Two Vancouver police officers are going to face allegations of mistreating people in the Downtown Eastside.
The officers are known only in the neighbourhood by their badge numbers 3066 and 3108.
They were involved in the seizure of weed products from a local market on September 14.
The community complaint being prepared by Pivot Legal Society is not related to the confiscation of the pot items that were intended by distributors as substitute to hard drugs.
Sarah Blyth, president of the High Hopes Foundation, which sells the products at nonprofit prices, filmed the seizure.
Images of the two police officers in the video caught the attention of many in the neighbourhood.
“Shortly after the video was posted, Pivot started to see a lot of stories coming out online,” Pivot lawyer Anna Cooper told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview Wednesday (September 26). “And also we received a number of calls saying that two of the officers depicted in that video had a long history of mistreating people in that community.”
“So we reached out to a number of people in the community and basically we just began to hear an ever rising number of complaints about those two officers,” Cooper continued.
A day earlier on September 25, Pivot and volunteers took down in writing stories from people in the Downtown Eastside.
The event was held at 60 East Hastings Street in an indoor space by the Overdose Prevention Society, of which High Hopes Foundation’s Blyth is executive director.
At least 22 people came, according to Cooper.
“They all were people who had complaints against one or both of those officers,” Cooper said.
Cooper said that grievances included “harassing and abusive contact, making people feel small and unsafe and afraid”.
“And there had been several allegations of outright assault as well,” she said.
The pictures of the two officers were put in posters in the neighbourhood, which called on residents to come forward if they have something to say.
In a media scrum on September 26, Chief Constable Adam Palmer told reporters that having pictures of the officers in posters was completely "offside" on the part of Pivot.
"This is not the right way," Palmer said.
The chief constable also defended the actions of the two officers involved in the weed seizure.
"These officers were doing their job," Palmer said.
Palmer also said that the officers "did the right thing".
According to Palmer, he has not received any complaints against the two officers.
VPD spokesperson Constable Jason Doucette informed the Straight that the department doesn't have anything else to add outside of what Palmer has said.
Cooper cannot say at this point what specific allegations will be included in the mass complaint that will be filed before the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC).
“Not all of those complaints will end up being filed before the OPCC, mostly because a significant number of people are too scared to go through the process,” she said.
According to Cooper, she had a previous interaction with one of the officers, in which the officer allegedly acted in an “extremely hostile and aggressive way”.
“If police are willing to be that abusive with people who actually have some power and are working for organizations that can support them or someone like me, you know, who’s actually a lawyer and protected by Pivot, it raises really serious concerns for how they’re treating everybody else,” Cooper said.
Cooper also recalled that when Pivot held the complaint gathering event on September 25, police officers were taking photos of people coming in.
Cooper said that the presence of police across from 60 East Hastings Street was not appropriate.
“I don’t think that police should engage in any conduct which could be seen as intimidating people who are trying to file complaints,” Cooper said. “I think it’s extremely clear that people are already scared of putting themselves forward through the complaint process, and I think that kind of activity makes it even harder.”