FROM THE ARCHIVE

White cops report to jail for brutality incident

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FRIDAY, MARCH 14, 2003

An appeals court in Saskatchewan, Canada, on Thursday refused to overturn the criminal convictions of two former police officers who admitted abandoning an Aboriginal man in the freezing cold.

Citing "undisputed facts" that proved the men were guilty of unlawful confinement, the court in a unanimous decision dismissed the appeal of Ken Munson and Dan Hatchen. The pair reported to a jail in Saskatoon, where they are to serve eight months for an offense that heightened racial tensions in the province and drew attention to what Native leaders say is routine police brutality.

"This was not an isolated incident," Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Vice Chief Lawrence Joseph told reporters yesterday.

Darrell Night, a member of the Salteaux First Nation, came forward in early February 2000, accusing the officers of leaving him on the outskirts of town in below-zero weather. Just days before, two Native men were found dead in the same area where Night was abandoned.

To the Aboriginal community, it was another in a long line of incidents dating back a decade. Men as young as 18 have been found dead, all attributed to the so-called "Starlight Tours" of local police.

Munson and Hatchen never refuted abandoning Night. But they argued that he asked to be dropped off and said they were within their powers to do so.

In September 2001, that reasoning was rejected and the pair were convicted of unlawful abandonment but acquitted of assault. They immediately appealed the case after losing a request to be sentenced by traditional Aboriginal methods.

The two men are white.

According to Hatchen's lawyer, the men are in danger while in jail because of their former profession. It was not clear if they will be separated from the general population.

Investigations have been launched into the other suspicious deaths. An inquest was called for Neil Stonechild, who was 18 at the time of his death more than a decade ago.

In the wake of the officers' controversy, the FSIN set up a hotline to take complaints of police brutality. Tribal leaders said some calls were racist and harassing in nature.

Get the Decision:
Munson, Hatchen v. Her Majesty the Queen (March 13, 2003)

Relevant Links:
Starlight Tours, from the CBC - http://cbc.ca/national/magazine/starlight/index.html

Related Stories:
Death of Aboriginal man to be investigated (02/20)
Can. court hears appeal of convicted cops (01/21)
Former cops appeal conviction (12/10)
White cops denied Native justice (12/4)
White cops want Native justice (10/31)
Officers found guilty for abandoning Native man(9/21)
Officers admit abandoning Native man (9/19)
All-white jury selected for Sask. officers (9/11)
Hearing held for accused cop (9/12)
Racial tensions rise over police harassment (5/04)
First Nations say police charges don't go far enough (4/13)
Officers charged in Saskatoon (4/12)
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