Regina police officer found not guilty of assault
REGINA -- Cst. Roger Wiebe, 50, has been found not guilty of assault following an incident in April.
Judge Kevin Lang gave his decision on Tuesday morning at Provincial Court in Regina.
Lang said he reached the verdict of not guilty because it is impossible to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Wiebe assaulted the woman in this incident.
Before Lang gave his decision, he went over the details of the investigation and case to outline what happened before and during the incident that led to the charge.
On April 21, a witness called 9-1-1 to report an unknown woman who was in distress. The caller said the woman was laying on her back with her pants down and she was near the intersection of Saskatchewan Drive and Albert Street.
Lang referred to the woman in this incident as unknown because she never came forward during the investigation to say she was the woman involved in this incident and police were never able to locate her.
Wiebe and his partner, as well a another unmarked police vehicle, were dispatched to this incident.
Along their way to Saskatchewan Drive and Albert Street, the officers saw a woman on North Railway Street drinking a bottle of alcohol.
The judge pointed out that the woman drinking the bottle of alcohol was the same woman a witness has seen, but the caller gave the wrong location.
The officers were not aware of this information at the time and Lang said the pair believed there was another woman in distress at Albert Street and Saskatchewan Drive.
Wiebe and his partner approached the unknown woman, who began to swear at them and continued to drink her bottle of alcohol.
The Regina Police Service vehicle has a dash camera that captured the encounter.
Lang said Wiebe followed the Service's Use of Force model, which requires officers to attempt to reason with the person through conversation.
Wiebe then placed his left hand on the woman's right shoulder and attempted to retrieve the bottle of alcohol.
When Wiebe took the bottle, the woman fell backwards.
The witness, who originally called 9-1-1, said she saw the encounter, alleging Wiebe pushed the unknown woman.
Lang said the witness became unreliable because several parts of her testimony did not line up with the video that appeared on the dash camera video.
The description she gave of the woman was incorrect, he added.
The original complaint about the alleged assault was made internally, meaning it came from another officer who also responded to the call.
Lang said after reviewing the dash camera footage, Wiebe's right arm continues to stay bent, proving to him that Wiebe was not applying pressure on the woman. Lang also pointed out that the woman in the video fell to her left, and if Wiebe had pushed her right arm, the woman would have fallen to her right.
During the court proceedings, Wiebe said to the court that it was never his intention to push the unknown woman.
Lang also credited Wiebe's 17 years with the RPS and that he has never had a criminal conviction.
Lang wrapped up his decision by saying police need to react quickly to ever-changing situations.
"It is important to remember police cannot be held to a standard of perfection," Lang said.
Wiebe's lawyer, Aaron Fox, said Wiebe was very relieved with Lang's ruling on Tuesday.
"It was a really practical decision," Fox said. "I think it reflected the realities of what police officers face every day on the street.”
Police Chief Evan Bray spoke about the incident in July and said he couldn’t provide details on the alleged assault.
He said the police service had to act on it quickly.
“Once it was brought to our attention, it was clear to us that we had to start an investigation and get the Public Complaints Commission involved,” Bray said in July. “Obviously what happened was enough that prosecutions felt it constituted a charge of assault and that’s why we proceeded that way.”