'This is too much': B.C. mom records police handcuffing 12-year-old in hospital
A review has been launched after police officers were recorded restraining a handcuffed Indigenous child on the floor of a Vancouver hospital – an incident the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs has denounced as "horrendous."
The video shows two officers from the Metro Vancouver Transit Police holding the 12-year-old boy face-down in the BC Children's Hospital emergency department Thursday as his mother repeatedly asks them to remove the handcuffs.
"You're too much. You're a little too much. This is too much," she tells them off camera.
While the video is difficult to watch, she says it was even harder being there to witness what was happening to her son.
"Your heart is racing, you're upset and angry and you can't do anything, you're helpless, you're behind closed doors. It's a lot, it really is,” Brown told CTV News.
The video has been viewed more than a million times online. She says her child is autistic and has ADHD, which contributes to frequent interactions with police and visits the children’s hospital.
She says when he complained about not getting his usual room, police pinned him to the ground.
"They pushed him to the ground," she said. "I had to back up. His face was pushed up against the chair. He was screaming and crying and to add to that, the officer put his knee on top of my kid's back."
The hospital's chief operating officer told CTV News that staff have launched a health and safety review of the incident, and that an Indigenous health team has reached out to the family to offer support.
"Providing an inclusive and culturally safe health-care environment for patients and their families is a top priority for BC Children's Hospital," COO Sarah Bell said in an email. "Due to patient confidentiality, we won't be providing additional details."
On Twitter, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs described the officers’ treatment of the young patient as “callous violence."
“Children deserve to be cared for with compassion,” the UBCIC wrote. “Our hands go up to the mother who acted bravely in such a horrific situation.”
In a statement, Metro Vancouver Transit Police defended the officers' use of force as "a necessary step" to ensure their own safety and the safety of the young patient.
"The youth became combative while being admitted for assessment. Once he had calmed down, the handcuffs were removed and the youth was admitted to hospital under the care of a physician," Const. Amanda Steed wrote.
Authorities said they initially encountered the family earlier on Thursday at the Broadway-Commercial SkyTrain Station, and had handcuffed the 12-year-old then as well while arresting him under the Mental Health Act.
The officers were responding to a request for help from a SkyTrain attendant who had tried to intervene in an altercation between the boy and his mother, Steed said.
"The youth began to assault the attendant, and tried to grab their radio and other equipment," she wrote.
"Officers attempted to verbally de-escalate the situation, but the youth began trying to push their mother towards the tracks, causing an even greater concern for her safety. Officers had to physically restrain the youth using handcuffs as a safety precaution in order to prevent further injuries to everyone involved."
In her Facebook post, the child's mother said she does her best to manage her son's behaviour. She also told the officers involved in Thursday's incident they were the first ones the family has dealt with who deemed it necessary to restrain her son in that way.
Despite defending the officers’ actions, Steed said the Metro Vancouver Transit Police has reached out to a partner agency for "support and guidance to better deal with neurodivergent individuals."
"It is unfortunate that police officers need to respond to on-going mental health issues and it is our hope that more resources become available for families in order to find the support they need without involving law enforcement," Steed said.
Brown is calling for more compassion and better training when dealing with people who have intellectual disabilities.
“Kids who have disabilities, please stop treating them like adults," she said. "They do have anger and they are learning.”
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