Warning: The video contains graphic footage that some may find disturbing.
A video of Metro Vancouver Transit Police (MVTP) tasing a woman and repeatedly kicking her in the back while restraining her during an alleged mental health crisis has sparked an outcry on social media.
The footage, which was first shared on TikTok Thursday (Oct. 27), was filmed at Granville SkyTrain Station around 4:30 p.m. and shows two police officers restraining, tasing, and kicking a woman who is heard yelling at them to stop hitting her. Her shirt has been pulled over her head exposing her bra in front of a crowd.
Several passersby tell the officers to stop hitting her as she continues to yell that she is "not hitting them" and "not resisting them." The sound of the Taser is also audible throughout the video.
On Thursday night, the Transit Police addressed the incident on Twitter, stating that the woman was "suffering from a mental health crisis" and threatening passengers. They added that officers used "physical force, including a Taser" to prevent the woman from hurting herself and others.
"She is now at hospital, receiving much needed care," police added in a tweet.
While the video was later removed from TikTok — where it was originally shared — it is still up on Instagram as of Friday morning.
Transit Police respond to public outcry over incident
MVTP spokesperson Amanda Steed told Vancouver Is Awesome that several callers reported that the woman was "chasing other passengers, screaming incoherently and removing her clothing."
When police first arrived at the station, they observed that she was behaving "in an erratic manner." Their attempts to defuse the situation verbally through "several" techniques were unsuccessful, explained Steed.
"Concerned for her safety and the safety of other transit users, they had to physically gain control of the woman to further assess her wellbeing and mitigate potential risk to her and the public," she noted.
When asked if police typically kick people during these types of incidents, Steed said "knee strikes" and Tasers are approved in circumstances where suspects are
"actively resisting and displaying assaultive behaviour" and that the woman was also attempting to grab the officer's weapons.
Police say the woman did not suffer any injuries and paramedics sedated her before taking her to the hospital. She was later admitted under Section 28 of the Mental Health Act.
"Over the past several months, we have seen an increase in mental health calls that are often unpredictable and dynamic in nature," Steed said.
"Our primary goal is always to preserve the safety of everyone involved when resolving these types of incidents. In the vast majority of calls, this is achieved through means other than [the] use of force.
"However, sometimes, it’s the only tool left available when safety is our priority."
Video of incident sparks outcry on social media
Numerous people have expressed outrage on social media, with many of them asking why the officers were kicking the woman in the back.
On Twitter, one woman asked the MVTP if its officers receive training for how to respond in a mental health crisis, adding that she has a family member who suffers from a mental illness and that she would be "horrified if this is how it was handled."
In response, the MVTP said that the "officers receive a variety of ongoing crisis de-escalation and mental health training. Use of force is seldom used, but sometimes is a necessary step to keep everyone safe."
In a previous interview, Benjamin Perrin, a professor at the University of British Columbia Peter A. Allard School of Law, told V.I.A. that there is a massive epidemic in Canada regarding the use of police force, including the death of individuals who are in mental health distress.
Also known as "conducted energy weapons," Tasers have been fatal in numerous mental health calls across the country. The Canadian Mental Health Association has long advocated for better support for people in crisis, citing the "propensity of law enforcement officials to deploy them on people experiencing a mental health crisis."
An article in the Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture from the University of Alberta outlines how Tasers are used disproportionately against people experiencing mental health crises, with substance abuse issues, who are poor, and who are of colour.
Warning: This video contains graphic footage that is disturbing.
If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety or needs other mental health supports, help is available.
- In an emergency, call 911
- In need of support, call 310-6789 (no area code needed)
You can find a full list of resources on the B.C. government’s website.