CONTENT WARNING: Police violence.
A local mutual aid group has released video of an Edmonton Police Service officer smashing someone’s head into the ground while they are in handcuffs after the handcuffed individual tried to stomp on the officer’s foot or kick them in the shin.
CW for police violence. pic.twitter.com/Ecy9tqpy0o— Harm Reduction Support (HARES) YEG (@HARES_YEG) March 31, 2023
The mutual aid group Harm Reduction Support or HARES was set up in Wilbert McIntyre Park on 83rd Avenue between Calgary Trail and Gateway Boulevard the afternoon of Sunday, March 26 when they witnessed what they’re calling an “inappropriate control tactic used by Edmonton Police against a person in distress.”
HARES released a statement describing their account of the situation. They noticed Fire and EMS responding to something in an alleyway across from the street from where they were conducting their usual Sunday afternoon outreach.
“A person in distress soon became visible, stepping out past the Old Strathcona Youth Society building onto 83rd Avenue. They clearly did not want intervention, and were uninterested in talking to first responders. Through this time, they were loud and verbally aggressive. Avoiding first responders, they came towards our outreach event, where they were well known to community members,” reads their statement.
Attempts were made to deescalate the situation and while the person was rude the volunteers with HARES did not witness the person committing any crimes or hurt anyone else. Several dozen people were in the park, including HARES volunteers, community members availing themselves of food, water and harm reduction supplies and seven first year medical students who were visiting the outreach program. According to HARES, none said that they felt afraid or endangered.
At this point EPS officers show up and “make no effort to engage with the person in distress. Two of our volunteers begin filming as EPS officers appear to deploy a taser against the person, subdue, and arrest them,” reads the statement from HARES.
Screenshots from supplied video.
The full video, minus a short section where the name the individual uses on the street is said by a community member, starts as the police already have the individual on the ground.
The video also appears to show a paramedic swabbing the shoulder and injecting the individual with an unknown substance. We’ve reached out to AHS on their policy on sedating individuals under arrest and will update the story if we hear back.
In the video someone off-screen can be heard talking to the police officer saying, “Just so you know he hasn’t had his meds in a couple days, that’s what it is… he stays at the shelter with us,” says the person.
“Usually me and my bro can talk to him and he calms right down but I tried talking to him and it was like, not right now bro. But usually he’s really calm and easy to talk to.”
According to HARES, they don’t know who made the call for EPS to intervene, what the person was charged with or why they needed to be detained.
“We are sharing this video as we believe it is important for people to see what kind of violence our unhoused neighbours endure when encountering police. In our conversations with workers and volunteers in the sector as well as unhoused neigbours, this kind of violence is worryingly common. Calls for help escalate into potentially life changing injuries without clear provocation, and people who are in distress become criminalized or brutalized instead of receiving the care they need,” reads the HARES statement.
HARES members are considering filing a complaint.
Kash Heed, a former police chief of West Vancouver with a 32 year policing career, told the Report that he has concerns about the quick use of an apparent sedative by paramedics.
“We don’t use that [sedation] to a great extent in B.C.,” said Heed. “The sedation was a surprise to me. Sometimes you see it done in the back of an ambulance if they’re thrashing around. Never seen sedation used that quickly out on the sidewalk.”
However Heed doesn’t believe the officers in question used excessive force, with a qualification.
“I don’t have the entire context from before the video started but was it excessive, no. Was it unfortunate, yes, because their head hit the pavement,” said Heed. “The cop did what they were trained to do.”
Whether the cop did what they were trained to do is up for debate, however. In a 2001 Law Enforcement Review Board decision about another incident there’s pretty clear direction to the EPS about matters of this nature.
“The forcing of a person forward in a rapid movement that may occasion blunt head contact with a hard or paved surface is a measure that ought to be employed only when absolutely necessary… The Board considers such a measure advisable only as a last resort and only when some notice is given respecting the action to be taken,” reads the decision. A copy of this decision was referred to the Edmonton Police Commission and the senior training officers of the EPS back in 2001.
But according to HARES, and to the video record, violence wasn’t EPS’s last resort on Sunday—it was the first one.