A Victoria police officer abused his authority and used unnecessary force when he arrested Tyler Archer on March 21, 2010, a hearing has determined.
The kicking and kneeing incident involving constables Chris Bowser, 40, and Brendan Robinson, 26, was captured on video and posted to YouTube, where it has been watched thousands of times. The officers had been called to deal with a brawl outside a bar on Store Street.
On Wednesday, adjudicator Ben Casson, who presided over the hearing ordered by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, found both Bowser and Robinson used excessive force during the arrest of Archer, a then 21-year-old Claremont Secondary School graduate who played for the Junior Shamrocks lacrosse team.
Casson found Bowser abused his authority by not intervening when Robinson rushed in and tackled Archer, and by delivering foot and knee strikes to Archer’s body.
Bowser will face a disciplinary hearing, tentatively scheduled for April 5.
The adjudicator did not find Robinson had abused his authority. Rather, he found Robinson, who was in his first year on the job, made a series of errors before tackling Archer, who was sitting on the ground, about to be handcuffed by Bowser. Casson found Robinson failed to pause and assess the situation, misinterpreted Archer’s behaviour as non-compliant and failed to give clear commands.
“I do not believe that it is the intention of the Police Act to subject a police officer to disciplinary proceedings when they used unnecessary force based on an honest but mistaken perception of an occurrence,” Casson said.
Bowser’s perception that Archer was a threat should have been dispelled when the young man got down on the ground as he was commanded to do and rolled onto his buttocks, Casson said.
Archer’s lawyer, Richard Neary, who is also representing him in a civil suit, said the decision has been a long time coming. “The way Const. Bowser has been exonerated up to this point has been a real appalling miscarriage of justice. … That’s been exposed now and that’s a tremendous relief.” Bowser’s actions were cleared in probes by three other police forces.
“I would wager that the City of Victoria has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to defend Bowser’s actions and refusing to admit that what happened to Archer was wrong,” Neary said.
“It’s been a long road and I’m just relieved that it’s over,” said Archer, who attended Casson’s announcement with his mother.
Acting Victoria police chief John Ducker expressed disappointment in the ruling but said the department respects the process. “These officers are called to move in on very difficult, very challenging situations . . . and make perfect decisions in a matter of seconds.” Ducker said video of the incident provided only a “narrow focus.” He said it will take careful analysis of the ruling before a decision is made on whether to appeal.
Penalties can range from a verbal warning to dismissal, Ducker said.
“These are some of the best officers we have in the department. I don’t feel they were acting unreasonably.”
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