Ismail Bhabha, Vancouver police officer, found guilty of assaulting cyclist
Video of plainclothes officer hitting Andishae Akhavan Kharazi provoked outrage online
A Vancouver police officer was found guilty on Tuesday of assaulting a cyclist during an arrest that was videotaped and posted on Facebook two years ago.
However, Vancouver police said in a brief statement that Const. Ismail Bhabha — who had pleaded not guilty — will remain on duty in his current position in patrol.
The assault conviction stems from a March 2013 incident in downtown Vancouver while Bhabha was handcuffing cyclist Andishae Akhavan Kharazi after pulling him over for riding without a helmet and allegedly running a red light.
A video taken by Kharazi's friend, Mike Schwarz, was posted on Facebook and was shared thousands of times. It appears to show Bhabha punching Kharazi in the face.
At Bhabha's trial, Kharazi testified he did not recall running any lights on his bike and said he normally stops for lights.
He also testified he never resisted arrest or raised his voice, and only moved his arms involuntarily when the officer twisted his arms behind his back while attempting to handcuff him. Police have said the video captured only part of the incident and that Kharazi was "allegedly confrontational with police," and "escalated the situation."
West Vancouver police had conducted an independent investigation and recommended Bhabha be charged with assault, and further police investigation was suspended at the time.
Police investigation will be re-opened
On Tuesday, Schwarz said he was surprised by the guilty verdict as he expected Bhabha to get special treatment as a police officer. He says the guilty verdict was the right call, but questions the decision to let Bhabha remain on patrol.
"I would think that if you have an assault record, you probably wouldn't get hired into the police workforce, but I'm sure his track record speaks for himself ... I'm sure they've taken a lot of things into consideration with that decision."
Generally, however, Schwarz says the police in Vancouver do a great job.
"I have no hard feelings against the officer," Schwarz said. "Good people can make bad decisions and they have to make decisions in split seconds, and who knows what they were dealing before that ... they were undercover."
The Police Act investigation by West Vancouver police into Bhabha's actions will be reopened, said Vancouver police spokesman, Const. Brian Montague.
Vancouver Police Union president Tom Stamatakis said he did not want to comment until he read the full decision. But he wrote in an email that the officer was "obviously disappointed" with the verdict and the union will continue to focus on supporting Bhabha and his family.
Bhabha will be sentenced in November.