B.C.’s police watchdog has cleared Victoria police of any wrongdoing after a teen’s ankle was broken during an arrest in February.
The incident occurred on Feb. 16, according to the report released by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. (IIO) on Aug. 7.
The IIO said police were called to downtown Victoria to investigate an alleged assault. According to the report, the suspects fled the scene, but a witness later called 911 to say the suspects had been seen on the wharf along the Inner Harbour.
The witness gave police descriptions of two alleged assaulters and officers located a “group of teenagers” who matched the descriptions on a wooden pier in front of a restaurant, according to the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. (IIO).
Two officers went down to the wooden pier and the group started to flee, the IIO said. One officer told the group that two of them who matched the description of the suspects were being placed under arrest due to the alleged assault.
The IIO said one of the suspects tried to flee past an officer. The male suspect told IIO the police told him to freeze and he was “walking away”.
Another officer was dealing with the suspect and looked over to see the suspect struggling with the first officer. The second officer said the suspect was punching and kicking at the first officer so he went over to help.
The IIO’s investigation said the first officer got control of the suspect by “picking him up and slamming him into the wooden pier.” He was then put in handcuffs. A witness also stepped in and helped officers control the suspect’s head, the IIO said. The IIO was unable to identify this witness.
The teen described himself as “wiggling around” during the arrest and said that a police officer could have either tripped and stepped on his ankle during the struggle, or stomped on his ankle deliberately.
He also described himself as “resisting a little bit” during the arrest.
The IIO said when one of the officer’s helped the teen to stand, he immediately complained of pain in his left foot and was unable to put weight on it. He was taken to a police van for transport to cells.
The IIO report states the teen was resistant throughout his interactions with officers, with one officer saying he was kicked in the shins as the teen was being led to the police van. Another witness said he was kicked in the torso by the suspect.
The teen was transported to cells and was kicking inside the van during transport to the VicPD detachment, the IIO said.
The teen alleged that the arresting police officer pulled off his boot roughly from his injured ankle, once they were at the detachment. The IIO said, however, that the CCTV shows that the teen removed his boot himself.
Emergency Health Services was called and the teen was taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with a broken ankle.
IIO Chief Civilian Director Ronald MacDonald wrote the two officers were “acting lawfully in execution of their duty” when they were investigating the alleged assault and during the teenagers arrest. The teen matched the description the officers had of the alleged suspects and they had grounds to arrest the teen based upon the information available.
MacDonald said based on the teen’s own account and one of the officers, it was clear the suspect was trying to flee police and that there was a physical struggle.
MacDonald said the officer who arrested the teen on the pier was acting within his lawful authority and “did not use excessive force in trying to arrest and control” the suspect, as he was trying to flee police.
According to MacDonald, although the teen alleged an officer could have stomped on his ankle, his memory of the evening is incorrect in other aspects and “there is no evidence from any other witnesses that this took place while he was being arrested.”
MacDonald said there is a lot of evidence the suspect was violently resisting police during and following the encounter.
“It is not clear exactly when the affected person’s injury to his ankle occurred, but there is no evidence that the injury the affected person suffered was a result of the unlawful application of force during the arrest,” MacDonald said.
“Accordingly, as the Chief Civilian Director of the IIO, I do not consider that there are reasonable grounds to believe that an officer may have committed an offence under any enactment and therefore the matter will not be referred to Crown counsel for consideration of charges.”