Officer handed six day suspension for pushing disabled woman
By Tamsyn Burgmann for The Canadian PressNews Retail
A rookie Vancouver police officer captured on video pushing a disabled woman to the ground has been handed a six-day suspension after waiting more than four years for a conclusion.
But the adjudicator’s decision to make the delay a mitigating factor in sentencing for Const. Taylor Robinson frustrates the woman’s lawyer, who said Friday the officer’s own department was responsible for the lengthy delay.
Robinson admitted at a hearing in July 2013 to shoving Sandy Davidsen – who has multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy – to the ground in the city’s Downtown Eastside.
His sentence constitutes three days of lost pay each for the offences of abuse of authority and neglect of duty.
The delay between the date of the incident to the present is “clearly unacceptable,” said Police Complaints Commission adjudicator Wally Oppal, a former attorney general and retired judge, as he announced his decision for a condensed term.
The woman’s lawyer had asked for 15 days, while the lawyer for the commission recommended eight to 10 days.
Lawyer Douglas King, representing Davidsen, said they disagree that the delay should have been a mitigating factor, especially when they feel the Vancouver Police Department’s change of lawyers resulted in multiple postponements.
“From our perspective, everything that Constable Robinson went through – the public scrutiny, having the tape played over and over again – the same thing had to happened for our client, she had to relive this situation,” King told reporters. “So whereas he seemingly gets a benefit because of that, obviously our client doesn’t really get much out of it.”
Robinson’s lawyer declined to comment, and the officer himself was not present at the decision. He had been on the force for six months at the time, hired for additional security related to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
A spokesman for Vancouver Police said the officer has taken responsibility for his actions and apologized.
“We respect the decision made regarding his suspension,” Const. Brian Montague said in an email. “As with any mistake made by one of our officers, we will take the opportunity to fix and learn from them.”
The Vancouver Police Department’s discipline authority initially recommended a two-day suspension, but the commission found that punishment inadequate and ordered the public hearing.
The facts of the June 9, 2010, incident are not in dispute, said Oppal, who watched the footage captured by a security camera at a nearby hotel.
The video shows Davidsen walking along a busy sidewalk in the city’s Downtown Eastside, appearing somewhat unsteady on her feet. A gap is created between a trio of officers as the woman approaches. As she manoeuvres between them Robinson turns and pushes her. She tumbles down to the sidewalk.
Robinson said, “don’t touch a police officer’s gun,” and stands over her for a moment. His lawyer argued during the earlier hearing he believed the woman was attempting to grab his firearm, resulting in the lapse of judgment.
None of the three officers assists the woman, which Oppal said was “somewhat disturbing.”
The act of pushing Davidsen, who was clearly vulnerable, was “callous and reckless,” he added.
“This is a clear violation of public trust.”
Oppal declined to make any recommendations to the force regarding policing the lower-income neighbourhood that has been “particularly challenging.”
The police chief submitted a letter to the commission relating to steps taken by the department in the Downtown Eastside.
Oppal also noted in his decision that Robinson has undergone corrective training in the form of a course in conflict resolution.
Robinson initially faced an assault charge, but it was stayed by the Crown. Davidsen also filed a human rights complaint that has already been settled.
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