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Vancouver cop caught shoving disabled woman
Published Thursday, July 22, 2010 5:44PM PDT
The Vancouver Police Department has launched an internal investigation after a human rights watchdog released surveillance footage showing a beat cop shoving a disabled woman to the ground in the city's impoverished Downtown Eastside.
The video, taken June 9 in front of the Lux Hotel on East Hastings Street, shows the woman, who suffers from cerebral palsy and has a pronounced limp, approaching three Vancouver Police Department officers walking side-by-side through a crowded area in front of a bottle recycling centre.
"One of the three officers can be seen pushing over a small and visibly disabled woman after she appears to brush into him accidentally. He then stands over her," Robert Holmes of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association told ctvbc.ca.
Footage from a video camera posted outside the hotel shows the officers walking away while the woman is still on the ground. After a few moments someone helps her up and she continues walking. There is no audio on the tape.
A statement released to media by the Vancouver Police Department Thursday said the officer reported the incident to his supervisor several hours after it happened and that his actions, and why no one helped the woman, are now the subject of a probe by its Professional Standards Section.
The officer involved has also apologized to the woman for his actions and not helping her afterwards.
"Our officers are well-trained, but they do make mistakes, and when they do, we've apologized for that," Cpl. Jana McGuinness told reporters.
The officer does regular foot patrols in the Downtown Eastside and has been on the job since March of 2009. The woman has no previous record with police.
The BCCLA calls the incident "disappointing" and says it would not have happened if it was in a wealthier neighbourhood.
"For one officer to do this to a visibly disabled woman 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," Holmes said.
In the statement, the VPD acknowledges that the video will cause concern to viewers.
"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."
BCCLA Executive Director David Eby said that his group has heard of multiple incidents of excessive force used by police in Canada's poorest postal code.
"We know of three incidents in the past six months," Eby said.
"They need to look at the larger cultural issue of excessive violence by police officers in the Downtown Eastside."
The BCCLA questioned the VPD earlier this month after members said they kneed a Sudanese man several times because he tried to grab an officer's gun from its holster during an arrest.
But a YouTube video of the incident showed 47-year-old Eltah Ishtag's hands were well away from the gun belts of any of the officers before the struggle moves out of camera range.