The B.C. agency that oversees the conduct of municipal police has ordered an investigation into the detention, handcuffing and arrest of an Indigenous man and his granddaughter who were trying to open an account at a Vancouver branch of the Bank of Montreal.
The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner has brought in an outside police agency to conduct the investigation into the Vancouver Police Department, an office spokesperson said Tuesday.
Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said the account of the incident “physically made me feel sick” and said it should never happen again.
Maxwell Johnson has been identified in various media reports as the man at the centre of the incident. On Tuesday, he declined to comment on the latest developments during a social-media exchange with The Globe and Mail.
According to CBC, Mr. Johnson was visiting the downtown bank branch on Dec. 20 with his 12-year-old granddaughter with the purpose of setting up a savings account for her.
Mr. Johnson has said a bank employee raised questions about his identification and the bank, fearing a case of fraud, called the police.
On arrival, police handcuffed Mr. Johnson and his granddaughter and placed them in the back of a police vehicle. Both were released after police confirmed their identities.
Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer has said the appropriate procedure was followed given concerns raised by the bank.
But the commissioner’s office received complaints from the public. Andrea Spindler, deputy police complaint commissioner, said the Delta police force will look into the incident, reviewing police policies, procedures and training.
The use of handcuffs will be part of the investigation.
Ms. Spindler said the Delta police will have six months to conduct their investigation, although they can request an extension as needed.
The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner is a civilian, independent officer of the legislature overseeing complaints, investigations and discipline involving municipal police in the province.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Vancouver police directed all questions to the police complaint commissioner. “We are limited on what we can say on these incidents as the investigation is being done by an outside agency,” Constable Tania Visintin wrote.
The mayor put most of the blame on the bank, rather than police.
“The root of the problem is the call from the bank,” Mr. Stewart told a news conference at city hall.
“This isn’t one rogue employee. This went through management. This was a joint decision by the Bank of Montreal organization. They have to explain why this happened and I don’t think they’ve done a good enough job yet.”
Asked for comment Tuesday, the Bank of Montreal’s head of media relations, Paul Gammal, cited past responses. The bank has said the incident was “unacceptable” and has apologized for what happened.
The bank has said it is reviewing what happened, how it was handled and will use the experience as a learning opportunity.
Mr. Stewart said that, as the chair of the Vancouver police board, he has already had several conversations with other board members and they are set to debate a possible department policy review at Thursday’s meeting of the police board.
"We will begin our policy review to see if any policies had any influence on this case. We'll look at all relevant policies."
He noted the police have policies about when and how people are restrained and also how much additional training for diversity issues is needed.
The mayor said it’s not up to the board to oversee operational decisions – that’s the job of the complaints-commission office – but that the board can have a say in policy reviews and new directions.
He deflected questions about what he thought of the police behaviour in deciding to handcuff a young girl, saying that he wouldn’t comment while the police-complaints commission is investigating.
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