column was published in the
Shore News on
Feb. 17, 1999)
Uncertainty cast over actions in arrests
By Leo Knight
provincial court Judge R. Miller pronounced a not guilty verdict
last week against the three Vancouver police officers charged
with assault emanating from the now infamous arrest of the
hulking David Davidson at the Roxy nightclub in August 1997, the
courtroom erupted with the cheers of fellow officers sitting in
before the cheers had subsided, Miller pronounced one of the
officers, Constable Brad Brewer, guilty of a separate but
related assault. The mystifying decision has the potential to
affect every police officer in the province who has to be
physically involved arresting a suspect.
three officers have been through a year of hell, their own
version of the Queen's annus horribilus. It started a
year ago, almost to the day, when Vancouver Police Department
Chief Constable Bruce Chambers arbitrarily announced the
suspension of the officers before the Crown had even decided on
whether charges should be laid.
resulting outcry from the rank and file forced the chief to
reconsider his ill-conceived move and he reinstated the
officers, albeit to administrative duties, not on the street
where they had served the community for a combined almost 40
chief's ham-fisted handling of the situation resulted in an
unprecedented show of disrespect for the office of the Chief
Constable and triggered a morale issue that festers to this day.
what can only be described as a face-saving move, the "Roxy
Three" were charged criminally before the file had even
made its way through the checks and balances in the system.
This, despite the fact there were no credible witnesses
supporting the assault allegations and a myriad of witnesses,
both police and civilian, supporting the officers' version of
primary witness against the officers was one of their own, a
female officer then known as Constable Kate Yeo.
who later changed her name to Caprari, initially described
Davidson as "a violent animal." Strong words, but
seemingly appropriate when the scope of his behaviour that night
is looked at.
under oath, she changed her mind and stated those words were an
the lengthy internal investigation she changed her version of
events on several occasions, seemingly unable to get it exactly
throughout, she maintained that constables Brewer, Keiron
McConnell and Acting Sergeant Rod Pederson, brutally kicked
Davidson while he was handcuffed and being dragged to the paddy
reality, of the three, only Pederson was "hands on"
with the hulking, juiced-up biker wannabee. To prove their
innocence, both McConnell and Brewer took polygraph exams and
passed. Yet, despite this and the fact there was no
corroboration, they were still charged.
Brewer's case, while he was supposedly putting the boot into
Davidson, he was actually dealing with a bystander, Michael
Dowler, who had seen fit to get into a scuffle with a bouncer at
the Roxy while the police were trying to deal with the initial
declined to take Brewer's advice to leave well enough alone and
depart lest he be arrested for obstruction. While he was being
searched, he spun around on Brewer who had placed him in the
search position -- with both arms outstretched on the same paddy
wagon Davidson was being loaded into on the far side.
reacted in the way he had been trained. He grabbed Dowler by the
throat and pushed him back against the wagon and got control of
the young rowdy. He spun him around and completed searching and
handcuffing his prisoner.
for his part, got very contrite and begged not to be sent to
jail, spoiling his otherwise clean record.
then made his first mistake. He took pity on Dowler and ordered
the wagon driver to simply remove him from the area and release
him without charge.
Brewer followed through with the charging of Dowler, doubtless
he would not be in the situation he finds himself in today. So
much for having a heart.
Dowler, it should be told, was very grateful for the break
Brewer gave him. He did not initiate any complaint. Rather, he
was contacted by internal investigators and pushed into making
never hid or in any way tried to cover up what had occurred with
Dowler. He truly believed he had done everything by the book. In
fact he was backed up by the department's own use of force
Joel Johnson testified it "was a natural transition of
prisoner spins to gain control of the prisoner." He
explained the hold used by Brewer was not only appropriate, but
was a training move.
Brewer was found guilty by Judge Miller.
gave a 10-page written decision. He decided, somehow, that
Caprari was being truthful and courageous.
This might be true if this was a "Serpico" type situation -- honest cop fighting against corruption and running against the Blue Wall of Silence.
not in this case. She probably believes what she says and thinks
there is a mountain of evidence and witness testimony that says
she is wrong.
herself is a tragic figure.
lost an eye in a duty-related incident when she was kicked by a
prisoner. She underwent considerable therapy and, in my view,
should not have been put back into a high-stress environment,
like patrol, again. Her subsequent history has been rather
checkered and, I believe, is directly related to the loss of her
it seems it is because of her tragic history that Miller
supported her in the way he did. He couldn't convict the "Roxy
Three" with all the evidence to the contrary. So he took
the path of least resistance and potted Brewer on the Dowler
the message that sends is wrong and dangerous. Every time a cop
makes an arrest and the suspect resists, the officer will have
to decide whether to react.
indecision could result in a police officer getting needlessly
"Roxy Three" arrived home to find phone messages from
personnel Sergeant Val Harrison, offering them reinstatement to
any patrol position of their choice.
said she had been authorized by the chief to make the offer.
enough, sources tell me, all three declined.
For them, in this poisoned political atmosphere, it's much safer flying a desk.