Two Victoria police officers are being investigated by the department’s professional standards department after a man was dragged, face-down on the ground, while in handcuffs.
The incident happened on Pandora Avenue near Vancouver Street on May 12, before many of the people living in tents along the boulevard had been moved into housing.
The man was arrested for throwing one garbage can into moving traffic and a second garbage can onto a pedestrian-occupied sidewalk, said Victoria police spokesman Const. Cam MacIntyre.
An outreach worker who witnessed the arrest said the level of force used by officers made the worker “sick to my stomach.”
The man, with his hands cuffed behind his back, was yelling as police walked him across Pandora Avenue to their police vehicle, said the outreach worker, who did not want to be identified, fearing backlash from the police. The officers wrenched the man’s arms up and he either stopped walking or lost his balance and ended up face-down on the ground, the outreach worker said.
The two officers dragged the man by his arms for 50 metres, the outreach worker said. “He was screaming and we couldn’t tell if he was angry or in pain. It looked so painful. It seemed so surreal that we were watching this.”
A motorist who witnessed the arrest and appeared to be video-recording yelled at the officers and the outreach worker heard the officers say “shut up.”
The outreach worker and a colleague went up to the officers and implored them to stop.
“My co-worker said: ‘You’re going to dislocate his shoulder.’ ” The two told the officers they would be video-recording and taking photos.
The officers then picked the man up and said: “Are you ready to walk now?”
The outreach worker recorded the details in an incident report.
MacIntyre said the man, who was screaming and walking into moving traffic, was arrested for mischief and placed in handcuffs.
“The man was uncooperative while under escort but was ultimately moved to a police vehicle and transported to cells at VicPD,” Cameron said. The man was not injured during the interaction, he said, and was released without charges.
The case is being investigated by the Victoria police professional standards section, and the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC), which oversees police misconduct investigations, has been notified.
Fred Cameron, operations manager for SOLID Outreach, said he did not witness the incident but was told about it when outreach workers arrived on Pandora Avenue later that day. Cameron said the level of force used was unnecessary.
“There’s never a good reason to drag someone through the streets by cuffs,” he said. Cameron said he has witnessed some tense situations involving people with mental health and addictions but he’s always been able to talk people down.
Rev. Al Tysick, executive director with the Dandelion Society, said he can’t comment on an arrest he didn’t witness but, in general, he supports the creation of a civilian team that would handle many of the mental-health and addictions calls that currently fall to police. Last month, City of Victoria councillors unanimously approved a motion directing staff to review programs in other jurisdictions and report back in time for 2021 budget talks.
Tysick, who has worked with the street community for decades, including the hardest to house, said he’s also witnessed police officers take abuse from people with addictions who can be volatile and aggressive. “It’s an issue on both sides,” he said.
A Victoria police officer is also being investigated for a criminal offence. MacIntyre said that investigation is not related to the May 12 arrest.
The officer has been suspended from duty during the investigation, which is being carried out by an outside agency. Neither Victoria police nor the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner has released details on the allegations.