A Vancouver parent claims he was involved in an altercation with a police officer that involved derogatory language, threats to report them to child services, and filming.
Ryan Sudds was walking home on July 22 around 9 a.m. after dropping off his daughter at daycare when he stopped to observe two police officers, he told Vancouver Is Awesome over the phone the same morning.
The two officers were asking several homeless people at Jim Deva Plaza to move to another location. Sudds told V.I.A. that he usually observes police during such interactions in case the situation escalates.
"The reason I watch these [sweeps] is because I've seen them steal people's things or physically assault people in these situations before, which is why I monitor them," Sudds alleges. "These situations can turn very fast."
The two officers were engaging in conversations with passersby, including Sudds. However, the tone turned derogatory, he claims. One of the two officers allegedly asked Sudds "How's it going?" he recalls.
Sudds inquired what the officers were doing. "I [asked] them 'where else do you expect people to go?' because, in my view, there's this displacement cycle where we keep kicking people out of one place and they go to another then they get kicked out of there. There aren't that many safe places for people to be," Sudds explained.
'Do you want people shooting up heroin, or drugs or whatever at your place?' VPD officer allegedly asked
The officer allegedly replied: "Well do you want to take them back to your place?" and proceeded to tell those asked to move, "Hey folks, he's going to take you guys back to his place."
"Then [he] said something along the lines of 'Do you want people shooting up heroin, or drugs or whatever at your place? Is that something that you want?' which I found very derogatory," Sudds alleges.
He explains that his dad, who lives in the same apartment building across the hall, is a drug user, which he mentioned to the officer.
"My dad is a drug user. My kid is around him. I don't have a problem with drug users and drug users being in my life. That's not the issue here," Sudds recalls saying to the VPD officer. "That's when [the police officer allegedly] said 'Oh, how would you like it if I call the [Ministry of Children and Family Development] and reported that?'"
According to Sudds' account, the officer proceeded to pull out his phone and start recording, saying that he had the duty to investigate. What struck Sudds was the officer's alleged attempt to bait him into saying what was untrue.
"He had said 'You have your kid around somebody who's shooting up heroin and shooting drugs, that's not safe,' and the scary part to me is that I hadn't said that. I said that there was a drug user. My dad is a drug user. My child is around him," Sudds alleges.
"I asked the officer 'What words did I say?' and he wouldn't say it until he finally said 'Listen, that's what I heard in my mind.'"
The altercation lasted approximately 15 to 20 minutes, according to Sudds's account, and the two officers eventually left him. A few other police officers arrived nearby, whom the two officers joined. Sudds alleges that he could see the officers pointing at him and laughing. After a while, when only one of the homeless people had left, the officers left, too.
But Sudds says he was left with an anxious pit in his stomach.
"I really hope it is an empty threat, but I have no idea. A police officer recorded me and tried in that recording to bait me into saying things about my family situation as if to build up a body of evidence. [They were] laughing at me afterwards so I hope that they were just messing with me. Admittedly, I'm worried about getting a call or a knock from the Ministry of Family Services and having to go through that process. The thing I can't get out of my head is just thinking about the state taking away my child because my dad is a drug user and what that would do to her," he said over the phone.
Police and the MCFD
V.I.A. reached out to the Ministry of Child and Family Development (MCFD) who assist with ensuring child safety and have the right to investigate and, if necessary, remove a child from a parent(s)'s care.
According to the MCFD, "legislation requires that child protection workers can only remove children if they are in immediate danger or if no less disruptive measures are available or adequate to protect the children," and that "depending on the circumstances, a child protection investigation may be conducted in tandem with a police investigation."
If necessary, a safety plan is developed to ensure the child's safety throughout the investigation. These plans "take into consideration who can care for the child, and under what circumstances the parent(s) can care for, or have contact with, the child," explains the MCFD in an email to V.I.A. "The plans can only be put in place with the parent(s) consent."
There are other steps involved in child protection investigations, according to the MCFD, including interviewing the person(s) who made the report, the child, and the family members, as well as visiting the child's home and working with police, neighbours, and service agencies.
Child protection workers then work with the parent(s) to either close the case with no further action, refer the parent(s) to health or mental-health services (like addictions treatment or counselling), or remove the child from the parent(s)' care.
V.I.A. also reached out to the Vancouver Police Department, who did not comment on the alleged incident involving Sudds but confirmed that VPD officers can report residents to the MCFD.
Could the altercation lead to an MCFD investigation?
In Sudds's situation, the police officer's phone video recording may be a sufficient report to initiate an investigation, if the ministry deems it substantial.
"Any type of report provided to the ministry could cause the initiation of an investigation if that report indicates that a child may be in need of protection under Section 13 of the Child, Family and Community Service Act," the MCFD explains in an email to V.I.A. "This could include a verbal report, a video, or another means of indicating potential harm."
"However, removing a child from a parent’s care is a last resort. By law, the ministry may only remove a child if the child needs protection and is either in immediate danger or no measures are available and adequate to protect the child," the MCFD adds.