Victim of Calgary officer's violent throw-down says she still has flashbacks
WARNING: This story contains disturbing video
The woman who was assaulted by a Calgary police officer who threw her to the ground like a rag doll in 2017 says she's still dealing with the trauma.
On Thursday, Const. Alex Dunn was convicted of assault causing bodily harm for what was described in court as the "judo-style" throw of Dalia Kafi in December 2017.
Kafi, who is a 29-year-old Black woman, suffered a broken nose and needed stitches in her lip.
"Every time I look in the mirror, I would see that mark and then I just remember that day, like it just comes as a flashback in my head," she said in a phone interview with CBC News.
The video is difficult to watch and causes a visceral reaction in most people who see it for the first time.
Because she was handcuffed, Kafi's head can be seen bouncing off the cement floor before her blood collected in a pool.
When the video was first played in court, Kafi's aunt, who was in the gallery, let out a guttural sound and left the courtroom crying.
"I was also crying, too," said Kafi. "Because it was the first time seeing the video since it happened.… I was really hurt and I couldn't even look at [Dunn] afterwards."
One of the officers who was at the arrest processing unit said during the trial, "there's only one type of sound when someone's bones hit the floor."
The night she was arrested, Kafi had been at a friend's house, braiding hair. She had some beer and got a ride home from another friend around 10:30 p.m. — 30 minutes past her curfew.
There were five people in the car when it was pulled over by police for making a turn on a yellow light.Worried she'd be in trouble for breaking curfew, Kafi lied about her identity, giving Dunn her sister's name.
Once he figured out her real name, Dunn arrested Kafi for breaching curfew and brought her to the arrest processing unit (APU).
There, he had her stand against a wall for a photo.
At the time, Kafi was wearing a hair scarf and Dunn twice tried to remove it.
Kafi, who was handcuffed behind her back, ducked away from Dunn twice.
That's when he threw her to the ground.
'It opened my eyes'
After she was thrown, the video shows Kafi struggling to lift her head. Dunn can be seen backing away while other officers stepped in to help the woman.
"Maybe he was just angry because I lied about my name," Kafi suggested. "But at the same time, I'm not the only human being in the world that lied about their name."
"It opened my eyes that I needed to smarten up because this could have been worse after seeing the video," said Kafi.
The day she was injured, she'd been arrested for breaching curfew. The court-imposed condition followed an arrest for an alleged assault.
Now, Kafi is working at a meat plant in Red Deer and says she's either at work or home: "I'm not even focusing on anything else."
Kafi said she couldn't be in court for Thursday's verdict because she had to work but does plan to attend the sentencing. A date for that will be set next week.
"I just want to know why he did that."
BLM and calls to defund the police
There was no evidence presented at trial that the use of force was racially motivated.
However, the trial took place in a year that saw Calgarians repeatedly pour into the streets by the thousands to march against racist injustice and honour victims of police violence, amid calls to defund the police.
The Black Lives Matter demonstrations were part of a broader wave of protests that swept through Canada, all U.S. states, and many countries around the world after George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was murdered by police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis on May 25.
For many, the conversation about defunding the police revolves around how to move money from bulging police budgets into other organizations and services, removing responsibilities like mental health checks from police and focusing more on crime prevention and poverty reduction, funding legal aid and ensuring Black, Indigenous and people of colour are represented in a meaningful way in police services and beyond.
In Calgary, a petition by Calgary Supports Black Lives Matter called on city council to reduce the budget of the Calgary Police Service to use it elsewhere.
The administration had looked at the impact of reallocating $10 million from the police budget and other sources in 2021 and $10 million in 2022 — about five per cent of CPS' budget.
Calgary Police Chief Mark Neufeld supported the reallocation of money to other organizations but wanted to see a direct link to reduced call volumes for officers.
In the November budget talks, police showed up with a proposal for cuts.
However, council voted to invest $8 million from city reserve funds in one-time seed money earmarked for examining alternative call responses — essentially working with community partners with the goal of reducing police call volumes for things like mental health checks.
The Calgary Police Service will contribute $2 million to the process.
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.
- An earlier version of this story had a headline and lead that quoted Dalia Kafi saying the assault made her realize she needed to "smarten up" and led her to make some changes in her life. However, many read it as implying that the attack was somehow justified or as victim-blaming, which was not the intent, so the story has been re-written to emphasize the lingering impact of the trauma suffered by Kafi.Dec 11, 2020 1:05 PM MT