The six Vancouver Police Department members convicted of eighteen counts of assault face a sentencing hearing in British Columbia Provincial Court on December 16 and 17, 2003. The prosecutor’s submissions may shed more light on the terms of any plea agreement negotiated with the police officers’ lawyers.

On November 24, 2003, the six men pleaded guilty to eighteen charges of assault arising from an incident that occurred on January 14, 2003. According to an agreed statement of facts negotiated between the officers’ lawyers and the prosecutor, the six VPD members apprehended three civilians in downtown Vancouver at 4:30 a.m. and put them in a paddy wagon. The paddy wagon and three squad cars then drove to Stanley Park, a large wooded area adjacent to the city. There, the civilians were taken out of the paddy wagon one by one and assaulted. The civilians were not charged with any offences. The incident only came to light when a seventh officer, a new recruit, reported it to superiors.

These cowardly criminal acts were an appalling abuse of police power and breach of the public trust. One can only imagine how terrifying the experience must have been to the three victims who were assaulted in the darkness by six burly uniformed policemen.

Surprisingly, the officers remain on paid leave while they await sentencing in December and a disciplinary hearing in January. Amazingly, the VPD’s spokesperson has suggested that each officer may ultimately retain his job.

There can be no doubt that the six officers and their lawyers made a favourable plea bargain with the prosecutor. The agreed statement of facts minimized the severity of the conduct, including phrases like “P.C. Kojima contacted [one of the victims] with his police-issue baton in the vicinity of his knee” and “P.C. Kojima prodded [another victim] with his boot”. When the guilty pleas were entered, charges of assault with a weapon and attempting to obstruct justice (in relation to an alleged coverup) were stayed.

Whatever punishment may be imposed by the court, these six officers are no longer fit to wear the City’s badge and uniform, in our opinion. They abducted three people and perpetrated premeditated assaults on them in a dark, private location. In so doing, they showed contempt for the law they were sworn to uphold. They do not deserve to be employed by the citizens of Vancouver.

*Pride, Honour, Respect: the first three words in the Vancouver Police Department’s promotional videotape entitled “The Promise”.