The Abbotsford Police Department is reviewing its policies for interactions with disabled prisoners after a blistering B.C. Supreme Court judgment said that officers who arrested a paraplegic man subjected him to "inhumane," "degrading" and "outrageous" treatment.
Ryan Austin Moonie launched a civil claim against the department this week for breaching his right to life, liberty and security under Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In his notice of claim, Moonie cites a previously unpublished decision by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Kathleen Ker, who stayed 10 firearm and drug-related charges against him in April because of the force's "blatant disregard" for his human dignity.
"I am unable to see how the state misconduct in this case would not be viewed as anything other than conduct that would both shock the conscience of the community and be completely offensive to the community's sense of decency and fair play," Ker said in the judgment.
"Businesses and all levels of government embraced change to accommodate the needs of people with physical disabilities such as Mr. Moonie's condition. Somehow, though, the APD, insofar as the treatment it accorded to Mr. Moonie for the entirety of his detention is concerned, appears to be a place that time forgot."
Left to soil himself in cell
After pulling Moonie from his vehicle in subzero weather in November 2007, officers left him to sit on the ground as they huddled in their cars.
He was then taken to a cell, where officers ignored repeated requests for assistance in going to the bathroom. Moonie eventually soiled himself, and police then took him to a court appearance in his dirty clothing.
"It was as if they'd never seen a disabled person before," said Tonia Grace, Moonie's lawyer. "They had absolutely no idea on how to accommodate somebody with disabilities and absolutely no interest in trying to find out either which was the egregious aspect of it."
Abbotsford police Const. Ian MacDonald said the force assigned an officer to do a complete review after a full copy of the B.C. Supreme Court decision became available in October.
MacDonald said much has changed since Moonie's arrest in 2007, but he also said the department accepts Madam Justice Ker's criticism.
"We're responsible for this incident," MacDonald said. "We are hoping that we can learn from it — that we can improve from it — and that we can do better."
MacDonald said the department's review is currently before management and will likely result in definitive changes.