A Downtown Eastside homeless man says Vancouver police threw him to the ground, punching and kicking his face, while arresting him for allegedly stealing a bicycle tire in Olympic Village in September.
Travis Dunford, 36, says he was arrested on Sept. 24, suspected of stealing a bicycle tire near the Tap & Barrel Pub.
Dunford, who admits committing petty theft to feed a heroin habit, alleges that, even after he was in handcuffs, with his face pushed to the ground, officers continued to kick him.
“I dropped the tire on the officer’s foot. Next thing I know, my face is on the ground like a cheese grater. They’re kicking me,” said Dunford.
The Pivot Legal Society has taken over the case, and is asking witnesses to come forward. Lawyer Douglas King said Dunford suffered more than just cuts and bruises.
“The most serious of his injuries is to the left eye, which was almost completely swollen shut, the day after this occurred,” said King.
“All of this suggest that a moderate degree of force was used against him.”
Vancouver Police Sgt. Randy Fincham said the incident occurred around 11:00 p.m. PT, when police confronted and attempted to take into custody a man suspected of stealing a bait bicycle they had set out.
“During that incident the person that was riding the bicycle, after refusing to follow police commands, fell … or was taken to the ground by police, where that person did sustain an injury,” said Fincham.
According to Fincham, paramedics attended the scene, and that person was taken to the hospital as a precaution.
Fincham also stated the injury was reported to the VPD Professional Standards Section, and the following day it was also reported to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner.
King said incidents like Dunfords don’t move forward because these complaints are investigated by police, instead of the independent office.
“Police have their own version of events. Without an independent system of investigation.. the only people who are successful are the ones with video footage or someone who can back up what they say.”
King estimates for every one caught on video, a dozen aren’t, which he said can lead to police brutality going unreported.
The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner provides independent civilian oversight of complaints involving municipal police in B.C.
Without a witness, the case doesn’t qualify to be investigated by the independent investigation organization.