decided that Reiner was a danger to herself for being intoxicated in public, and said she was under arrest.

Harley says she pointed out her home from the place she stood on the sidewalk, saying she would soon be home safe. On foot, it’s about a minute and a half from where the violent confrontation went down to her front door.

“I pointed to my kitchen window. That is my kitchen window. I can see in my house,” she told the Mountaineer in an interview.

In this photo taken by her family after she was released from police custody following her Nov. 16, 2013 arrest and detention, Harley Reiner’s black eye from the interaction with Revelstoke RCMP is visible. Photo: Reiner family

Cst. Segers moved in to arrest and cuff Harley, and a struggle ensued. The officer pushed Reiner towards his police vehicle, they struggled, then they both fell to the ground. Eventually, the officer managed to cuff Reiner and went to put her in the car.

Meanwhile, her friend Rebecka Grenier was standing across the street in front of the pizzeria and witnessed the incident. In an interview with the Mountaineer and in a statement she provided as part of the multiple investigations into the incident, she said that while Cst. Segers was putting Harley into the back of the police car, her face was violently slammed into the top of the vehicle’s door frame.

The incident left Harley with a black eye, the cause of which became the source of multiple versions of events and opinions.

Grenier regrets not intervening in the situation, saying that she was afraid the police would arrest her if she got involved. She looked on in horror from across the street.

“They threw her down to the ground, they smashed her head on the car as they tried to put her in the back seat,” Grenier said in a statement provided to investigators. “I hear her screaming with pain, it was so bad I wanted to cry.”

While in the car, Reiner asked to be taken home, but the police denied the request, saying they were taking her to jail.

Grenier said that police then approached her, telling her that if she wasn’t drunk, they could release Reiner to her. Grenier says she only had two drinks that evening and would have been fine to see Harley to her home, but was intimidated by police after their violent arrest of her friend.

The RCMP’s internal investigation finds police did nothing wrong

Under the current RCMP police complaints process, complaints against the RCMP are first subject to an internal investigation by the RCMP. When Harley’s father Henry filed a complaint with the RCMP, the case was handed over to Staff-Sergeant Kevin Keane, the Non Commissioned Officer in charge (NCIC) of the Salmon Arm detachment.

In a nine-page report dated September 9, 2014, Staff-Sgt. Keane found no fault in the RCMP actions on the night of Nov. 16, 2013.

The report addressed several specific complaints made by the family.

The report said that another police officer on patrol that night, Constable Shannon, had spotted Harley walking down the street apparently intoxicated, but had communicated by radio about her to other officers because Cst. Shannon was investigating a potential impaired driver at the time.

When Cst. Segers found Harley, he described her as grossly intoxicated. Staff-Sgt. Keane’s report states the Cst. Segers, “attempted to determine where she lived and her ability to make it home safely.” The report quotes Cst. Segers as saying he was continuing to assess whether police could “see if we can just get her home.”

This is a point of dispute in the case. Reiner insists that during her interaction with police she stated clearly that she was just over a block away from home where her mom was at home, and she could be taken home.

In the police report, it stated that the RCMP approached Grenier after Harley Reiner had been placed in the car. The report states that the police told Grenier she was too intoxicated to take custody of Reiner. In a written statement, Grenier disputes this. She said she had two beers that evening and that she was “too scared and still under shock” after witnessing her friend get wrestled to the ground and her head slammed against the police car.

Harley Reiner was about a block and a half from home at Poppi’s Guest House, pictured here, when she was stopped by Revelstoke RCMP. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

The RCMP report backs the claims of officers on the scene that they did not know where she lived but had tried to find out.

The report reviews the injuries caused to Grenier. It boils down to a he-said, she-said situation, with Grenier saying police picked Harley Reiner up off the ground and banged her head into the door jamb while putting her into the vehicle. The police, including another officer on scene, Cst. Chenard, say they didn’t see that.

The RCMP report touches on other issues, such as the fact that Reiner wasn’t provided a blanket while in cells, something police say is standard practice.

It acknowledges that she received an injury to her eye, suggesting a fall in the cells may have been the source. “I am further satisfied that Ms. Reiner suffered a bruised eye,” states Staff-Sgt. Keane in his report. “I am, however, unable to determine neither by witness accounts nor video evidence when this injury occurred.”

Overall, the RCMP version of events paints an unflattering picture of Harley Reiner as a drunk and belligerent person who resisted police throughout the encounter on the street, including spitting, swearing and banging her head against the police car partition once inside.

Reiner acknowledges getting verbally angry with the police, but by all accounts, her anger only started after police stopped her while she was peacefully walking home.

Read the initial RCMP report on the Harley Reiner complaint here. Note that highlighted text was provided by the Reiner family:

Harley Reiner internal RCMP complaint report by Revelstoke Mountaineer on Scribd

The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP finds the opposite of the RCMP internal report

Following the initial internal RCMP report, the family filed a complaint with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, an Ottawa-based independent commission that investigates complaints against the RCMP.

A note on the CRCC report states that because the Canadian Pacific Police Service is not within the CRCC’s jurisdiction, they didn’t investigate the actions of Const. Chenard. It also noted he is no longer with the rail police.

After an initial review, the CRCC determined that the case required further investigation and requested the RCMP conduct the investigation, including requesting “additional investigation materials” which they received on October 28, 2015.

The CRCC concluded its interim report in March of 2016, and found that the majority of Ms. Reiner’s allegations were supported.

The CRCC commission made 15 findings and eight recommendations that are listed in the report.

The findings were sent to the RCMP Acting Commissioner, who agreed with all but one of the commission’s findings and two of its recommendations.

One key point of dispute is Ms. Reiner’s request to contact her mother once she was at the police detachment. The CRCC final report said that RCMP Acting Commissioner had “failed” to even address or refute this element of the report.

The commission affirmed the findings of its interim report.

Another point of contention is that the RCMP “[failed] to adhere to policy or demonstrate an understanding of what are routine matters in a detention to be a serious issue that may have wider scope than portrayed by the Acting Commissioner,” the report states. “First, there was no record of any administrative measures taken by supervisors to either identify or redress the conduct at issue.”

Read the entire CRCC final report into the 2013 Harley Reiner complaint here:

CRCC report on Harley Reinier complaint case by Revelstoke Mountaineer on Scribd

What were the 15 findings and eight recommendations of the CRCC?

The report found that Cst. Segers unreasonably demanded that Ms. Reiner produce her identification. The report states that police must have reasonable grounds to suspect that an individual is connected to a particular crime in order to detain them. Alternately, police can detain someone for a brief investigatory detention which doesn’t oblige detainees to answer questions from the police.

“While Cst. Segers was free to ask questions of Ms. Reiner, he was not entitled to demand that she produce her identification regardless of whether the purpose for his intervention was an investigative detention or merely a personal safety check.”

The first finding of the report was the Cst. Segers, “unreasonably demanded that Ms. Reiner produce her identification.”

The next few findings of the report flow from this initial error by police.

The report didn’t find that Ms. Reiner was causing any kind of disturbance, but was simply walking home at the time. It also found that because the arrest of Ms. Reiner was unreasonable, her detention in the cells was also unreasonable, and that Cst. Segers had, “failed to consider alternatives to Ms. Reiner being placed in police lock-up.”

On these points, the commission recommended that Cst. Segers receive, “operational guidance” on his authority to detain members of the public, using discretion before arresting someone, and “the importance of communication as a de-escalation tool.” The commission also recommended he receive, “operational guidance with respect to the law in the context of requiring a person to identify oneself to the police.”

The report found that all force used was unreasonable because the arrest was unreasonable in the first place, and recommended that the RCMP apologize to Ms. Reiner.

Regarding police refusal to allow Ms. Reiner to call her mother, the commission concluded that it was “unreasonable” of Cst. Segers to prevent her from making the call, saying Cst. Segers’ belief that she only had the right to call a lawyer was incorrect. On this point, the commission report recommends Cst. Segers be provided operational guidance on the British Columbia Offence Act.

It also found that Cst. Segers’ language in refusing her request was unreasonable. Although Cst. Segers denied saying it, Ms. Reiner’s statement said he said, “You’re a grown ass woman[,] you don’t need your momma.” The commission recommended Cst. Segers be “provided operational guidance” regarding respectful interaction with the public.

While in detention, Ms. Reiner had some of her clothing removed by police, such as her bra. Her sweatshirt was removed briefly, its drawstring removed as a potential suicide risk. She was not provided with a blanket. The report found that removing her clothing was “unreasonable in these particular circumstances” and that Cst. Segers had, “failed to provide Ms. Reiner with a blanket contrary to the Revelstoke Detachment supplement.” However, it also found that the complaint that she didn’t have water was not supported, since there was a tap in the cell, and that although her hoodie was removed, video showed it was only for a few minutes, which the commission found was not unreasonable. It also found she was not left in the cell with only her T-shirt and no bra, as was the complaint, since she was given the hoodie back. On this point, the commission recommended training for the constable and detachment members on policies regarding guarding prisoners.

There was also a dispute over whether RCMP provided the family with necessary documents that would allow them to file a complaint against police. Harley’s father Henry was not satisfied with what police had provided, namely a short narrative description of the events, and wanted other documentation, a process that dragged on into 2014. The commission found that it was unclear to Staff-Sgt. Kurt Grabinsky, the NCOIC in Revelstoke, that the family was intending to dispute the ticket, so he was not required to provide particulars requested by Harley’s father Henry.

The information provided was limited, and excluded dispatch records and cell block video, which the commission said, “should have been released” to the family.

In an additional finding and recommendation on the question of disclosure, the commission found that Staff-Sgt. Grabinsky, who is currently the NCOIC in Revelstoke, “failed to provide full disclosure to Mr. Reiner and is, therefore, not satisfied with the RCMP’s disposition of this allegation.” The commission found that because he failed to provide full disclosure that he, “be provided with operational guidance with respect to his disclosure obligations related to disputed violation tickets.”

Family says they sought police apology, not lawsuit

As a result of the CPCC report, the RCMP offered to give an apology to Harley, something she says she wanted. An RCMP communications person called her and offered to apologize on behalf of police, even offering to drive to Fernie to deliver the apology. However, Harley said she wanted an apology from Cst. Segers, the man who tackled her to the ground, roughly put her in the police car and locked her up in jail.

Harley said the incident has shaken her confidence in the police. “I always trusted the police. I always thought they would have my best interests at hand, especially if I wasn’t doing anything illegal,” she said. “I would definitely tend to think twice about calling them for help.”

She said the struggle on the sidewalk was unnecessary. “I definitely feel like it was excessive force. I had a black eye and I had finger marks on my upper arms,” she said. “As a young woman walking home from the bar, the last thing I should be worried about is getting accosted by the police and getting thrown in jail.”

Bruising on Harley Reiner’s arms from her arrest by Revelstoke RCMP. Photo: Reiner family

She panned the initial RCMP investigation, saying she felt like the police weren’t taking her seriously. “He automatically seemed like it was my fault, and even the report he wrote said I was saying ‘um, um’ a lot,” she said. “I feel like right off the bat he had his answer, and he knew what he was going to say.”

She said the prolonged investigation process, which spanned four years of her young life, was problematic. “I felt it was extremely difficult to get anyone to hear me, to even hear what I had to say.

“Talking to my friends around town … they kind of feel powerless, at a loss, like if something like that happened to them they don’t have someone like my dad to keep escalating,” she said. “That’s why they don’t trust law enforcement a lot.”

The family said they were never interested in suing the police over the incident and they have not pursued that route. Their concern was primarily clearing Harley of the incident and getting an apology for what they feel was wrong actions by police. The CPCC report and its allegations do vindicate them, finding that the initial arrest was wrong, leading to a cascading list of problems.

Does complaining to the Revelstoke RCMP get results?

One of the unique points of the case is Harley’s father’s involvement, specifically his professional background. He is a Crown prosecutor based in Vancouver, and is involved in prosecuting serious crimes.

“I do mostly murders, and I will say that I have been dealing with the police for well over 40 years and I have always have a very good relationship with most of them,” Reiner told the Mountaineer.

His professional experience gives him extensive first-hand knowledge of how the legal, policing and court systems work.

He put his experience to work on the complaint, leading it first into the RCMP internal complaint process — where a neighbouring RCMP colleague is charged with investigating their peers — and then onto the CRCC complaint process, where an independent panel looks at the case.

Through the process, he said he didn’t identify himself as a prosecutor or lawyer, just a family member, and sent correspondence on plain paper. He said navigating the process would be challenging without his legal background.

“It takes a certain amount to get it to that next level at least,” Mr. Reiner said. “It takes some knowledge of the law.”

There were disputes over the disclosure process — the CRCC found the RCMP should have provided more information that would help the complainant proceed to the federal investigation, such as video of Reiner in the holding cell.

However, Reiner said the issue for him was how police characterized the situation in their internal report. “The issue wasn’t so much the disclosure, but the way the response was framed in the initial report.”

The report is damning of his daughter, presenting a narrative of a drunk and belligerent young woman who caused her own problems. It paints the RCMP officers as just trying to help, even though Reiner and Grenier both insist she told police she lived nearby and could easily walk, be escorted, or be driven home. Additionally, all accounts note she wasn’t belligerent prior to police demands that she show ID, something she was not required to do.

“If you have any experience in the law, the circumstantial evidence is pretty compelling that she told him she lived a few houses down,” Mr Reiner said.

“It was so high handed and abusive,” Mr. Reiner said.

He said the CRCC report provided vindication for the family’s case, and hoped that it would lead to a change in conduct. “Quite frankly, after that first report I was pleased that they did make the findings that they did, and at least there are recommendations for improvement, and this goes on his file. I just thought shining the light of publicity of this conduct may [let them] know their conduct may not go unexamined.

“It was just so incredibly needless,” he added.

Mother calls for police deescalation training

Poppi Reiner appears in this Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine file photo from a magazine style shoot. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

Poppi Reiner focused on the initial interaction that led to the arrest, saying that police need to learn alternatives to an aggressive approach.

“I’m a mom. I know it’s hard to deal with a lippy teenager, but we still do it,” she said. “I think it’s easy to teach how to deal with someone with an attitude. Their only tool is to fight fire with fire, and [police] need to learn to be above that.

“They don’t have the ability to deescalate,” she said. “They don’t seem to have it.”

Reiner said she feels there needs to be grassroots change in the way police conceive of their jobs, saying that the point of the incident should have been the young woman’s safety.

“A mother’s expectation is that when a vulnerable, impaired teenage girl is walking home late at night, the police would help get her home safely, not beat her up and throw her in jail,” she said.

The RCMP response to media questions

Revelstoke Mountaineer reached out to the Revelstoke RCMP several times for comment, but the police declined.

We sent our initial request to our usual contact, a Kelowna-based officer who works in the communications department, Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey. The response came from Staff-Sgt. Janelle Shoihet, a Senior Media Relations Officer based in the Lower Mainland.

She declined the interview request, saying, “We will have to respectfully decline the opportunity for an interview.”

In email correspondence Shoihet said she assumed based on our inquiry that we had a copy of a document referred to as the “Commissioner’s response,” saying that document would provide the RCMP’s perspective. However, we don’t have a copy of that report. We subsequently requested a copy, but it was not provided.

When an individual makes a complaint about the RCMP, there are several steps. First, there is an effort by the RCMP to resolve the complaint informally. If the complainant persists, the matter goes to an internal investigation, where the RCMP gets other RCMP members to investigate, in this case RCMP from the Salmon Arm detachment. This results in an RCMP report that is provided to the complainant. If the complainant is not satisfied with the outcome, they can then ask the CRCC to investigate, which they did in this case. If the CRCC proceeds with a review of the case, it issues a preliminary report, which is provided to the RCMP for comment. Once that comment — the aforementioned “Commissioner’s response” — is provided, the CRCC issues its final report in the case, which makes reference to the RCMP comments.

We replied to the RCMP and made multiple requests for a copy of the Commissioner’s response, but it was not provided by our deadline. Email correspondence with Shoihet and O’Donaghey eventually trailed off to out-of-office email auto-replies with no responses to our request for the document as our deadline came and went.

Police cite ‘privacy’ in only substantial response

Shoihet did say the complaint process was subject to privacy legislation, which she gave as a reason for not commenting. “[T]he public complaint process is subject to the Federal Privacy Act therefore generally, we are precluded to confirming specific details related to a particular complaint,” she wrote in an email to the Mountaineer. “The complainant would be updated privately of the outcome of the investigation into his/her complaint and should they be unsatisfied with the outcome, has the ability to request a review by the CRCC.”

The privacy argument

From a public accountability perspective, a weakness of the entire process is that it relies on the complainant to make their complaint public. Even the final CRCC report is not available to the public. In this case, Harley Reiner’s family provided the report to the Mountaineer.

The CRCC response

A CRCC spokesperson did reply to our requests for information, answering our questions in telephone interviews, and by providing general statistics on public complaints against the RCMP in B.C. The commission was responsive to our questions and requests.

CP Rail police present, but not investigated

One concern arising from the Harley Reiner story in Revelstoke is use of CP Rail police to do civilian policing in Revelstoke. The CRCC reports notes up front that it doesn’t investigate actions of the CP Rail officer in the patrol car because the CRCC doesn’t have jurisdiction over rail police, a blind spot for investigations that follow the federal route.

City of Revelstoke, council, not advised of complaints against the RCMP

In response to our question, a City of Revelstoke spokesperson said that the city does not receive reports of police complaints from the Revelstoke RCMP detachment.

CRCC provides provincial RCMP complaint statistics

The Mountaineer requested statistics for complaints against the RCMP in B.C. from the CRCC, which they provided.

The CRCC also noted that when you file an official complaint against the RCMP, that complaint is registered in real time with the CRCC, and that you should be issued a CRCC complaint number by the RCMP.

We are attaching the list of complaints against RCMP detachments here. At the time we requested it, a CRCC spokesperson said these statistics had only been requested once before, by a Lower Mainland government. There are lots of other stories to investigate with these stats, and a lot of caveats, but for now we are just publishing them for information.

Read a list of statistics on complaints against all BC RCMP detachments by the CRCC here. The report contains several different groups of data, including breakdowns on the nature of the complaint, and detachment-by-detachment statistics:

BC RCMP complaints to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission data by Revelstoke Mountaineer on Scribd

Some conclusions

The case highlights many problems with the existing complaint system. It took four years for Reiner’s complaint to wind its way through the system, and that took a lot of time and effort on behalf of the complainant, who had the benefit of legal experience in the family: a father who is a prosecutor who works closely with the criminal justice system.

Most Revelstoke people don’t have the time or resources for something like that.

The internal RCMP report on the case paints a somewhat humiliating portrait of Harley, a stumbling, intoxicated, belligerent young lady who spat in the police car and swore at the cops. It also says she banged her head against the divider in the car and was videotaped falling forward in her cell, suggesting that could have caused her black eye. In the RCMP report, there’s no concern expressed this could be an intoxicated and recently concussed person who is struggling. An hour before she was within view of her friend and a few minutes away from getting into bed, but that soon escalated into a violent confrontation.

This summer, there were more calls for reform of the federal system, which critics say is just not working. A review of CRCC legislation was underway earlier this year, but it has been stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A CRCC report released in early October criticized the RCMP’s personal search policy as unclear, noting “the RCMP’s national personal search policy (including cell block searches) is unclear and inadequate.” The report specifically mentions policies around removing women’s bras, including doing so while they are being recorded.

Another report found police responses to CRCC findings are frequently delayed and the response time is growing.

In B.C., during the international uproar that followed George Floyd’s killing by police, Premier John Horgan announced a look into police oversight through the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner. However, the provincial complaints body oversees independent city police forces and other police forces, but not the RCMP.

It’s unclear what the consequences are for individual officers involved in police complaints.

It’s also difficult to discern patterns due to limited information available and because unless the complainant distributes the report publicly, it’s not available to the public. Even then, it’s erratic. It’s difficult to discern if there is a problem with a bad apple, or if there are systemic issues at an individual attachment, systemic issues across the force, all of the above, or none.

In this case, the Reiner family received a belated apology for the incident, but there’s little in the way of public assurance that the issues contributing to an unfortunate incident have been addressed.

As a final note, Poppi Reiner approached me a year or two ago about this case, but at the time I didn’t have time to look into it, and also didn’t understand how much effort the family had invested. I get complaints about incidents involving the Revelstoke RCMP from time to time, but it’s difficult to approach the complaint because it’s a he-said, she-said situation with little evidence to back it up. In light of widespread concerns about policing expressed this summer, I decided to follow up on her request.

Hopefully, shining a light onto this case will have some kind of positive effect, but it will be up to those in leadership positions in the community and beyond to formulate a response and communicate it publicly.

Aaron Orlando is a Revelstoke-based journalist who serves as creative director of revelstokemountaineer.com and Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine. He's been on the news beat in Revelstoke for the past 14 years, serving in senior editorial roles. If you have aaron@revelstokemountaineer.com or call/text him at 250-814-8710.