British Columbia

Woman shoved by police says, 'He has no right'

A disabled woman seen on a surveillance video being pushed to the ground by Vancouver police says she did not provoke the officer who shoved her.

A disabled woman seen on a surveillance video being pushed to the ground by Vancouver police says she did not provoke the officer who shoved her.

The video was taken at the beginning of July on the sidewalk on Hastings Street, near the crowded United We Can recycling centre.

Sandy, who did not want her last name to be used, said she was just trying to get past the officer and two others with whom he was walking.

"I was walking home and I reached my hand up because I was trying to get through … but the tall guy pushed me down because they thought I was grabbing their gun because I touched the belt," she said.

Video taken down

The complete video of the incident was posted online by the  B.C. Civil Liberties Association on Thursday.

But on Friday morning the video was deleted from the Vimeo video-hosting website. The BCCLA was uncertain why or how the video was removed.

The full video was then posted to YouTube on Friday afternoon.

"He pushed me on the shoulder and pulled me down on the floor."

Sandy, who has cerebral palsy, said she asked the officers repeatedly to let her through.

"But they were not giving me any [room] to walk. I asked them, 'Excuse me, please,' and I told them three times [that] I have a disability … and [after I fell] they walked away like nothing happened."

The officers just left her there, Sandy said, while several bystanders stepped in to help her to her feet.

Sandy said the Vancouver Police Department wrote her an apology letter, but she believes more should be done.

"He has no right to do that at all . … People of authority just disrespecting me like this, or anybody at all, it should be no excuse. Everybody should be treated equally."

The video shows the officer pushing the disabled woman to the ground and then walking away.
The police publicly apologized for the incident and an internal investigation was underway, Vancouver Police spokeswoman Const. Jana McGuinness said on Thursday.

"The officer involved did take immediate steps that day to report the incident to his supervisor. Within hours the duty officer was informed and the information was passed on to the professional standards section, initiating an investigation, and the officer has apologized to the woman, expressing his regret for his initial action and for not helping in the aftermath," McGuinness said.

'Horrified but not surprised'

The incident happened in Vancouver's troubled Downtown Eastside, an area plagued with homelessness and drug addiction.

Those who live and work in the area say incidents like this one are too common.

"I have to say, of all the communities I've lived in, the Lower Mainland … the Downtown Eastside is one of the most marginalized," said Tami Starlight, with the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council.

"A lot of stuff goes on down here that wouldn't be allowed or tolerated anywhere else by the police."

Sandy, who asked that her last name not be used, says she did not provoke the officer who shoved her. (CBC)

Starlight said she was shocked and angry when she first saw the video, as were many members of the community.

"A lot of people are outraged in the community, really, as they should be."

Wendy Pedersen, with the Carnegie Community Action Committee, said she was not shocked by what she saw on the video.

"I was horrified but not surprised because I've seen it before, with my own eyes."

Pedersen said such incidents are a regular occurrence in the Downtown Eastside.

"I'm … just disgusted and I'm getting angry that this is happening to people," she said. "If it wasn't for the camera, [Sandy] would have just let it go, and the police officer knew she would have done that, and that's why he did it."

Pedersen said the video is a clear sign changes are needed to the way the Downtown Eastside is policed.

"The police in this neighbourhood need to be specially trained and they need to be special people," Pedersen said. "And they need to know how to deal with conflict and their own anger really well, and they also have to be educated about dealing with stereotypes and discrimination."

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association said Thursday that Sandy had MS, but Sandy told CBC News she has cerebral palsy.