B.C. Wheelchair Takedown Under Investigation

Posted: Updated:
Pacific Centre mall security guards are seen taking down a man in a wheelchair after he was suspected of shoplifting. (CBC)
Pacific Centre mall security guards are seen taking down a man in a wheelchair after he was suspected of shoplifting. (CBC)

B.C.'s justice minister has ordered an investigation into the violent handling of a man in a wheelchair by security guards at a downtown Vancouver shopping mall, as seen in cellphone video broadcast by CBC News.

Shirley Bond said she has also ordered an investigation into another incident in which guards at Metrotown in Burnaby roughed up a teenager who had photographed them taking down a man in the mall.

In the Vancouver incident, a one-legged man in a motorized wheelchair was pulled aside on Oct. 6 by three undercover security guards at Pacific Centre who suspected him of shoplifting.

On the video, one of the guards is seen lashing out with a string of profanities, and then appears to hit the man, pull him out of the wheelchair onto the ground, order him to roll over onto his chest.

The incident was caught on cellphone video by one of dozens of witnesses.

“Of course I’m troubled,” Bond said Thursday. “We’re going to do a thorough investigation. That’s exactly what people would expect us to do.”

The guards at Pacific Centre are employed by Genesis Security, under contract to the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association.

On Wednesday, Genesis vice-president Ashley Meehan said the man in the wheelchair was known from a number of previous incidents and had aggressively resisted the guards and possibly assaulted them before the video was recorded.

Guard fired

But on Thursday, the company said that one of the guards has been fired and the two others have been suspended pending further investigation.

“The actions of the employees are contrary to our company’s policies and not consistent with the community-oriented company that I have built over the past 15 years,” Genesis Security Group president and CEO Camil Dubuc said in a release.

Toronto-based security consultant David Hyde, who once worked with Pacific Centre, said the security industry is facing serious problems finding good people.

“Unfortunately, the standard has really — excuse the expression — been dumbed down,” Hyde said. “It’s such a low-paid industry that you can’t really attract good-quality candidates to work in front-line security positions.”

40 hours training

In B.C., security guard certification requires 40 hours of basic training, plus an extra three days to learn how to use restraints.

The code of conduct in the province's Security Services Act states that guards "must not use profane, abusive or insulting language or actions,” and "must not use unnecessary force."

Bond said that her ministry might have to review training standards.

“One of the things that investigation might contemplate is whether or not that training is adequate enough,” the minister said.

Vancouver police were called to the Pacific Centre incident when a witness called 911. No charges have been laid against the alleged shoplifter or any of the guards involved.

Police have said they would like to speak again to the man in the wheelchair, but have not been able to locate him.

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