British Columbia

VPD face investigation over arrest of Indigenous 12-year-old and grandfather

The Police Complaint Commissioner became aware of the matter through media reporting and complaints from the public.

Investigation will be conducted by the Delta Police Department

Maxwell Johnson and his 12-year-old granddaughter were handcuffed by police in front of a Vancouver branch of the Bank of Montreal after trying to open up an account for the girl. (Submitted by Jess Housty)

The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner has ordered an investigation into the detention and arrest of an Indigenous man and his 12-year-old granddaughter at a Vancouver branch of the Bank of Montreal.

The OPCC says it became aware of the incident through media reporting and several complaints from the public.

It says it has requested information from the Vancouver Police Department to determine if the actions of officers who made the arrests on Dec. 20 amount to misconduct.

The office says in a release that the investigation will consider any policies, procedures or training from the department or the Vancouver Police Board that may be a factor in officers handcuffing the girl and her grandfather.

"It is important that there be a thorough and independent investigation of this matter," said deputy police complaint commissioner Andrea Spindler.

She said the investigation will carefully examine and assess the legal authority to detain, arrest and use restraining devices such as handcuffs on a 12-year-old girl.

In a phone interview with CBC News, Spindler said that the commission will look at what Vancouver Police Department Chief Const. Adam Palmer called "standard operating procedures" and look at how officers are trained.

The OPCC says the investigation will be conducted by the Delta Police Department. 

The final decision will come from the West Vancouver Police Department, though the last call could come from a retired judge, if the commission is not in favour of the outcome of the investigation. 

Spindler says the officers that handcuffed the 12-year-old girl could face serious repercussions.

"Termination is the most serious sanction available under the Police Act," Spindler said.

She said officers could also receive suspensions or have their rank reduced. There's also other more remedial sanctions which are more about correcting behaviour, such as training or retraining the officers under investigation. 

For some advocates, that doesn't give them confidence that this won't happen again.

Not good enough

Meenakshi Mannoe, the manger of community education with the Pivot Legal Society, said she was horrified when she heard about the girl and the grandfather being handcuffed while trying to open an account.  But she says this latest development of the police being investigated isn't good enough.

Meenakshi Mannoe with the Pivot legal society says she has little confidence retraining alone will address the systemic issues in the Vancouver Police Department. (Meenakshi Mannoe)

She said even if the officers are fired and others are trained, it doesn't address larger issues with systemic racism.

"We don't necessarily know what is involved in that training ... is it a series of webinars that people are just going to have playing on the background while they go about their administrative work," Mannoe said.

"Is the police department scrambling to put something together, just so that they meet the criteria set out in a ruling?" 

She said she thinks "a dramatic full-scale cultural shift and a radical turn" needs to happen in order for the Vancouver Police Department to better address its relationship with Indigenous people. 

Last year, the commission received 487 complaints from the public and the commissioner ordered 79 investigations into police officers' conduct. 

With files from the Canadian Press