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Time taken to charge Prince George RCMP officers criticized

The National Police Federation is raising alarm bells about the nearly 4 1/2 years it took for the B.C.

The National Police Federation is raising alarm bells about the nearly 4 1/2 years it took for the B.C. Prosecution Service to approve charges against three Prince George RCMP officers in relation to a February 2016 arrest caught on video that has raised concerns about excessive force.

It took more than two years for the province's civilian-based police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office, to carry out an investigation and refer its findings to the B.C. Prosecution Service and another two years for the BCPS to approve charges, which occurred on Monday.

Cst. Joshua Grafton has been charged with assault, assault with a weapon, and obstruction of justice and, in a separate information, Cst. Wayne Connell and Cst. Kyle Sharpe has been charged with assault causing bodily harm.

"These RCMP members have continued to serve their communities diligently and professionally while this protracted investigation took place, and now face additional years of uncertainty awaiting trial and verdict," the NFP said in a statement issued Tuesday.

"The brave men and women who stand up to protect Canadians from those that would do them harm deserve better than to be subjected to a prolonged 4 1/2-year investigation.

"Just as the RCMP need to consider all ways to continuously improve and enhance the delivery of services to those we serve, the IIO and Crown need to look at real ways to improve their process of investigations."

In announcing the charges on Monday, the BCPS acknowledge the time it took.

"The charge assessment process in this case was significantly delayed due to the complexity of the issues, the volume of initial disclosure, BCPS requests for further information, and subsequent receipt of additional disclosure," it said in a statement.

The NFP also noted that the two men arrested have since pleaded guilty to charges from the incident and also asserted they suffered only minor injuries in the apprehension. Caught driving a stolen pickup truck, Nathaniel Lazarus Basil and Cuyler Richard Aubichon were arrested during the early morning of Feb. 18, 2016 in an alley off the 200 block of Oak Street.

A video from a camera installed on a nearby home showed an RCMP officer using a service dog to pull one of Aubichon out of the truck and onto the ground before elbowing him in the head.

Three other officers were involved in the apprehension of Basil, who had got out on the other side. His arrest was largely out of the camera's view but it appeared one of the officers had stomped on him.

The NFP is the bargaining agent for the RCMP's regular members and reservists below the rank of Inspector.

Both were later sentenced to one year probation for possessing stolen property over $5,000.

In a statement Monday, the B.C. RCMP said that upon learning of the video, a formal investigation under the Mounties' code of conduct was immediately initiated.

It said the outcome is shielded by privacy legislation but also noted all three officers are on active duty.