[This story appeared on the Vancouver Sun Web site the day before being published in the print edition. The print edition cut this sentence: “No one at the OPCC returned calls Thursday.”]

Vancouver police apologize
after officer pushes over
disabled woman

Kim Bolan, Vancouver Sun, July 22, 2010

A screen grab from a video showing a Vancouver police officer
pushing over a disabled woman in the Downtown Eastside last month.
To see the video, scroll down [in Sun’s original, but not applicable on this Web site]
or click here.


VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Police department is apologizing to the people of the Downtown Eastside after release of a video showing an officer pushing over a disabled woman in the poverty-stricken neighbourhood.

Const. Jana McGuinness said an internal investigation into the disturbing incident captured on a B.C. Housing surveillance camera has been underway since it happened June 9.

But after the B.C. Civil Liberties Association released the video Thursday, McGuinness said it was necessary to take steps to reassure the community that police care for their safety.

“We to are apologizing to the community if any way we have caused them to question our commitment and our level of care for the residents of the downtown eastside,” she said at a hastily called media scrum.

“The VPD takes its responsibility for the safety of the residents of the Downtown Eastside very seriously.”

McGuinness said the officer in question, who joined VPD in March 2009, remains on the job in the neighbourhood pending the outcome of the investigation.

She said he regrets what he did and reported it to a supervisor the same day. He also apologized to the woman shortly afterwards.

“The apology was very heartfelt and very earnest was offered directly to the woman,” she said.

Neither the officer who pushed over the woman, nor the two other VPD members with him, helped the woman up after she was pushed on East Hastings near Carrall.

McGuinness said the conduct of the other two officers is also part of the investigation, which is being conducted by the department’s Professional Standards Section.

The woman has complained to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner. No one at the OPCC returned calls Thursday.

The investigating officers had the video shortly after the incident last month, but the VPD’s Public Affairs office only learned of its existence Thursday, McGuinness said.

She said the VPD realizes the video “will cause concern for many who view it.”

“The VPD takes its responsibility for the safety of the residents of the Downtown Eastside very seriously. If this incident has in any way caused the public to be concerned about our commitment to helping and serving the people of the Downtown Eastside, we are deeply sorry,” she said. “We are committed to a full and thorough investigation and will take appropriate steps at its conclusion.”

The BCCLA is demanding a thorough review of the incident, filmed in front of the Lux Hotel outside United We Can, a local non-profit organization.

Association executive director David Eby said the tiny 26-year-old woman has multiple sclerosis.

“We are concerned about the incident. We are interested in hearing the explanation,” Eby said.

Ironcially, [sic] the BCCLA still has concerns about surveillance cameras filming people on city streets.

“It is kind of crazy that these private operators have cameras pointed at public sidewalks,” Eby said Thursday.

Association president Robert Holmes said “the images on this video simply do not square with what Canadians expect of members of our law enforcement community. Scenes like this demonstrate the need for constant efforts on the part of both the leadership of the police department and every member of the force to remind themselves that their mission is to serve.”

And he said police would never have behaved the same way in one of Vancouver’s more affluent neighbourhoods.

“This would not have happened in Kerrisdale or Point Grey and we need to ask why it happens on the Downtown Eastside,” Holmes said. “For one officer to do this to a visibly disabled women is bad. For two others not to say or do anything is too. For all three of them simply to walk on suggests they have forgotten what their job involves. For this incident likely never to be reported by them and brought to the attention of anyone in management, suggests a work culture that needs top-down examination and reform.”

This is the second video featuring VPD officers released by the association in three weeks. On July 8, they raised questions about the use of force during the arrest of Ali Eltah Ishag in the downtown eastside on June 26. Ishag is facing a series of charges in Alberta and B.C. including some laid for allegedly resisting arrest.

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