Body camera shows ‘unwarranted’ arrest of Indigenous man in Calgary: Defence lawyers association

An Indigenous man is speaking out after a traffic stop in Calgary lead to a violent arrest.

Herbert Daniels told Global News he was on his way home from an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on Oct. 20, 2019, and the 67-year-old, who has diabetes, had pulled over to have some orange juice to keep his blood sugar up.

Daniels had recently bought his car in Manitoba, and hadn’t yet gotten a licence plate, but he did have a valid in-transit permit which acts as temporary registration and insurance.

In the officers’ notes on the call – obtained by Daniels and submitted to Global News – the lack of a licence plate drew the attention of two Calgary police officers.

According to the notes, the officers also wrote the car was stopped on Centre Street near 29 Avenue N.E.

“I know this to be a common area for drug trafficking and for stolen cars to be abandoned,” wrote one officer.

Body camera video, also given to Global News, shows that Daniels and the officers had a conversation about the in-transit permit, and Daniels is heard saying he’d been stopped for the same reason two days earlier.

Daniels said the officer from the previous traffic stop had verified the paperwork and sent him on his way. He said he expected a similar situation from the officers who stopped him on Centre Street.

The body camera video shows that Daniels started becoming frustrated while trying to find the bill of sale. One officer also noted this in the case file.

The officer then asked Daniels to step out of the car. The body camera video shows Daniels slamming the door has he steps out and when the arresting officer approaches, Daniels turns around.

At that point, the video shows the officer forcefully pushing Daniels into the car.

“I try to get my hand between my head and the car,” Daniels said. “I have a prism in my eye from a cataract operation and I was afraid that that would break.”

“I didn’t know what the end result was.”

Calgary police said Monday it was reviewing the incident.

“This matter is currently being reviewed by the Calgary Police Service Professional Standards Section and we are unable to provide further information about this case. We are committed to working with Mr. Daniels to ensure this matter receives proper due diligence,” a statement from CPS read.

Daniels said he thinks officers could have handled the situation differently.

“I admit that I am quite volatile at times, whatever, but this was totally beyond reason,” said Daniels.

He says the incident shows a racial bias towards Indigenous people.

“To know instantly when somebody is going to get very aggressive — very, very negative towards you… that’s a thing just about every native person can relate to,” Daniels told Global News.

Daniels was charged with resisting arrest, but he said those charges were stayed. He was also never charged with anything related to the initial traffic stop.

“Subsequent investigation resulted in the Ford having a Manitoba in-transit sticker which had valid inter-province insurance,” writes one officer in his notes.

‘Not an arrestable offence’

Tom Engel, a lawyer with the Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association, said Daniels should never have been arrested in the first place.

Engel said that after reviewing the video, he believes the officers’ action were unwarranted, and that the traffic stopped could have been handled differently.

“This officer just escalated and escalated [the situation],” said Engel. “They are trained to deescalate so he did the opposite of his training.”

However, with regards to Daniels’ claim that the actions of the police officer were racially-motivated, Engel notes that there is no mention of race during the interaction.

“Maybe this cop treats everybody the same way,” said Engle. “Some police officers, if you challenge their authority, it goes very badly.”

Trust in police

Daniels says he’d had regular interactions with police during his time working at the Sunrise Healing Lodge, a centre that provides addiction treatments for Indigenous people.

But after the arrest, Daniels said he’s lost trust in law enforcement.

“I don’t want to be within a couple of yards of them now,” said Daniels. “That trust is basically gone.”

Daniels said he is planning to sue the officers and is working on retaining a lawyer.

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