Two Vancouver police officers could still face a public hearing despite their employer and the City of Vancouver reaching an out-of-court settlement with a man they seriously injured in January 2010 in a case of so-called mistaken identity.
A hearing for constables Brian London and Nicholas Florkow is still possible because the B.C. Court of Appeal has agreed to hear arguments Jan. 30 from the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, whose call for a hearing was quashed in a court ruling earlier this year.
“As far as the [officers] are concerned, the case is over,” said deputy police complaint commissioner Rollie Woods. “But if the Court of Appeal comes back and agrees with the position of the complaint commissioner, then it’s possible that the public hearing could still go ahead.”
The case involves Yao Wei Wu, who suffered a broken orbital bone during an arrest outside his East Side house Jan. 21, 2010. Wu, a floor installer, suffered serious injuries before police realized he was not the culprit in a domestic assault call to his house on Lanark Street.
The constables responded to the correct address but were not aware the call, which came from a cellphone, originated from Wu’s basement suite, where a man was later arrested in connection with the assault.
Police Chief Jim Chu confirmed Friday that an out-of-court settlement was reached with Wu. All parties involved agreed not to discuss details of the settlement, according to Chu and Wu’s lawyer Cameron Ward.
“I will say that I have said in the past: Mr. Wu was an innocent man and what happened to him was very unfortunate,” the chief told reporters. “But I’ve also said the police officers were responding in good faith to a call about a domestic assault in progress and they were given that address. So very unfortunate circumstances.”
Ward told the Courier Wu was satisfied with the settlement.
“He’s trying to put the whole matter behind him and carry on with his life,” said Ward, who has represented previous clients alleging police abuse.
When asked how rare or common such a settlement is in Vancouver, Ward replied: “Speaking generally, I have found that most cases of this nature do go to trial and the Vancouver Police Department and the City tend to vigorously defend them.”
The Delta Police was tasked with investigating the incident and in November 2010 cleared London and Florkow of any wrongdoing, despite the officers admitting to hitting Wu five times in the back with “closed-handed tactical strikes.”
Wu issued a statement following the conclusion of the Delta police’s investigation, saying the investigators’ findings were “a distortion of the facts.” Wu’s lawsuit against the VPD stated the officers grabbed him, dragged him outside and repeatedly beat him.
The constables, in a statement of defence filed in B.C. Supreme Court, denied “each and every allegation” set out in the lawsuit.
Police Complaint Commissioner Stan Lowe wasn’t satisfied with the Delta police’s findings and ordered a public hearing.
Lowe alleged in a written statement in December 2010 that London and Florkow committed an abuse of their authority in the performance of their duties and “intentionally or recklessly used unnecessary force.”
In January of this year, B.C. Supreme Court Justice D. Allan Betton quashed the public hearing for the constables originally scheduled for May.
Betton concluded the commissioner had “many other provisions” in the Police Act he could have used to review the investigation into the incident, including appointing a retired judge. Lowe’s view was he could call a public hearing at any stage of the case.