Calgary woman says she felt 'humiliated' by Alberta sheriffs during a traffic stop
KumKum Roychowdhury says she was driving home to Calgary from her nephew's home in Airdrie, Atla., when she was pulled over by Alberta sheriffs and asked to take a breathalyzer.
When she struggled to provide a proper sample after 17 attempts, she said that's when officers told her to remove part of her cultural outfit and open her clothing, an idea she was "insulted" by.
The 74 year old was with her sister Rina Mukherjee when they pulled over for Alberta sheriffs on July 27, near Balzac, for a regulation check stop.
Roychowdhury said the officers demanded she take a breathalyzer, even though she says she had not been smoking or drinking.
Under federal law, any officer can demand a breath sample from any motorist who has been lawfully pulled over.
Roychowdhury said she suffers from shortness of breath, a health complication she developed following a mild stroke in February 2019.
Despite her medical issue, she said the sheriffs made her take the breathalyzer 17 times.
"(The) officer was really frustrated because I couldn’t make it all the way through 30 seconds, or how(ever) many seconds, I don’t know," Roychowdhury told CTV News.
Following several attempts, Roychowdhury said the officers requested she step out of the vehicle and remove part of her cultural saree dress as to allow her chest to take in more oxygen.
She said she was asked to undo her bra and loosen up her blouse underneath the saree, with other motorists looking on.
"That makes me so mad because he has no authority and has no right," said Roychowdhury.
"Maybe he’s a sheriff doing the law but I’m a woman and he’s a man and he cannot tell this woman that your chest is not moving. I feel very much insulted, how dare he state that your chest is not moving (or) your stomach (is) not moving."
WOMAN SAID SHERIFFS APOLOGIZED
A statement was released by Alberta Justice and Solicitor General’s office about the incident.
"The Sheriff Highway Patrol (SHP) was made aware of this matter Wednesday (July 28th) and is still in the process of finding out more about the particulars," said spokesperson Jason van Rassel.
"A supervisor will contact the complainant and speak to the officers involved in the Checkstop operation to obtain more details. The SHP is also checking if there are any audio or video recordings available."
While Roychowdhury said sheriffs have already reached out to her to apologize for the incident, she is still seeking to file a formal complaint. Under Alberta's Peace Officer Act, members of the public can file a formal complaint in writing to the investigative services team at Alberta Justice and Solicitor General.
She believes she was treated unfairly as the sheriffs eventually let her go.
"I was humiliated, I was in trauma," she said. "I was really in such a panic attack."
Chowdhury's sister Mukherjee says female officers should be required by law to be present during these check stops, something she says is the case in her home country of India.
"Some women are not comfortable with the male police officer," said Mukherjee.
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