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Vernon cop guilty of assault but won't get criminal record

Vernon RCMP officer Ryan Carey appears in this 2019 photo.

Vernon RCMP Const. Ryan Carey has been kicked, punched, stomped on, scratched, spit on, bled on and yelled at. He's also had a gun pointed at him, threatened with a knife, and once covered in gasoline as a violent man threatened to set him on fire. He also contracted tuberculosis from years spent on the front line with Vernon's homeless population.

Today, May 21, he appeared virtually at the Vernon courthouse and pled guilty to assaulting a woman in a police cell who he'd arrested hours beforehand.

Provincial Court Judge Paul Dohm described the assault as "clearly out of character."

The assault took place in the early hours of New Year's Eve 2021.

The court heard that Const. Carey had been called earlier that night to a home where the residents said a woman was acting aggressively and had a knife. There was no explanation given of why the woman was there in the first place. There had been eight complaints about the woman in a week and she'd recently been discharged from a psychiatric hospital.

When Const. Carey arrived he found her intoxicated and "inconsolable and uncooperative." She was arrested and taken to the Vernon cells.

The officer planned to allow her to sober up and then access her under the Mental Health Act.

At 2 a.m. that morning the cell guard called Const. Carey as they thought the woman may have had a seizure.

Const. Carey entered her cell to see what was going on and she ran out. The officer managed to get her back into the cell but instead of then leaving he stayed and verbally "scolded" her.

She then punched him in the face.

"He took her to the ground and used force consisting of eight striking motions," Crown prosecutor Tim Livingston said. "She continued to resist following this interaction."

The cell guard came in to help and Const. Carey left the cell. Video footage shows the entire incident lasted for about 40 seconds.

The court heard how the woman didn't suffer any serious injury.

More than one year later the Mountie was charged with assault.

"It's aggravating when a police officer commits this sort of offence because it's breaching a position of trust and authority that a police officer holds," the Crown said.

The Crown said Const. Carey should have left the cell and closed the door after restraining the woman when she tried to escape.

"Instead the situation became elevated which provoked a response from (the woman) and then that resulted in the assault," the Crown said.

However, the Crown pointed out that the woman threw the first punch and while this didn't excuse his behaviour it did provide an explanation.

Defence lawyer Brad Kielmann described the assault as a "momentary lapse of judgement."

Const. Carey joined the RCMP in 2016 and was described as a highly-regarded officer. He'd spent several years working directly with Vernon's homeless population and was now working with the serious crime unit. It appears that he kept working after being charged and there was no mention he was placed on leave.

The officer had started seeking psychological help before the assault and it was thought the job had likely given him PTSD.

The court heard how Const. Carey had received multiple accolades for his work including recognition for administering naloxone to overdose victims in the early days of the fentanyl crisis.

Since the assault, he'd taken numerous courses in crisis intervention and de-escalation and was set to attend a residential program purely for first responders.

The defence lawyer said Const. Carey had accepted full responsibility for what happened and pled guilty to the charge instead of fighting it at a trial.

In a joint submission to the court, the lawyers asked for an absolute discharge, meaning that while the officer was guilty, no conviction would be recorded and he won't get a criminal record.

Ultimately, Judge Dohm granted an absolute discharge calling Const. Carey's actions "excessive" but out of character.

The officer will have to pay a $100 fine and has 30 days to do so.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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