An independent review of the controversial arrest of Maxwell Johnson and his granddaughter in 2019 at a Bank of Montreal branch by Vancouver police found two officers arrested and handcuffed the pair “without reasonable and probable grounds.”
The report, written by former justice Brian Neal, went against a review conducted by an outside police service that found no misconduct had occurred. Neal wrote that the arrests “demonstrated serious, blameworthy conduct contrary to section 77 of the Police Act.”
“Having considered all of the circumstances set out in the investigation report, the evidence of witnesses and submissions advanced, I have found that both Cst. W and Cst.T (Cst. Canon Wong and Cst. Mitchel Tong) acted oppressively in their dealings with Mr. Johnson and his granddaughter. Specifically, I have found that the officers’ actions in arresting and handcuffing the parties was undertaken without reasonable and probable grounds.”
In December 2019, Johnson and his granddaughter, both members of Heiltsuk First Nation, were running errands in Vancouver. Johnson stopped at a branch of the Bank of Montreal to add his granddaughter’s account to his own.
But the bank refused the request – and instead – called the police.
“What followed thereafter was a disturbing and profoundly disrespectful series of events affecting both Mr. Johnson and his granddaughter,” the report released Wednesday says. “In the result, shortly after noon that day, both Mr. Johnson and his granddaughter found themselves escorted out of the Bank without explanation by two Vancouver Police Officers.
“On exiting the Bank to the busy sidewalk and December weather, both parties were immediately arrested and handcuffed by the two officers.”
At the hearing, the officers spelled out their reasons for arresting Johnson and his granddaughter, including the fact they believed a fraud against the bank had taken place and handcuffing suspects is part of arrest.
Neal agreed – but only so far – saying that he wasn’t “satisfied that a reasonable officer, with equivalent training and experience facing the circumstances encountered by the Members, would conclude that the required grounds for arrest of either Complainant had been made out.
“A common sense assessment of the totality of the circumstances known to the Members immediately before arresting the Complainants neither objectively, nor reasonably, supported the arrest decisions.”
Neal’s report substantiates the complaints against the two officers for: “Recklessly arresting Mr. Johnson and his granddaughter without good and sufficient cause; and (ii) Recklessly using unnecessary force on Mr. Johnson and his granddaughter by applying handcuffs to the parties on arrest without good and sufficient cause.”
Wong and Ton have 10 days to file a response to the report.
Neal, who served on the Provincial Court of British Columbia, says both officers have “acknowledged new insights into Indigenous cultural safety issues,” after meeting with the Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre. Neal also wrote that both have “expressed regret for the fear and trauma experienced by the Complainants,” particularly the granddaughter.