Disabled woman shoved by Vancouver cop files lawsuit
Published Friday, November 19, 2010 4:09PM PST
A disabled woman has filed a $25,000 civil lawsuit and a human rights complaint against the Vancouver police officer who was caught on tape shoving her to the ground this summer.
Sandy Davidsen, 26, suffers from both cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis and lives in Vancouver's impoverished Downtown Eastside. She weighs just 98 pounds and walks with a pronounced limp.
Surveillance cameras in front of the Lux Hotel on East Hastings Street captured footage of Const. Taylor Robinson pushing her to the ground as she tried to pass between three officers walking side-by-side on June 9. No one stopped to help her up.
"She feels that the police department was wrong in these actions," Davidsen's lawyer Scott Bernstein told ctvbc.ca.
"People living in the Downtown Eastside or people with disabilities are worthy of respect."
After the video footage of the shove was made public, Robinson wrote an apology to Davidsen, saying that he believed she was reaching for his gun.
But Bernstein said that apology was inadequate.
"I call it a non-apology, where you say ‘I'm sorry you're upset, but here's the reasons I did what I did,'" he said.
In his apology, Robinson wrote that he regretted the amount of force he used, and that he didn't help Davidsen up.
Davidsen is suing for the maximum amount allowed in provincial small claims court -- $25,000 -- plus filing and service fees. Robinson, the Vancouver Police Department and the City of Vancouver are named as defendants.
The claim includes damages for pain, suffering and mental anguish; aggravated damages for humiliation; and punitive damages for "malicious, arbitrary and high-handed treatment."
But Bernstein says the legal claim isn't about money.
"Unfortunately, the only way we can deal with things in court is through money, but that's not a good substitute for what we want here," he said.
"We really want an adequate apology and response from the police department."
He explained that Davidsen would like to see Vancouver police officers undergo better training for dealing with people -- particularly those with disabilities.
In her complaint to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, Davidsen says that she was discriminated against because of her disability. Robinson and his fellow officers, according to the complaint, "failed to adequately prepare for typical conditions in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, and failed to act in a manner that respected and accommodated Davidsen's disabilities and needs."
Both the lawsuit and the human rights complaint were filed on Nov. 10.
The incident is also being investigated by the New Westminster police.