North Vancouver RCMP are speaking up after a video showing officers using force to arrest a young person circulated widely on social media, Thursday, drawing accusations of police brutality and racism.
The video, which was shared by a group of teens on Instagram, was captured on Nov. 15 at McDonald’s on Marine Drive and Pemberton Avenue.
In the video, two RCMP officers are seen physically restraining a struggling young woman while the rest of the young group are demanding to be told why their friend is being arrested and insisting she hadn’t done anything wrong.
The teen who posted the video, which has been seen thousands of times on social media, didn’t respond to a request for an interview although the caption on the video lays out their version of events.
They say police detained them in the McDonald’s on the basis of mistaken identity and that they were co-operative. One of the group asked if she could use the washroom and was told no. When the girl raised her voice, the officers “grabbed her, pushed her head into the drink machine (which caused her to have a indent in her head), pulled her whole entire top off to the point where all her breasts were exposed in front of everyone…” the post states.
The girl had an anxiety attack outside and was throwing up following the incident, the post continues.
Others commented that the teen is black and held up the video as an example of racism in policing.
North Vancouver RCMP responded to the video Thursday afternoon saying there is more to the incident than what the video depicts.
Sgt. Peter DeVries said officers were called to the McDonald's around 9 p.m. when a group of 10 to 12 youths between the ages of 13 and 15 were causing a disturbance, yelling at staff and refusing to leave when asked by management.
Prior to the arrest, DeVries said video from the McDonald's shows the girl kicking one of the officers repeatedly, though not injuring him. That, DeVries said, is backed up by surveillance video from inside the restaurant.
Although DeVries couldn’t comment on the specifics of the arrest tactics in the video, he did say in general terms “when officers are faced with assaultive behaviour, they are authorized to use reasonable force to ensure public safety and to apprehend offenders.”
“It needs to be de-escalated and our officers did that, and they are responsible for maintaining calm and using appropriate force where necessary,” he said. “We are held to account to that and if we fall outside of that, then we have to answer for those actions.”
DeVries said he is not aware of any formal complaints having been made about the officers but that option is available.
“If anyone involved in that incident has concerns, they’re fully within their rights to file a complaint against any of the officers that were there. That’s part of the process that we have as oversight,” he said.
On the accusations of commenters saying the video depicts anti-black racism on the part of police, DeVries responded, “I see nothing in that video that speaks to anything having to do with race.”
DeVries said the incident is still under investigation but the RCMP’s Youth Support Unit is now involved and working with the teens and their families along with North Shore Restorative Justice Society, which works to address youth behaviour outside of the criminal court system.