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Public hearing to decide if Victoria police officers abused authority

YouTube of the arrest on March 21, 2010 - YouTube
YouTube of the arrest on March 21, 2010
— image credit: YouTube

B.C.’s police complaint commissioner has ordered a public hearing to determine whether two Victoria police officers breached the public’s trust and abused their authority when they attempted to subdue a man outside a Victoria nightclub in 2010.

Stan Lowe announced Tuesday that there is a reasonable basis for him to believe that New Westminster police chief Chief Const. Dave Jones was incorrect in his findings about the conduct of constables Christopher Bowser and Brendan Robinson during an incident on March 21, 2010.

Part of the altercation, in which Bowser was filmed repeatedly kicking Tyler Archer outside the Social Club on Store Street, was posted on YouTube. The video went viral on the Internet, and was repeatedly broadcast by national news media.

Last year, Jones presided over a discipline hearing looking into the incident. Jones ruled that Bowser was not in the wrong when he kicked Harpinder Kang, or when he kicked Archer as Const. Robinson was attempting to put Archer in handcuffs.

The officers stopped using excessive force once they had Archer in a controlled handcuffed position, Jones wrote in his decision late last year.

“In other words, their use of force appears to be and has been explained as being necessary to bring Mr. Archer under control,” he said.

But Lowe disagreed and said a public hearing under the Police Act “is required as I consider there is a reasonable basis to believe that the discipline authority’s finding in this matter is incorrect, and that it is also necessary in the public interest.”

The commissioner based his decision on his review of documentation from the Vancouver Police Service’s 2010 criminal investigation of the incident and from the external hearing in 2011.

At the upcoming hearing, which has not yet been scheduled but is expected to take at least a week, the officers will face allegations that they went against the Police Act and committed an abuse of authority by “intentionally or recklessly using unnecessary force” on Archer, while they were on duty, Lowe said.

It is in the public’s interest to hold a public hearing due to the serious nature of the complaint as “the alleged misconduct involves a significant breach of trust,” Lowe said.

It will also help flesh out the truth, and preserve the public’s confidence in the police complaint process, he added.

“(The officers) will either be vindicated or the allegations will be substantiated,” said Rollie Woods, deputy police complaint commissioner.

Victoria Police Chief Const. Jamie Graham said he respects the commissioner’s findings.

“However, it is disappointing that this matter remains unresolved after almost two years and a number of separate proceedings, including at least two comprehensive reviews by Crown counsel,” he said in a statement. “ We are looking forward to having this matter resolved conclusively as outlined by the OPCC.”

The public hearing hinges on whether Archer and Kang will testify, though they have indicated they will, Woods said. The pair did not provide testimony during the discipline  hearing.

The hearing, to be held at the Victoria-based Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, will be presided over by retired provincial court judge Ben Casson.

 

 

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