RCMP superintendent responds to local resident’s allegations
On May 21, 2011, Margaret MacDonald, a Cranbrook resident, was heading home from Jaffray when she took a wrong turn down a one-way street. An off-duty RCMP officer followed her, calling in a patrol car to administer a breathalyzer once she had stopped in front of her home.
MacDonald has stated that she was not able to produce enough breath for the device even after numerous attempts. After a few hours, a tow truck was summoned and towed away her car. She was also given a maximum penalty under the 2010 provincial impaired driving laws. She then took a cab to the hospital for a blood/alcohol test, which showed no alcohol in her system at that time.
A newspaper story about the incident in the Vancouver Sun has prompted the following release from Superintendent Ray Bernoties, officer in charge, “E” Division Communications.
Recently a writer with The Vancouver Sun wrote a story about an 82 year old motorist in Cranbrook who was alleging she was treated unfairly by the RCMP with respect to being stopped for suspected impaired driving and refusing to provide a breath sample. Some other media outlets picked up this story. Unfortunately, the writer did not ask for comment from the RCMP, or check any facts beyond speaking to the motorist.
Had we had a chance to respond, we would have been able to share facts that we believe the public deserve to know.The motorist was initially stopped by an off duty member who observed her driving down the wrong side of the street.
An on duty member was called who requested a breath sample from her based on several factors, including the driving evidence and an admission that she had been drinking earlier.
Numerous attempts to gain a useable breath sample were unsuccessful and she was issued an Immediate Roadside Prohibition for refusing to provide a sample. Some members of the public attempt to thwart the ASD (Approved Screening Device) by blocking the tube with their tongue, or breathing air in rather than blowing air out. In this case, members observed both of these techniques.
While lawfully detained during this process she was allowed access to her home to both use the washroom and to get a drink of water.
When she attended the RCMP detachment in the following days and provided evidence of her blood sample from hours later that evening, a calculation was done and it was determined that had a breath sample been provided, the ASD would have registered either a ‘Warn’ or a ‘Pass’ reading but would not have read a ‘Fail’.
She was supported by the RCMP in filling out the forms necessary to file an appeal and given a letter supporting her request. The Officer in Charge of the detachment offered to pay her $200 filing fee, an offer which still stands.
With respect to how she feels she was treated that night, a public complaint was immediately initiated and the actions of everyone involved is being investigated. She will be provided the results of that investigation when complete.
Regardless of the age of the person driving the vehicle, impaired driving kills people. Our members, including an off duty member, took action in an effort to keep people safe. We are exploring her allegations about how she was treated.
Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and, in cases where allegations are made to the contrary, we must speak to all involved - just as a reporter should before he writes his article.