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'We need to hit that reset button': 4 VPD officers could face charges for takedown of Black man
VANCOUVER -- B.C.'s Police Complaints Commissioner has decided four Vancouver police officers may have committed criminal assault when they arrested a former UBC football player two years ago.
The young Black man who was kicked and Tasered during the takedown is speaking out, saying Canadians need to look at the movement sparked by the death of a Black man in the United States and realize it can happen at home.
“Seeing that across the border, it happens here too,” Jamiel Moore-Williams told CTV News Vancouver in an interview.
“I could have died. I could have died and it would have been, ‘Rest in Peace Jamiel,” he said.
Back in February 2018, Moore-Williams crossed Helmken Street in downtown Vancouver against the light early in the morning, in front of a police car. The car honked, he responded with a gesture, and officers arrested him.
At the time, officers claimed Moore-Williams had put an officer in a headlock and resisted arrest, charging him with two counts of obstruction of justice.
But a video recorded by Moore-Williams’ friend shows no headlock, with Moore-Williams repeatedly offering his ID to about seven officers who took him down to the street level. Then, the video shows one officer kneeing or kicking him in the head and another deploying a Taser.
A photo shows Moore-Williams has 14 marks from the taser, suggesting it was deployed seven times.
B.C.’s Police Complaint Commissioner ordered a probe after seeing the video. Mounties investigated and, two years later, decided no charges should be laid against the four officers involved.
But after another review earlier this year, the commissioner’s office decided a crime may have been committed, so it forwarded the case to Crown prosecutors anyway.
“The commissioner has the ability in cases to independently refer the matter to Crown counsel and in this case that’s what we’ve done,” said deputy commissioner Andrea Spindler, pointing to the takedown, the strikes, the taser, and the decision to stop Moore-Williams in the first place.
“A potential offence that could have occurred is the offence of assault,” she said.
Vancouver’s mayor, Kennedy Stewart, has promised a “path forward” for growing calls for police reform, which he intends to unveil Thursday.
Vancouver Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Aaron Roed says the VPD is open to change, but said the organization is no more racist than the rest of society.
“We believe that society as a whole has a systemic racism problem and that needs to be dealt with and change does need to happen. We’re not immune to that and we’re wanting to change within society and provide a better world for everybody,” Roed said.
When cases involve serious injury or death, B.C.’s Independent Investigations Office handles the file. When a case in a municipal police force doesn’t rise to that level, B.C.’s Police Complaints Commissioner supervises an investigation, usually led by a different police force.
That means when police investigate police, timelines are too slow, said Angela Marie MacDougall, of Battered Women Support Services.
Moore-Williams was charged with obstruction in a matter of days — charges that have since been stayed and no longer appear publicly — but the investigation into the Vancouver officers took years, MacDougall said.
“We’re still in a state of wanting to see the Vancouver Police Department to be held accountable for what was an egregious complaint against a Black man,” MacDougall said.
Moore-Williams says he is hoping the Vancouver mayor’s proposal includes body cameras and microphones, and better training.
“I don’t believe that people are malicious. Something has to happen. You have to be taught,” Moore-Williams said. “What realistically needs to happen is we need to hit that reset button. People need to be retrained.”
If Crown counsel doesn’t move forward with charges, the OPCC could still pursue the case as a matter of police misconduct under the Police Act, Spindler said.
The BC Prosecution Service’s spokesperson, Dan McLaughlin, told CTV News prosecutors are still weighing the case. A special prosecutor has not been appointed.
“We do not have a timeline for the completion of the assessment process. We anticipate issuing a public announcement when a decision is reached,” he said.