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Const. Taylor Robinson:15-day suspension demanded for shoving woman

10/06/2014 04:43 EDT | Updated 12/06/2014 05:59 EST
The lawyer for a disabled woman  says Const. Taylor Robinson should be handed a 15-day suspension for pushing her to the ground as she tried to cut between three police officers on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Pivot Legal Society staff lawyer Douglas King is representing Sandy Davidsen, who suffers from cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. The June 2010 incident in which she was shoved to the ground was caught on video.

Robinson is facing two charges under the Police Act—one of abuse of authority for the push, and a second for neglect of duty for failing to help Davidsen to her feet. 

King says the new Police Act provides for longer suspensions.

"We would love to see this case be an example that this is behaviour that will not be tolerated," he said. "This is behaviour that needs to be addressed and needs to be punished."

What was originally supposed to be a two-week public hearing is now expected to take no more than a day after Robinson accepted the disciplinary charges against him and an agreed statement of facts.

King says he is disappointed because a two week hearing would have put a spotlight on the police culture as it relates to the Downtown Eastside.

"Was this really about one individual and a mistake or is this about a practice of policing behaviour and policing culture on the Downtown Eastside? This is an issue of utmost importance to people who live in the Downtown Eastside," he said. "The fact it’s been shrunk to one day does not do service to the individuals affected."

Pivot is calling for better training for police officers who work in marginalized communities.

It says officers should be provided with mentors and taught to be more sensitive toward the needs of people like Davidsen.

The lawyer representing the office of the police complaint commission is asking for an eight-to-10 day suspension. Robinson's lawyer is asking for a two-day suspension.

Pivot says four-year delay unacceptable

In August 2012, the Vancouver Police Department proposed a one-day suspension for Robinson but the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner disagreed and ordered a discipline hearing.

The hearing occurred 11 months later, and the department proposed a two-day suspension. But the penalty was rejected by police complaint commissioner Stan Lowe, who, in November 2013, ordered a public hearing.

King says a four-year delay to get the case to this point is far too long.

"The delays we have seen in this case are completely unacceptable," he said. "This case proves we still have a long way to go in building a working system of police accountability."

Robinson was charged with assault in Dec. 2010 following a public outcry over the incident, but the charge was later stayed and Robinson was ordered to complete an alternative measures program.

After an investigation by the New Westminster Police Department in 2012, which concluded the video clearly demonstrated abuse of authority and neglect of duty, it was recommended that Vancouver police take greater disciplinary action against Robinson.

Robinson said in a written apology to Davidsen that he thought she was reaching for his weapon, and that he regrets not helping her off the ground after pushing her down.

Sgt. Randy Fincham, spokesman for the Vancouver Police Department, said it would not be appropriate for him to comment on the recommendations before the hearing.

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