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VicPD officers use vehicles as form of force against pedestrians and cyclists, documents say

Police vehicles intentionally hit people on bikes, scooters or on foot, according to documents and reports on substantiated allegations against VicPD
Victoria police officers have used their police vehicles as a form of force at least 12 times in the last decade, including intentionally hitting people on bikes, scooters or on foot, striking people with the car door or cutting people off to force a collision, according to documents obtained through freedom of information and reports on substantiated allegations against the department.

Victoria police officers have used their police vehicles to intentionally hit people on bikes, scooters or on foot, including striking people with the car door or cutting people off to force a collision, at least 12 times in the last decade, according to documents obtained through freedom of information and reports on substantiated allegations against the department.

In 2017, a VicPD officer who saw a cyclist not wearing a helmet made a “sharp and sudden turn” in front of the cyclist, leading the person to crash into the side of the police vehicle, according to a report by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner. The officer “drove recklessly” based on what appeared to be an emotional reaction, causing oncoming vehicles to swerve to avoid the police vehicle, the report says.

The potential Motor Vehicle Act offence of not wearing a helmet, and the subsequent offence of obstructing a peace officer, did not warrant the disproportionate response of the police officer,” the OPCC report says.

The officer took responsibility and was given a verbal reprimand, while the department was advised that providing ongoing refresher training on the operation of an emergency vehicle would be worthwhile.

A series of similar incidents are revealed in documents obtained from VicPD through freedom of information requests by Stephen Harrison, a Victoria resident who writes about police accountability at ­

“Who are you keeping safe at that point?” he asked, referring to the 2017 incident. “You wanted to stop somebody for not wearing a helmet and now you’re making them crash into your car,” he said.

Harrison requested documents after reading an OPCC report that described a VicPD officer using their vehicle to pin someone against a flower planter. He became curious about how often officers were using their vehicles as a form of force.

After filing an FOI, he received more details about the December 2018 incident. According to FOI documents, officers responded to a call about an incident involving pepper spray. One officer had detained a group of people, but one was running away. Another officer drove toward the person on the sidewalk, according to a partially redacted witness account in the FOI documents.

“The vehicle steered diagonally into the male but was not driving quickly at him. The bricks began to fall down all around the male,” it says.

The OPCC report says the officer yelled at the person to stop and drove his front wheels onto the sidewalk to block his path, leaving a small space between a building, a planter box touching the building and the vehicle’s front bumper.

When the person tried to squeeze between the bumper and the planter box, the officer released the brake slightly and trapped him.

The person said his leg was injured and appeared to have scratches on his leg. He was taken to hospital and later released, the report says.

The discipline authority said the use of a police vehicle as a method of force “carries risk and potential serious harm to individuals, and should only be reserved for instances to prevent death or serious bodily harm.”

The officer was given a written reprimand for the inappropriate use of a police vehicle.

Some incidents involve police attempting to detain people who have warrants for their arrest or responding to a report of someone with a knife. Officer responses include cutting people on bikes or on scooters off to cause them to crash into the police vehicle and opening a car door on people.

Ga Grant, staff litigation counsel at the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said the incidents are concerning and she had never heard of officers intentionally hitting people on foot or on bikes for low-level offences.

“I hope this doesn’t become a bigger pattern. It should be stopped,” she said.

Police are legally authorized to use force to a degree when it is necessary and proportionate to a situation, such as to arrest someone committing a crime or to ensure public safety, she said.

“There’s no significant threat to police and to the public from a minor traffic violation by a pedestrian or a cyclist, so the dangers of hitting a pedestrian or a cyclist with a police car is disproportionate to the to the infraction,” she said.

An e-bike rider recently sued VicPD for lost wages and damages to their bike, alleging an officer knocked them off their bike using her police vehicle after the cyclist ran a red light.

“If VicPD saw a driver run a red at 30k, would they hit that driver after less than a block and run their car off the road? Or would they turn in front of them and make them crash? Probably not,” Harrison said. “So why are they then hitting cyclists and pedestrians?”

A spokesperson provided more information Monday about the circumstances surrounding the e-bike rider, identified in the small claims civil suit as Alkido Pashollari.

VicPD said in a statement the officer involved “had reason to believe that the person on the bike was wanted on warrants and was considered a danger to the community.”

The officer followed and watched the cyclist run a red light before activating lights and sirens and continuing to follow slowly.

When the person did not stop, the officer tried to stop the rider “by making contact with the rear wheel of the bike.”

The officer then realized the rider was not who they had originally thought, but was also wanted on warrants for arrest. Pashollari was found to be breaching court-ordered conditions related to a serious offence and was convicted of breaching those conditions, VicPD said.

After an investigation, VicPD determined the officer had used an inappropriate amount of force and the officer was disciplined.

VicPD said Pashollari started the claims process with ICBC by filing court documents and ICBC is contacting Pashollari to clarify the claims process.

Using a vehicle as a form of force against a person is considered an “intermediate use of force” under VicPD’s policies. It is rare for officers to use vehicles as a force option, VicPD’s statement said.

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