Every time I hear, read (or usually see the video) of what appears to be excessive police takedowns of people who apparently are posing some threat to society I really have to wonder about police training.
I’m sure there are 100s of arrests daily that are easy and peaceful without either side of the issue being harmed, but then there are those that get caught on video and at my level appear to show almost a seemingly innocent, or at least non-threatening individual being wrestled to the ground by a swarm of police officers with what appears to be excessive force.
The most recent, making headlines in Alberta involved a young farmer who was part of the family’s custom farming (baling) business, driving a tractor on Highway 2A near Didsbury (about 45 minutes north of Calgary).
Jeremia Leussink, 18, part of Leussink Farms custom farming operation in the Sundre/Olds area was driving the tractor in early evening to a nearby field to bale hay. He came across a sheriffs checkstop checking for drunk drivers on the highway, there appeared to be a delay, he wanted to get to the nearby field and get to work, so he pulled the tractor into the ditch to go around the checkstop.
The sheriffs stopped the tractor, there was some conversation about Jeremia taking a breathalyzer test and then the sheriffs proceeded to pull Leussink out the tractor cab. He didn’t appear to be going voluntarily. In the end five sheriffs yanked him out of the tractor cab, wrestled him to the ground, he was arrested and put in the back of a police cruiser. Eventually he was charged with failure to provide a breath test and resisting arrest. Here is a You Tube video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzdWp9tYOKI#action=share
BUT WAIT THERE IS MORE…
The sheriffs then contacted another brother, Dominic Leussink and advised him to come and move the tractor. He arrives at the scene, the sheriffs change their mind and decide that no he can’t move the tractor, it is going to be towed and impounded. The RCMP have arrived by this time. Dominic says the tractor can’t be towed unless it is in transport mode, he goes to climb into the cab to disengage the tractor so there is no damage to the transmission, the RCMP grab him, there is another discussion, and then he is arrested.
The tractor gets towed and is impounded. The Leussink’s are expecting transmission damage and in the meantime a $300,000 tractor needed to complete haying operations sits in an impound lot.
What a mess simply because a farmer tries to get to a field to bale hay before the weather turns.
I know there are always two sides to a story. And yes, in hindsight, probably these two young farmers could have made better decisions, could have had responded differently to the sheriffs. But at the same time, do these sheriffs not have some common sense and some training in how to read a situation? Unless the kid was sitting in the tractor with an assault rifle did he need to hauled out and thrown to the ground by five officers? Would it have killed anybody if Dominic had been allowed to put the tractor in transport mode? What was he going to do, jump in the tractor cab and out run the law?
The Leussink’s are planning to make their case in court. A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for an estimated $15,000 in legal costs. You can find that link at: https://www.gofundme.com/f/leussink-farms-justice-campaign
There might be a few take home messages in this story. The main one being don’t piss off Alberta sheriffs.
Lee Hart is a field editor with Grainews based in Calgary. Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]