British Columbia

Vancouver Police Board ordered to review police action in case of handcuffed judge

A thrid-party complaint has sparked a review into the incident that saw retired Justice Selwyn Romilly, who is Black, mistaken for an assault suspect half his age.

Retired Justice Selwyn Romilly, who is Black, was handcuffed when police mistook him for an assault suspect

Selwyn Romilly was the first Black judge appointed to the B.C. Supreme Court. (Peter A. Allard School of Law/YouTube)

The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) in B.C. says it has asked the Vancouver Police Board to review an incident that resulted in the handcuffing of a former judge.

On May 14, five Vancouver police officers approached retired Justice Selwyn Romilly as he was walking on the seawall and put him in handcuffs, mistaking him for an assault suspect described as dark skinned and 40 to 50 years old.

Romilly, 81, was the first Black person appointed to the B.C. Supreme Court.

The OPCC said the complaint was filed by a third-party member of the public who had viewed media reports and not by Romilly himself.

"The nature of the complaints concern the circumstances of this incident and the practices of the VPD, including how police responded and their use of handcuffs," said Andrea Spindler, the deputy police complaint commissioner.

"In this case, we have determined that those concerns may be addressed by the police board as the governing body of the Vancouver Police Department."

Spindler said the OPCC will oversee the Vancouver Police Board's review process.

Days after the arrest, Vancouver police Chief Adam Palmer publicly apologized to Romilly for the detention, saying it would have been an unsettling and traumatic experience.

The statement from the commissioner's office says it can also make recommendations to the police board regarding its course of action and issue recommendations to government about the case.

The next meeting of the Vancouver Police Board is June 24, but an agenda has not yet been posted.


For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

with files from Canadian Press