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Clear police communication absent after Social Club brawl, hearing told

Sep 30 2012

A use-of-force expert agreed there was "a complete absence of any sort of effective communication" between two Victoria police officers and the young man they handcuffed during a brawl outside Social Club in March 2010.

The incident with constables Chris Bowser and Brendan Robinson was captured on video and has been viewed more than 275,000 times online.

In February, the police complaint commissioner ordered a public hearing to investigate abuse-of-force allegations against the officers.

On Friday, John McKay, a former member of the RCMP and the Vancouver Police Department, testified that communication failed at the point when Robinson rushes in and pushes Tyler Archer over.

"The two officers are not talking to each other. Archer is not responding to commands. The communication is not working among [the] three of them until the handcuffs go on. Three ways, there is a failure," McKay said.

Commission counsel Michael Tammen cited a use-of-force report on the incident by Vancouver police Const. Darren Hall, who suggested the officers could have used follow-up verbal commands to tell Archer to lie prone on the ground.

That would have been a good directive, agreed McKay, but given the tenor of violence and the randomness of the event, Robinson may have thought his actions were necessary.

Tammen also asked McKay if officers should pay attention to what people say to them.

"Yes," replied McKay.

"Archer told the officers, 'I'm fine. I got punched in the face,' which makes sense if you look at the bloodied photo of him," Tammen told McKay, holding up the photo.

Archer testified that he thought the officers were coming to help him.

Bowser testified that he expected Archer to roll up on his knees and put his hands behind his back. He said he was not aware Robinson was going to push Archer to the ground.

"The police are at crosspurposes and Mr. Archer is supposed to know what to do?" asked Tammen.

McKay replied that in a perfect world, there would be time to assess what Archer said.

"If you have time to do that, then fine. That would be a good course of action," he said.

Tammen also noted that the scene in the video isn't particularly chaotic.

"People are going about their business, not paying attention," he said.

As he was questioned by Robinson's lawyer, David Butcher, McKay said there was communication between the officers during the arrest of Archer.

"They are working together in a co-ordinated fashion to get the handcuffs on Archer?" Butcher asked.

"I agree, yes," McKay said. "They know their respective roles. There's not that much to talk about."

McKay, who initially testified that he could not remember whether he had written a draft report on the incident, answered questions about how the draft was changed and fleshed out to become the final report.

McKay told the hearing that after he sent copies of the draft report to Bowser's lawyer, Dennis Murray, and Butcher, they phoned him saying they wanted to add some information to the report.

"We had a discussion," he testified. "They felt the material was relevant and asked me to include it."

Neither lawyer asked him to change his opinion, he said.

The public hearing will conclude with final submissions on Oct. 29 and 30. The adjudicator, retired provincial court judge Ben Casson, expects to have his decision about six weeks later.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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