Susan Nabors turns to courts after disappointment with complaint process
A Calgary woman is suing the Calgary Police Service for damages related to alleged police brutality. Susan Nabors filed the lawsuit on November 26, 2012, naming the CPS, police Chief Rick Hanson and constables Amy Klassen, Craig Steele, Malinda Massicotte and Mark Atkin as liable for events that took place on December 5, 2010.
Nabors says when police came to her home at 2 a.m. in response to a noise complaint made by her neighbours, they came into her bedroom without permission and ultimately arrested her for assaulting an officer. What happened over the next 20 hours has been the subject of a complaint investigation for the last year and a half. Frustration with the lack of progress in that investigation led Nabors to file the lawsuit, which claims $50,000 in general damages.
Contrary to police allegations that Nabors assaulted police, the lawsuit claims that the constables repeatedly assaulted the 54-year-old, five-foot-two woman, leaving her with cuts and bruises on her face and head, a concussion, a lip laceration requiring surgical repair, a chipped tooth, chronic facial pain, headaches and post-traumatic stress.
The suit names Chief Hanson on the grounds that he is responsible for conduct in the CPS. By law, he is also responsible for overseeing public complaints.
There are similarities and differences between Nabors’ and her husband’s stories and those of the police.
“I was yelling out in the front yard,” admits Nabors. “We had been at a party, I was drinking…. I finally came inside. It was a cold winter night. We were just getting ready for bed, everything’s all peaceful and quiet, when the police came.” Nabors says she was getting undressed and had bent down to plug in her electric blanket when a woman entered her room.
“She starts barking orders at me, telling me to sit down and give her identification. And I said, ‘I’d like you to leave, I don’t want you here. I want you to leave.’ And then she’s like, ‘Give me some ID.’ She’s in my house. I’m the registered owner of the house and she’s asking me for ID.
“I said, ‘I’m not going to give you identification, I’d like you to leave.’ She was being quite aggressive… and she bangs me into the door jam. I thought, ‘This chick’s crazy.’ So I go into the bathroom to create physical distance between me and her…. I don’t want her touching me. And all of a sudden the door’s flung open by her partner. He grabs me and throws me down the hall.
“So I’m standing in the kitchen, just standing there, and I’m holding on to the drawer just because I’m just in shock now. What is going on here? Then they grab me and throw me onto the ground and handcuff me and drag me out to their car. They said, ‘We’re taking her downtown.’”
Her husband Charles Nabors concurs.
“Outside the house my wife was making a bit of commotion, loud voice, as she was upset about something. Some neighbours apparently called the police…. Anyways we came in the house and she was getting ready for bed, in her bedroom, when the police arrived,” he says. “They went into her bedroom, a woman police officer, and was quite aggressive…. Susan did not assault any of the police officers. She used her voice to express her unhappiness as to what was occurring, but she did not use any physical assault.”
At the police station, Susan Nabors says she was seated on a bench with the four arresting officers standing around her.
“They didn’t like what I was saying. I’m kind of mouthy. [One of the officers] throws me down on the ground. They go and get a spit mask and they say that I had spit on them. Well I don’t spit…. They start to process me physically, which is to remove my jewelry. So there was an officer kind of behind me in between my legs — my legs spread and you see his legs. And then the officer, the one from my bedroom, she’s trying to get my ring off. My hands are so swollen from the handcuffs, they’re pretty wrecked. And she’s trying to get my ring off and she’s pulling and pulling and pulling. I thought she was going to break my finger off.”
Susan says when she bent her finger to stop the officer from pulling, the officer began hitting Susan’s face against a window.
“I’m trying to flail around, I need to break free…. She’s smashing my head and her other person on the other side of me was kicking, grabs my head and just throws it onto the ground and blood just squishes everywhere. But I’ve got the mask on and so all the blood is just filling up inside the mask and I can’t breathe…. Then they pulled the mask off and blood just gushed everywhere, massive, probably a couple pints of blood. And they took me into the medic room. And I’m just like, why are you doing this?”
Nabors was held in an isolation cell from 4 a.m. until 4 p.m. She was finally released at 11:30 p.m. When she came home, her teenaged daughter immediately took her to the Rockyview Hospital.
The officers’ notes from that evening, obtained by Susan Nabors through a freedom of information request, tell a slightly different story.
Const. Klassen writes: “My partner remained in the living room. I walked down a short hallway and observed a heavy-set female lying on the bedroom floor just inside the doorway. She got on her hands and knees, turned over. I identified myself to her; used her name, ‘Susan.’ I helped her to her feet. Susan was extremely intoxicated, unsteady on feet, glazed eyes, slurred speech, odour of alcohol emanating from her breath.
“I told her we were there because she had been yelling in the street. Susan immediately yelling, cursing, ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’
“I asked her to sit on her bed. She began to push, hit, try to slam my arm in bathroom door. I pulled her out. Had asked for my partner Cst Steele to assist me. I continued to tell her to calm down, we were there to make sure everyone was safe. Susan continued to be assaultive... Susan pushed past to the kitchen... Cst Steele began pulling Susan away from opening drawers, Susan began screaming, hitting and kicking. Cst Steele and myself took Susan to the ground. Advised [she was] under arrest [for] assault[ing a] police officer. Handcuffed. Locked to not tighten... While sitting on bench [at the station], screaming, spit at Cst Massicotte. Cst Massicotte took her to the ground. I put a spit mask on. During search continued to struggle. Held against window to keep her standing. Kicked Massicotte... took Susan to ground... Susan’s nose started to bleed. EMS checked. Susan began to calm down, apologize... No intention of hurting nose. Could not support her on way to ground when she kicked and continued to struggle.”
The medic’s report says Nabors had a self-inflicted nosebleed and was in no pain. Despite a property record confirming she had a jacket, mitts, boots and a toque, Nabors says she wore only a thin black dress and stockings until her release the next night. She says she asked repeatedly for a blanket, food, water and toilet paper, but was not given any. She also says she was never allowed a phone call though she asked to make one. Her arrest records say she was “too drunk” to make a call.
Nabors was accused of assaulting three officers, but the charges were stayed in June 2011. Her background check shows her only contact with police prior to that night was in 2006 when neighbours complained she and her husband, then separated, were fighting outside their home.
No longer facing charges, Nabors believed a complaint investigation would find she was telling the truth. However, after 18 months she says nothing has been done.
She says that after several months her police liaison told her the CPS found no wrongdoing and was ready to close the investigation.
“I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I said, ‘He [the complaint supervisor] hasn’t even talked to me; he hasn’t even talked to me. Did you show him the [police] video?’ And he goes, ‘No, he’s not allowed to see the video.’”
Nabors’ lawyer Susan Cameron has seen the video recorded at the station on December 5, 2010 and of Susan in the isolation cell. She says she found the footage shocking.
“It puts the Calgary police department in a very embarrassing situation…. It’s way more than just her giving her side of the story when you have a video. And I think also the injuries and the damages that have been caused to her — it’s more the post-traumatic stress disorder,” says Cameron, who is making the video available to Fast Forward Weekly on December 6.
“For three days after her release I was emotionally numb, as her severe facial bruises and broken tooth had a big effect on me,” says Charles Nabors. “Then I became depressed for a period of time, which later turned to anger.”
Susan Nabors says she brought this story to the media because she feels the larger issue of police brutality and the public complaint process needs to be examined.
“I’ve been an activist, I’m a feminist and I march and I’m a union person, I’ve been on school councils for my daughters and I just feel as a citizen I can’t just sit there,” she says. “I’m scared all the time and I never was scared before. I lock my doors so that police can’t get in.”
The Calgary Police Service would not comment on this matter because it’s before the courts.