Vancouver police constable charged
after disabled woman
pushed to ground

Vancouver Sun, Dec. 7, 2010

Sandy Davidsen, the disabled woman with CF and MS who was pushed
over by Vancouver police in June, leading to a police complaints commission
investigation, a criminal investigation, a civil suit, and a human rights complaint,
chats on Hastings street. Photo: Gerry Kahrmann, PNG


VANCOUVER — A Vancouver police constable has been charged with assault in connection with an incident that saw a disabled woman walking on Hastings Street pushed to the ground.

Constable Taylor Robinson was charged following a three-month investigation by the New Westminster Police Major Crime Unit, police announced Tuesday. Crown Counsel reviewed the investigation and approved the charge on Tuesday.

Due to her medical condition, Sandy Davidsen was weaving while walking along Hastings Street on June 9 when she tried to walk between three police officers and was knocked down by one of them. After the incident, Vancouver police said the officer wrote a letter of apology to the woman.

The Downtown Eastside resident has cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis.

A lawyer representing Davidsen, 27, earlier this month filed a human rights tribunal complaint and a $25,000 civil suit on her behalf, claiming the officer who pushed her over showed no compassion for her health issues.

“I want to prove to them, this is how they treat people on the Eastside and pick on anybody here because they think they’ve got the power. This is the poorest place, and we are trying to get by,” she said in a recent interview.

“I want justice.”

Davidsen is not a woman without troubles. Her health problems make it difficult for her walk. She has been in the Downtown Eastside since the age of 20, and struggles with a drug addiction.

She lives in a single-resident occupancy building, run by RainCity Housing, which provides shelter and support “for people with unresolved health needs and complex housing behaviours.”

On a cold day last week, she agreed to speak briefly to a reporter but she clearly found it difficult to express herself and definitely wanted to be doing something else.

But her basic point, which she had no problem articulating, was that the police acted incorrectly.

“That one guy pushed me down but the other two, they knew me but they didn’t do anything to help me,” said Davidsen, who grew up in Richmond. “I wish that they actually picked me up.”

The main officer involved, Const. Robinson, wrote a letter to Davidsen several weeks after the incident, explaining that he pushed the 98-pound woman down because he thought she was reaching for his gun. He also apologized for not helping her up.

Davidsen, who moves her arms as she walks to keep her balance, said she wasn’t reaching for his gun and didn’t find the qualified apology sincere.

It’s too late, she says, for another apology, and hopes the legal actions lead to additional sensitivity training for police.

Davidsen’s small claims court lawsuit, filed in Provincial Court, is seeking $25,000 in damages, alleging she suffered mental anguish, humiliation and malicious treatment.

The human rights complaint alleges Vancouver police discriminated against her by not accommodating her disability.

After the incident, which was captured on a security video camera, Vancouver police re-assigned the officer off Hastings Street.

The department also asked New Westminster police to conduct a criminal investigation and a Police Act probe into the officer’s actions, saying in a July 27 statement that the VPD “places a very high value on the relationships it has with the many residents and organizations in the Downtown Eastside.”

Even though assault charges have been laid against Robinson, New Westminster Police Professional Standards Section is continuing with the Police Act portion of the investigation.

Read more about the Stan Lowe/Bruce Brown/Rollie Woods/OPCC cover-up
of VPD constable Taylor Robinson’s assault on a disabled woman
Read more about B.C.’s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner
Read more news and comment about police accountability in B.C.