Two police officers who handcuffed an Indigenous man and his 12-year-old granddaughter outside a Bank of Montreal branch in downtown Vancouver more than two years ago have been suspended and ordered to apologize for their misconduct” serious and blameworthy”.
A disciplinary decision posted online Wednesday said the two Vancouver police officers committed misconduct by handcuffing Maxwell Johnson, then 56, and his granddaughter outside the bank in December 2019.
“I found that both [officers] acted oppressively in their dealings with Mr Johnson and his granddaughter. The actions of the officers who arrested and handcuffed the parties were undertaken without reasonable and probable grounds,” wrote Brian Neal, a retired Provincial Court judge appointed to the case by the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner. (OPCC).
“Two vulnerable people of Indigenous descent were exposed to unnecessary trauma and fear, and were left with a serious perception of injustice in their treatment by the police.”
Johnson, a member of the Heiltsuk Nation, had tried to open an account for his granddaughter. The couple used government-issued Indian status cards, birth certificates and medical cards as identification, but an employee became suspicious and called 911.
Officers arrived and handcuffed Johnson and her granddaughter outside the bank on a busy downtown street. Both were released within the hour.
Neal found the officers each committed two counts of abuse of authority by “recklessly arresting complainants and using unnecessary force while applying handcuffs.”
The Vancouver Police Department has since changed its policy on handcuffs.
Neal ordered the officers suspended. The OPCC said it could not confirm the length of the suspensions for confidentiality reasons, but the nation said the officers would be on leave for “several days”.
Officers must also undergo refresher training and issue a formal apology.
The Heiltsuk Nation invited the officers to their territory for a formal apology ceremony with Johnson, her granddaughter and the community.
“This story has become a symbol of the fight against systemic racism, and we are committed to working with officers to make broader changes and ensure it never happens again,” Chief-Elect Marilyn Slett wrote. of the Heiltsuk Nation, in a statement Wednesday. .
Neal issued his disciplinary decision in January and imposed the sanctions in mid-March. The two officers have 20 business days from the date of the sanctions to request a review of the decision “if they are not satisfied” with the findings before the OCCP officially closes the case, according to a statement.