Mayor Gregor Robertson says he has "no issues" with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal's decision to grant a full hearing for a woman with cerebral palsy who was shoved to the ground by a police officer in the Downtown Eastside.
"It's important that this is clarified and resolved once and for all," said Robertson, who doubles as chairperson of the Vancouver Police Board. "I think a lot of us were disturbed by what happened and it'll be important to see some resolution to it."
In releasing the decision Tuesday, tribunal member Murray Geiger-Adams denied the application by Vancouver police Const. Taylor Robinson to dismiss Sandy Davidsen's complaint that she was discriminated against because of her physical disabilities.
Robinson wanted Davidsen's complaint dismissed because it had "no reasonable prospect of success" and fell into "the realm of speculation," according to court documents filed by Robinson's lawyers.
Davidsen, who also suffers from multiple sclerosis, was on a sidewalk in the Downtown Eastside in June 2010 when a video camera from a hotel captured Robinson shoving her to the ground. Robinson argued he believed Davidsen was going for his gun.
"I have not been given an adequate basis for concluding that Const. Robinson's evidence, when tested by cross-examination in light of the video, will necessarily prevail over that of Ms. Davidsen, when similarly tested, such that her complaint has no reasonable prospect of success," Geiger-Adams said in his decision.
Davidsen was not available for comment but her lawyer, Scott Bernstein, said his client was happy with the decision and looking forward to a public hearing.
"She's really just looking to have some systemic change in the way policing is done by the Vancouver police in the Downtown Eastside," said Bernstein, adding that his client has also launched a lawsuit against Robinson.
Robinson was charged with assault but the charges were stayed after he agreed to an alternative measures program. He was transferred out of the Downtown Eastside and the department gave him a one-day suspension without pay.
The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner was not satisfied with the penalty issued from the police department and has ordered a discipline hearing.
Police Chief Jim Chu told the Courier that Robinson has apologized to Davidsen and was found in breach of department rules.
"The tribunal made a decision and they believe it's an appropriate decision," Chu said. "I haven't reviewed the reasons for their decision, I'm sure they have good reasons."
Robinson wrote an apology to Davidsen in which he explained why he shoved her to the ground.
"The reason that I used the amount of force in which I did against you was because I thought at the time you were attempting to reach for my firearm," he wrote in his letter filed in court documents. "As police officers we go through rigorous training when dealing with our firearms. The actions that I took were purely instinctual when I felt my firearm was being targeted. The force in itself is something that I regret using but it is what I did afterwards that makes me most sorrowful."
He added: "I am not going to try to make excuses for what I did because all attempts would fall short. I made a mistake and if it were possible to go back and do it over again, I would not have walked away from you while you were lying there."
The hearing will likely begin in the spring of 2013.
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