Victoria Police cleared of wrongdoing in 2022 incident that saw woman suffer broken arm

Victoria Police cleared of wrongdoing in 2022 incident that saw woman suffer broken arm
File photo.

The independent civilian oversight agency of the police in British Columbia (the IIO) has concluded its investigation into an incident near Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park, where a woman in possession of knives suffered a broken arm.

On Sept. 9, 2022, around 7:30 p.m., Victoria Police (VicPD) received a complaint about a person at the edge of the park, across from residences, “yelling and apparently under the influence of drugs,” says the IIO in a report Monday.

The woman was allegedly “yelling and screaming for an extended period” and had moved closer to the residences during the day, witnesses told police.

“When officers arrived, they observed that AP was in possession of knives, and was behaving in a manner that was non-compliant and possibly suicidal,” says the IIO.

VicPD told the oversight agency that a crisis negotiator was called in to help de-escalate the situation, but after almost three hours, Emergency Response Team (ERT) members also arrived on scene. They say a plan was developed “to use gradually-increasing force options” to disarm the woman, or affected person (AP), and apprehend her.

At one point, the woman was “swinging a knife as if trying to ward off attackers,” reads the report.

‘Is that all you got?’

Police told the IIO they wanted to apprehend the woman in a way that minimized any risk of bodily harm.

They first utilized a noise-flash device, “designed to stun or disorient,” but, to the surprise of officers, the woman said, “Is that all you got?” They then deployed a taser at her back without success before firing five beanbag rounds.

“As part of the plan, beanbag rounds were deployed against AP by the Subject Officer (‘SO’), and AP suffered a broken right arm,” says the IIO.

The woman was eventually taken into custody around 10:15 p.m. and transported to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

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The IIO was then notified and started an investigation, according to the report, with investigators collecting and analyzing evidence, including statements from the woman, four civilian witnesses, and 13 witness police officers.

They also reviewed 911 calls and police dispatch audio recordings, data downloads from a conducted energy weapon and pictures of the woman’s injuries.

Optics were ‘not the best,’ says chief civilian director

The IIO investigates any incident in B.C. that results in a person dying or suffering serious physical harm as a result of the actions, or sometimes inactions, of police and determines whether these officers were lawful.

The agency’s Chief Civilian Director Ronald MacDonald wrote in the report that the “optics” of this incident, which involved “a woman in the throes of a drug psychosis” and 14 police officers, were “not the best.” 

The woman had two bladed weapons “with which she had made vaguely threatening gestures, both against the officers and against herself,” MacDonald says, adding that this left officers in a “difficult” position.

“In some circumstances, just leaving AP on her own might have been an option. However, in this case, given that AP appeared to be a threat to others and herself, failing to take action may have led to more significant consequences,” he says.

MacDonald says officers’ steps to arrest the woman were “appropriate” and “applied incrementally.” He adds that they “clearly” tried to apprehend her without harm.

“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,” says MacDonald.

Find the IIO’s full report here.

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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