Saskatoon police say man punched by officer on video not charged due to ‘cognitive points’

A man chased, tackled and punched by a Saskatoon police officer is not facing any criminal or bylaw charges.

Police say that’s because the arresting officer assessed the man’s mental state after subduing him.

“He was not ticketed. The arresting officer determined there were cognitive issues involved,” police spokesperson Alyson Edwards said in an email.

The incident, which was caught on video by a bystander and posted to social media, is now subject to an internal review.

The episode happened on Nov. 1, police said in a statement to CBC.

“Officers were responding to a report of a suspicious person and upon arrival, witnessed the male in question had exposed himself and was urinating while standing on 22nd Street W.,” the statement said.

“When the arresting officer attempted to question the male suspect, he fled on foot. The officer utilized a use-of-force as he brought the man into custody a short distance away.”

Police do have units specifically trained for mental health calls. The Police and Crisis Team (PACT) units, created in 2015, are made up of one patrol officer and one mental health social worker. The teams are sent out to both mental health (attempted suicide, mental health checks) and addiction related calls.

The PACT teams are designed to de-escalate situations and reduce arrests of people in crisis. They also connect people to community supports and follow up with them to make sure they are alright.

A University of Saskatchewan sociology professor is questioning why one of the teams was not dispatched in this case.

“You can think of how things would have played out differently if someone sees someone urinating and they’re like, OK, that person might have been in distress,” said Scott Thompson.

“Let’s have a mental health team come first and assess before we have someone with a gun show up.”

Thompson said it also highlights the lack of services in that part of the city.

“It has to do with the allocation of resources, in particular the question of is there proper facilities downtown for people that are in need of these types of things,” he said.

Police said that PACT officers eventually were involved.

“It was initially a patrol response. PACT officers became involved after the male was arrested,” Edwards wrote.

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