Canada

Vancouver police, mayor apologize for handcuffing of B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court justice

VANCOUVER —
Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart is apologizing and condemning systemic racism after an incident that the city’s police department describes as a case of mistaken identity.

Vancouver police say officers were dispatched to the seawall near English Bay around 9:15 a.m. Friday after receiving several 911 calls about a man assaulting strangers in the area.

“It was reported that the suspect would appear to be walking normally, but would then suddenly start kicking, punching, and spitting at people,” police said in a news statement.

Officers soon located a man who they thought resembled the description of the suspect and “briefly detained him to investigate,” according to police. This detention included handcuffing the man, who police described as “compliant” and who identified himself as a retired judge.

While police did not identify the man they detained in their statement, Stewart’s statement identifies him as Selwyn Romilly, the first Black person to be named a B.C. Supreme Court justice. 

Police say they removed the handcuffs from the man “quickly” and that he was “allowed to proceed when it became obvious that he was not the suspect and had done nothing wrong.”

Officers located the actual suspect a few minutes later and arrested him, police said, adding that a Vancouver Police Department supervisor had contacted the retired judge to apologize and explain the process for filing a complaint, should the man wish to do so.

CTV News Vancouver has reached out to Romilly to get more information about his experience, but has not yet received a response.

“I am appalled by the wrongful handcuffing and detainment of retired Justice Selwyn Romilly and have reached out to apologize,” Stewart said in his statement. “Such incidents are unacceptable and cannot continue to happen.”

The mayor’s statement goes on to say no one should have to experience wrongful detention by police, and highlight that such incidents can be “very damaging,” especially for Indigenous and Black people and other people of colour, “who already face multiple barriers and discrimination.”

“As someone who continues to benefit from colonialism, I recognize my privilege and how this impacts the way I live and navigate through our systems of government and everyday life,” Stewart said. “I have contacted (VPD) Chief (Adam) Palmer and Vancouver Police Board members to inform them of my views and actions.”

Stewart said the board – which he chairs – would be reviewing the incident “at the next available opportunity.”

“I want to say again, all of our institutions are based on colonialism and, as such, are systemically racist,” Stewart concluded. “This includes the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Police Department. We must continue to acknowledge this reality and do our best to combat racism – especially in our government institutions.” 


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