No charges for Winnipeg officer who pepper-sprayed cyclist in 2019: police watchdog

A Winnipeg man says he’s disappointed, but not surprised, after learning no charges will be filed against a Winnipeg police officer who pepper-sprayed him, after he asked the officer to dim his police vehicle’s headlights.

The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba said Thursday no charges will be laid in the 2019 incident, in spite of the fact there were grounds to lay a charge.

“It’s just kind of indicative of how this happens all the time, and it seems like these methods of disciplining officers are kind of toothless and don’t appear to actually do much,” Thomas Krause said Thursday.

The incident happened on Home Street in the early hours of April 12, 2019, when Krause was biking home from work. 

He had previously told CBC News he crossed paths with a marked Winnipeg Police Service SUV that had its high beams on, and asked the officer to turn them off. 

According to Krause, the officer told him he needed his brights to do his job. Then, Krause said, the officer told him he was searching for a man fitting Krause’s description and demanded to look in his backpack. 

When he refused, the officer, Jeffrey Norman, pepper-sprayed him in his face, placed him in handcuffs and put him in the back of a police vehicle. He was released about 45 minutes later, according to a report by the IIU released on Thursday.

The incident came to the attention of the police watchdog after Krause wrote about it on Facebook. The IIU launched an investigation shortly after. 

That investigation involved interviewing Krause, Norman and several witnesses. 

Norman said he stopped Krause because he fit the description of a man that police were looking for, according to the IIU report. He said Krause was unwilling to get off his bike, and he believed the cyclist would try to flee.

Krause disputed Norman’s account of events, saying he did not try to flee at any point.

Not enough evidence to convict

After concluding its investigation, the IIU forwarded its report to the Manitoba Prosecution Service, requesting a review and opinion on whether criminal charges should be filed against Norman. 

In a written statement, the prosecution service said because “reasonable doubt exists as to whether the officer’s use of force was excessive,” it didn’t believe charges should be laid.

While “grounds exist to arrest the officer and lay a charge, we are not satisfied that there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction,” the prosecution service said, according to the IIU report.

“While it is always in the public interest to hold police officers accountable, there must also be a reasonable likelihood of conviction for Manitoba Prosecution Service to prosecute a matter,” the statement said. 

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