A Kelowna RCMP officer who dragged a nursing student down a hallway, pulled her hair and stepped on her head during a wellness check was handed a two-year conditional discharge in B.C. provincial court this week.
Const. Lacy Browning, a 15-year veteran of the RCMP, was also ordered to complete 160 hours of community service by provincial court Judge Roy Dickey for the assault on student Mona Wang in a student housing apartment building on UBC’s Okanagan campus in January 2020.
The assault was caught on surveillance camera and viewed by millions of people in Canada and around the world after it emerged during a civil lawsuit Wang launched against Browning and the RCMP in the summer of 2020 during a time of heightened concern in North America over police violence.
In a written statement to CBC News, Wang said she was disappointed with the sentence calling it a “slap on the wrist for all the trauma she had caused.”
During the sentencing hearing in Kelowna on Monday, Dickey read a summary of an agreed statement of facts that laid out what happened on the day of the assault.
Assault happened during wellness check
Browning was assigned to conduct a wellness check on Wang after a caller to 911 reported she was having a mental health crisis, Dickey said.
Browning attended on her own as backup wasn’t available and found Wang lying on her bathroom floor unresponsive.
The surveillance video shows Browning dragging the young woman down a hallway in the university residence into an elevator and then into the lobby on the main floor of the building.
‘Actions were criminal and highly inappropriate’
At one point, Browning grabs Wang by the hair to lift her head up off the floor. Later in the video, she uses her boot to step down on Wang’s head.
“Const. Browning’s actions were criminal and highly inappropriate in the arrest of Miss Wang under the Mental Health Act,” Dickey said when reading out his sentence.
“Her actions highlight what should not occur when a police officer is responding to a person in a mental health crisis.”
Wang suffered bruising on her face and chest as well as abrasions and lacerations on her chest and arms as a result of the assault, Dickey said, adding that the incident had caused her emotional trauma and left her with feelings of shame and isolation.
“She believes that the effects will last the remainder of her life,” Dickey said.
After the video emerged, the RCMP launched an investigation, and in 2021, Browning was charged with one count of assault.
Last November, at the onset of her criminal trial, Browning pleaded guilty to the charge.
Officer suffered from work-related stress
During the sentencing hearing, the court heard that Browning was suffering from an accumulation of stress from her job as a police officer at the time of the assault and that she was struggling with compassion fatigue.
Dickey read from a report prepared for the court that detailed Browning’s upbringing as a status member of the NunatuKavut Inuit community in Labrador.
Browning experienced poverty and physical, sexual and emotional abuse as a child, Dickey said, along with normalization of substance abuse and violence.
As a child, she was a hard worker and often held multiple jobs until she became a member of the RCMP in 2008.
The assault on Wang was out of character, according to letters of support from friends and colleagues, Dickey said.
The emergence of the surveillance video brought on “a firestorm of negative attention,” including threats on her life and safety, according to Dickey, adding that Browning has suffered from anxiety, depression, paranoia and debilitating stress as a result.
Wang wasn’t present during the sentencing hearing.
Dickey said Browning had hoped to apologize to her during the hearing and that she wished to participate in a restorative justice program if Wang were open to the idea.
The two-year conditional discharge Dickey sentenced Browning to means she will not serve jail time for the assault and will not have a criminal record if she keeps the peace and follows the conditions of her sentence.
Victim wants officer removed from police force
In a written statement to CBC News, Wang expressed disappointment in the sentence after waiting three years for the conclusion of the criminal matter.
She referred to other cases of accusations of violence by Browning, saying, “With a history of assaulting vulnerable civilians, there is no guarantee that she will refrain from harming more after her conditional sentence is over.”
“That being said, I am lucky that my case garnered attention in the first place … and I truly hope [the RCMP] will do what is right and remove this dangerous individual from the force.”
The RCMP has not yet provided an update on Browning’s status with the police force but earlier stated that Browning was assigned to administrative duties and an internal code of conduct investigation was ongoing.