B.C. taxpayers have had to pay nearly half a million dollars for a public hearing into a contentious arrest by two Victoria police officers.
The arrest in 2010 attracted widespread public attention when a video of the episode was posted to YouTube.
>>> Scroll down to see the YouTube video. Warning: Explicit language.
The 10-month process to determine whether constables Chris Bowser and Brendan Robinson used excessive force in their arrest of Tyler Archer on March 21, 2010, was the longest police complaint hearing in recent B.C. history, which accounts for the steep price tag, said the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner.
Victoria police spent $278,597 on the hearing — $245,057 on the officers’ legal fees and $33,540 in overtime for officers who testified, including Bowser and Robinson.
The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, which ordered the public hearing, spent $170,000 on legal costs, more than double the price tag for typical public hearings. Of that total, $102,000 was for legal counsel and $68,000 for adjudicator Ben Casson.
“This one was unusually expensive,” said deputy police complaint commissioner Rollie Woods. “We had over 20 witnesses, [26 sitting days and] two officers who each had different counsel representing them.”
And the costs associated with the incident do not stop there.
Victoria police will have to shell out more money for lawyers to defend the two officers in a civil suit brought by Archer, who is seeking compensation for assault, unlawful confinement and violation of his right to security of the person.
The YouTube video, viewed about 284,000 times, captured the arrest of Archer, then a 19-year-old Claremont Secondary School graduate who played defence for the Junior Shamrocks lacrosse team. On the video, Bowser can be seen kicking and kneeing Archer in the side as the two officers try to handcuff him after a drunken brawl outside a downtown nightclub.
Bowser received a two-day suspension without pay. Robinson was not penalized because the adjudicator found he did not abuse his authority.
“I think the result achieved by the public hearing is a good one and a fairly obvious one. It should not have taken year after year and hundreds of thousands of dollars to get,” said Archer’s lawyer, Richard Neary.
Neary said Victoria police should have accepted responsibility and admitted wrongdoing at an earlier stage “rather than, it seems, instinctively digging in their heels, regardless of how compelling the evidence.”
Victoria police spokesman Const. Mike Russell said in an email that “some of the scheduling issues [which led to overtime costs] are beyond our control. Officers are required to attend as witnesses, and to attend as a procedural right when they are the named subject officer.
“We have learned significant lessons from this latest public hearing process and, in particular, are taking a closer look at our scheduling practices so as to reduce the cost of having officers attend these mandatory hearings.”
The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner wants the provincial government to address flaws in the Police Act that prevent the disciplining authority — the police department looking into an officer’s alleged misconduct — from calling witnesses to determine wrongdoing. The officer being investigated is the only one who can call witnesses, which Woods said they rarely do, leaving the process one-sided.
“It’s hard to find out what the truth is when you only hear part of the story.”
In the Archer case, that meant New Westminster Police Chief Dave Jones didn’t hear from a single witness in his disciplinary investigation, which ruled the use of force was not excessive. Police complaint commissioner Stan Lowe ordered the public hearing because he disagreed with Jones’s findings.
>>> Warning: Video contains explicit language.
© Copyright 2013