Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Winnipeg police viciously beat indigenous girl, Stephanie Kay Warren, 18.

An open letter from Stephanie's grandmother.

I wish to bring to your attention the grave matter of a vicious assault on my granddaughter by five members of the Winnipeg Police.

The following events were told to me by my granddaughter, Stephanie Kay Warren, age 18, of 125 Barber Street. On Sunday, March 1, 2009, Stephanie was in an argument with some girls at the Robins Donuts on the corner of Salter and Selkirk Avenue at approximately 6:30 p.m. The police were called because of the disturbance. Once the police arrived at the Robins Donut Shop, Stephanie ran outside. The police pursued and grabbed her by her hair. She slipped to the ground and the police pulled her up by her hair. The police told her to cooperate or they would taser her. At that time Stephanie stopped and put her hands behind her back and she was handcuffed. The police slammed Stephanie’s head over the police car and patted her down . They again pulled her by the hair and hit her head on the roof of the car as they shoved her forcefully into the back seat of the car, calling her a “dirty Indian”. Stephanie got mad at their deliberate act of hitting her head into the car and calling her names. Once in the back seat of the car, she began to kick at the door and window because she was being abused by the officers. An officer was at each door – one was strapping Stephanie’s legs and the other one, Cst. Prociuk, #2423, was gripping Stephanie’s face with force and she began to struggle, which made it difficult to secure her legs. Stephanie then received a few hits to her body from the officer attempting to secure her legs. Stephanie then bit into the officer’s gloved finger that was over her mouth and nose. He yelled at her to let go and Stephanie mumbled “you first”. Admittedly this was the wrong thing to do, but at this point she could not understand why she was being assaulted like this and was trying to protect herself from these men.

At this time the two police in the cruiser car took her to the Hartford police station. Stephanie again asked them to please take her home, and one of the police in the front responded by saying “You want to go home to F___ your Indian daddy?”. Racial slurs continued throughout the ride to the Hartford station,and she was called a “dirty Indian” several times. Upon arriving at the Hartford station, she was approached by another officer who said “you like to bite police officers?” and proceeded to hit her in the face, causing her nose to bleed. She was then knocked to the floor and dragged into a room and repeatedly slammed against the wall, knocked to the floor again and handcuffed to a bench. At this time more police appeared and the police began kicking her in the ribs, kicking her legs, kicking her arms, kicking her in the stomach, punching her in the face , and pulling her hair. All this took place while Stephanie was lying helpless on the floor handcuffed to a bench. Throughout this beating she was also assaulted by a barrage of racial slurs . Stephanie is not sure how long this assault took place, but she thinks it was around 45 minutes. Of course, all this time Stephanie was wondering why on earth she was receiving this horrendous treatment at the hands of five police. As Stephanie lay bleeding on the floor and terrified, a police officer came into the room with a white paper towel. Stephanie asked “what is that?” The officer replied it was something to “knock you out for awhile”. As they tried to put it over her face, she struggled to prevent them from putting it over her face, thinking they were trying to knock her out. Actually, it was only a wet paper towel to wash the blood off her face. This is one more incident of terrorizing her. Stephanie weighs approximately 120 pounds and was totally bruised from head to foot from this incident and at that point she thought she had some broken ribs. Stephanie was taken to the Health Science Centre on March 3, the morning after her release from jail, and all her injuries have been documented.

Unknown to the police, Stephanie had her cell phone when she was put in the police car. When briefly left alone in the room where she was beaten, she called a friend, who listened to 15 minutes of Stephanie screaming while being yelled at and beaten. This friend has documented the phone call and submitted to LERA. At one point Stephanie was also able to call her mom who heard Stephanie screaming into the phone “Mom, help me, help me, they are beating me”. A second call was placed to her mom, at which point her mom heard a man yell “who are you talking to” and the line then went dead. We later learned this was when the police threw her phone across the room upon discovering Stephanie had it.

After hearing this call, Stephanie’s mom, Melissa Warren, and myself went to the Hartford station to see if they knew anything of this incident, thinking that Stephanie had been beaten up by some kids or gang. We were told that Stephanie had been taken to the Remand Centre and charged with assaulting a police officer. The officer who was bitten, Cst. Prociuk, showed us his finger and said he had had gloves on when Stephanie bit him and the skin was not broken. We saw no evidence of bite marks at all on the finger . We were very concerned about why Stephanie would have done this and told the officer Stephanie had never been in trouble before and she would be there to apologize to him upon her release. We explained that Stephanie was a responsible young woman and held down a full-time job. We also told him about the two phone calls to her mom, at which time he asked to see Stephanie’s mother’s cell phone . We later discovered Cst. Prociuk, in fact, deleted the phone numbers from Melissa’s cell phone indicating that Stephanie had called her during the time she was at the Hartford Station.

We were told by Cst. Prociuk that we could not see Stephanie that night. It was not until Monday evening, March 2, that Stephanie was able to call her mother and tell her exactly what happened, that it was the police who had beaten her. When Stephanie did appear in Video Court, the presiding judge granted bail with very strict conditions of release. Two different lawyers acknowledged to us that police at the Hartford Station do this “all the time,” and “get away with it because it was almost impossible to prove.”

Not only has my granddaughter been traumatized by her experience with the Winnipeg Police, but those of us around her who have worked for decades to foster positive relationships with community members and the police are stunned and disheartened. Just recently, my colleague, Dr. Eveline Milliken, participated in the Crime Prevention through Social Development Conference (January 15, 16 & 17). I am Sel Burrow’s Co-Chair of the Point Douglas Residents’ Committee and we have worked hard with police to make our community a better place. While we are certainly upset about what has happened to my granddaughter Stephanie, we are also very concerned that this is not an isolated case, and that other young people are the targets of police assaults and racial slurs.

The Winnipeg Police, as public servants of the City of Winnipeg, work on a relationship of trust with their constituents and incidents like this are terribly damaging to the good work the police can be doing. You cannot do your job and be respected and be role models for young people with unprofessional behavior such as beating and illegally assaulting people. I realize that most police do not behave in this manner.

However, we must do everything possible to prevent unprofessional behavior such as this from ever happening.

As a grandmother I am sickened to think of this abuse to my granddaughter and to think of her lying on the floor being kicked and beaten and degraded by the very people we have taught her to respect. As a Winnipeg resident I demand a full formal investigation be made into this hideous incident. The abuse of police power must stop.

Roanna Hepburn