Commission rejects one-day suspension for VPD officer who shoved disabled woman to the ground
In a rare move, the British Columbia Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) has rejected the proposal for discipline agreed to by the Vancouver Police Department and Constable Taylor Robinson in an informal prehearing conference held August 10th.
The discipline imposed on Cst. Robinson, who pushed Sandy Davidsen, will now be determined through a formal Discipline Proceeding. Ms. Davidsen, a 100-pound woman who suffers from cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis, was shoved to the ground by Robinson and left on the sidewalk of Hastings Street in June of 2010.
During the prehearing conference, the VPD and Cst. Robinson agreed that the officer would undertake one-to-one training with a member of the Vancouver Police Department’s Force Options Training Unit on available force options and the appropriate response(s), receive advice as to his conduct and be suspended without pay for one 8-hour day.
In a letter outlining their reasons for rejection of the discipline recommended by the VPD, the OPCC explains that in their view the proposed discipline “is not appropriate to the circumstances" and "does not reflect or adequately address the seriousness of Constable Robinson's misconduct.”
Video footage of the incident , which shows Cst. Robinson pushing Ms. Davidsen to the ground as she tried to pass three VPD officers who were walking side by side on the sidewalk in the Downtown Eastside, as well as all of the officers walking away from the incident without assisting Ms. Davidsen, sparked outcry from the public when it was released after the incident in June of 2010. The two other VPD officers are no longer facing disciplinary action despite their decision to take no action to assist Ms. Davidsen.
Through her lawyer, Scott Bernstein, Ms. Davidsen has stated that she supports the rejection of the discipline by the OPCC, and hopes that there will finally be some meaningful consequences for the officer. “He never really apologized” said Davidsen, “the letter he sent was just a justification for pushing me and then he didn’t even take the time to sign it.”
"We are pleased to see the OPCC exercising its role in ensuring that the discipline of police officers is fair and appropriate to the circumstances," said Bernstein. "We also hope that this case serves as a wake up call. All too often police disciplining police results in a slap on the wrist. To restore public faith and promote a culture of responsibility among officers, British Columbia must end the practice of police investigating and disciplining police once and for all.”
Counsel for Ms. Davidsen has requested that the OPCC appoint a retired judge, rather than a police officer, to review this case and make recommendations, as allowed under s.117 of the Police Act.