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Use-of-force expert defends police actions

Jul 10 2012

The defence lawyer for Tyler Archer, a 20-year-old man whose arrest by two Victoria police officers has sparked three investigations and now a public hearing, grilled a use-of-force expert Monday over whether a video of the incident posted on YouTube showed excessive force.

Richard Neary went through the 56-second video frame by frame, dissecting the amount of time that passes between Const. Chris Bowser giving orders to Archer and subsequent kick and knee strikes by Bowser.

Archer’s forcible arrest on March 21, 2010, after a brawl outside the downtown Social Club, is the subject of a public hearing by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner.

Vancouver police Const. Darren Hall, a certified use-of-force instructor, has written a report supporting the actions of the officers.

Hall agreed with Neary Monday that on the video, Archer appears co-operative as he sits down on the ground within two seconds of being ordered to do so by Bowser.

“Did you see any actions by Archer that show aggression?” Neary asked.

“By the time he comes into view, he seems to be responding to commands from Const. Bowser. I don’t see anything in the body language that he would represent an imminent threat,” Hall said.

Archer can be heard saying, “I’m fine, I got punched in the face,” once he’s on the ground. Const. Brendan Robinson comes quickly into the frame, grabbing Archer and pushing him onto his hands and knees.

Neary pointed out a frame where Archer brings his right hand back and is in Robinson’s grip. He said says his client would have fallen flat on his face if he’d  offered his left hand to be handcuffed.

Archer was already bleeding from a broken nose suffered during the late-night brawl. There was never any proof Archer had a role in an assault against Ryan Friesen, who was lying unconscious on the sidewalk.

Bowser gets his handcuffs, tells Archer to put his hands behind his back and, within two seconds, delivers a hard kick to Archer’s side. That is followed by two knee strikes to the middle of Archer’s back.

Hall said during those two seconds, Archer appears to be crawling away, which is what he believes prompted Bowser’s decision to deliver the kick.

“He is not putting his hands behind his back and he’s crawling away from police,” Hall said.

Hall said officers are taught to tell people exactly what they want the person to do, such as “lie flat on your stomach with your arms at your side.” Bowser did not do this, Hall said.

Hall testified earlier in the day that officers should avoid striking the spine or kidneys of people they are subduing, since it can do permanent damage.

 Neary said the kick was to Archer’s kidney and the knee strikes to his spine. Hall disagreed, saying the impact was close but not directly on the kidneys or back.

Hall refused to use the word “kick. He said that while the action looks like a kick to the average person, the word has a negative connotation and doesn't communicate the purpose behind the action. He called the action a “stun.”

Neary said Hall has examined about 30 use-of-force cases by police and in every one, found the force used was appropriate. Neary also quoted Bowser’s statement to police investigators that when Bowser watches the video, he sees excellent police work and that he should be get a commendation.

While three investigations by outside police departments cleared the officers of wrongdoing, the adjudicator Ben Casson has the power to recommend discipline if he decides excessive force was used.

kderosa@timescolonist.com




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