What began as a routine police traffic stop in West St. Paul quickly became a profanity-laced scolding captured on video and racking up tens of thousands of views online.
Now, the recent exchange has raised questions about an officer’s decorum, the use of cellphones to record police and a potential complaint with the independent Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP.
On May 6, an RCMP officer stopped a pickup truck, which had two off-road vehicles tied down in its bed, on Minic Road around 9:40 p.m. The move was made to ensure the driver’s sobriety and check licensing and registration for all the vehicles, including whether the dirt bikes were stolen, RCMP said recently.
"As shown in the video, the officer advises the passenger of the vehicle that his (the off-road vehicle) is uninsured, as is the officer’s responsibility," Manitoba RCMP spokeswoman Tara Seel said, noting Mounties are aware of the recording by the vehicle’s passenger posted online.
In it, the officer says one of the bikes was insured, while the other wasn’t — that’s when the situation escalates with a back-and-forth between passenger and officer, the Mountie saying the passenger is on the defensive.
The passenger, 25-year-old Tyler Schrot, who later confirmed with Manitoba Public Insurance the bike is covered, says: "You pulled us over, I don’t know why."
"Well this is my f—-ing job, I’m not a plumber, I don’t look (like) Santa Claus," the officer responds. "Maybe you think this is a f—-ing joke… I’m not going to back down."
The back-and-forth continues in the five-minute video, including shouting and more profanities — which Seel said recently was inappropriate.
"The RCMP expects all officers to be professional, courteous, and respectful in their interactions with the public, without exception," Seel said, adding the officer has been given "formal guidance."
Schrot, a crane operator who lives in West St. Paul, later told the Free Press he was just trying to explain the insurance situation but was misconstrued.
"I have a difficult time expressing myself to people who make me anxious. A lot of people (online) were saying I had an attitude, but I don’t really see how what I did even close to justifies what the response I got was from this officer," he said in an interview.
"After watching (the video) a few times, he was certainly trying to tell me something, but I was really nervous, he didn’t announce to us why he had pulled us over, and I was just trying to clear things up before he gets a wrong idea."
Schrot said he thinks he didn’t express himself correctly, but the officer’s reaction was "scary… He was really antagonistic, I feel."
He is in the process of filing a complaint with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, but noted he doesn’t want the officer severely reprimanded.
“I’m empathetic that being a police officer is an incredibly difficult job and they have a lot to do, but considering I broke no laws ‐ I received no ticket or warning ‐ what exactly is the reason he decided to scream at me for five minutes?” – Tyler Schrot
"I’m empathetic that being a police officer is an incredibly difficult job and they have a lot to do, but considering I broke no laws — I received no ticket or warning — what exactly is the reason he decided to scream at me for five minutes?" Schrot said.
A spokesman for the Mounties union, the National Police Federation, said it had no comment after reviewing the video and the Manitoba RCMP’s statement.
Criminal justice researchers, however, had plenty to say about it.
"Shocked, disappointed, concerned — to put it briefly," University of Manitoba criminologist Frank Cormier said after watching the video.
"I don’t know what went on before that started, however, it seems fairly clear even if that were taken out of some sort of context, the escalation, the acceleration of the officer’s anger was really quite troubling."
“Police are trained in de–escalation… techniques, and the video, while there appears to be no escalation it’s only five minutes and we don’t know what happened after it ‐ taking that kind of tone seems like it would exacerbate or escalate the situation.” – Christopher Schneider
Christopher Schneider at Brandon University agreed.
"I find it problematic — the way in which the officer was not engaging decorum, the tone of voice, the profanity," Schneider said.
"Police are trained in de-escalation… techniques, and the video, while there appears to be no escalation it’s only five minutes and we don’t know what happened after it — taking that kind of tone seems like it would exacerbate or escalate the situation."
The academics said public recording of police interactions is a good thing, though Cormier cautioned those operating the camera need to be reasonable, rather than needlessly provocative.
Schneider, who has researched the intersection of policing and social media extensively, said citizen-recorded videos and body-camera footage have had a varied effect on police behaviour, although there’s little hard research on the subject.
"Police work hasn’t changed, what has happened is now we have extended documentation of police work, which includes the use of force," he said, flagging famous cases in the United States, including the 2020 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the 2014 death of Eric Garner in New York City.
Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.