VANCOUVER - The forceful arrest of man by a Port Moody, B.C., police officer was unlawful and is part of a disturbing trend of police turning on the victim, the man's lawyer said Wednesday.
Part of last Sunday morning's arrest was caught on video and shows the officer grabbing a man around the neck and hurling him to the ground.
The actions of the police "were clearly unlawful and represented the use of excessive force, but that's not where the unlawful activity of the police ends," said lawyer Matthew Nathanson at a news conference.
He said if the video hadn't been recorded, the true version of what happened would not have been revealed.
"My clients' account of what happened in the bar is very different than what has been put out in public by the police."
Nathanson's clients, Herbert Ramos and Tracey Ferris, have filed a complaint with the B.C. Police Complaint Commissioner and are demanding an apology for the arrest and mistreatment while in jail.
On Monday, the Port Moody police issued a news release stating that Ramos and Ferris had been ejected from the Golden Spike Pub for assaulting and threatening employees and were continuing to yell at staff when police arrived.
The release described Ramos as "unco-operative" despite multiple warnings.
But Nathanson said that, if you watch the video, the officer on the left side of the screen doesn't look concerned about Ramos before the incident.
"He's got his thumbs in his pocket like there's nothing going on. If there was a real threat (the officers would have) their hands up, they would be dealing with him in a certain way," said Nathanson.
"Instead of owning up to their actions and doing the right thing, they have unfortunately been ... attacking the victim," said Nathanson. "They've employed a strategy of the best defence is the best offence."
Ramos and Ferris were taken to cells and released when sober, Const. Luke van Winkel said in the release. No charges were laid.
Nathanson compared the arrest with the incident at Vancouver's airport where Robert Dziekanski died, saying both cases involve officers who denied misconduct despite videos disputing their claims.
Dziekanski was confronted by four RCMP officers at the airport and jolted several times by a police Taser just seconds into the confrontation. He died on the floor of the airport.
Nathanson also said that police breached the couple's constitutional rights, as neither Ramos nor Ferris were told the reason for their arrest, and they were not provided access to counsel.
"When (Ferris) asked the reasons for her arrest, she was repeatedly told to 'shut up' in an aggressive manner by the police," said Nathanson.
The Port Moody Police Department did not reply to a request for a comment on the allegations.
In the Monday release, Winkel said that "since a review of the incident is underway we are unable to comment further."
Deputy Police Complaint Commissioner Rollie Woods said that he is prohibited from talking about specific complaints under the Police Act, but acknowledged that this complaint "would be made admissible for sure."
"There's plenty of evidence to support an allegation of misconduct," he said, adding that investigations of complaints can take up to six months and are very thorough.
"In my experience — we get a lot of video these days — you don't know what happened before the video started, and so to be fair to everybody, including the complainants, it's important to look at all of the evidence, not just the video evidence, before a decision is made," he said.
Woods said that discipline for "abuse of authority," which includes an officer using excessive force, can range from advice regarding future conduct up to a 30-days suspension, demotion or dismissal.
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