Vancouver City Police face a difficult challenge policing in the Downtown Eastside. For as long as anyone breathing today can remember, the DTES has been a receptacle of misery. The reasons are many: alcoholism, drug addiction, physical disability, mental illness and incapacity and abject poverty, the one condition shared by almost all.
The VPD has been shamed by momentous failures in recent history. The 100 or so missing and murdered women collectively is the worst policing breakdown in the city’s history and the inexcusable death of Frank Paul was probably the next most egregious. The man, a chronic alcoholic, was dragged by police out of the city jail and dumped in a dark wet alley to die of exposure. Compounding the negligence leading to death was the sustained effort of senior VPD officials, Chiefs Terry Blythe and Jamie Graham among them, to evade responsibility.
Those situations had one thing in common. Disrespect. Worse, racism. A large number of the dead and missing women were aboriginals. Frank Paul was Mi’kmaq. Many dispossessed of the DTES are First Nations people. This video demonstrates disrespect more than any single thing.
I believe that under the leadership of Chief Jim Chu, the VPD has made progress toward building a modern force that can be trusted by the entire community. Much is left to be done as evidenced by this video released by the BC Civil Liberties Association. Incidentally, someone is trying to have the video suppressed so I include screen captures in case the video disappears again.
I heard one retired police officer say that he was offended by the failure of the three officers to lend assistance to the fallen woman after she had been pushed over. I found the beginning of the clip most troubling because the three VPD officers, armed and armored, swagger down the street demanding that everyone clear the way. The victim in this piece, disabled with cerebral palsy, couldn’t easily change directions so she was an irritant to be slapped away. What kind of attitude are the police trying to convey to street people? Are the egos of these officers so poorly developed they need to parade down a busy sidewalk intimidating or pushing aside any unarmed weaklings that get in the way? If constables behave maliciously in public, what might they do in private?
The behavior shown here lead some to wonder if there is a culture of steroid abuse among young male police officers. It is something for managers to consider as an explanation for hostile behavior. The constables involved here should be publicly identified and Chief Chu owes a full explanation of what he is doing to eliminate inappropriate violence against citizens, even those dwelling in the city’s squalid corners.