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Traffic stop by gang enforcement unit in Vernon caught on camera going viral, police investigating

A still shot from the video shot by Cayden Hanson.
Image Credit: Cayden Hanson
July 06, 2017 - 2:45 PM

VERNON - The province’s gang enforcement unit will review an exchange between two of its officers and a pair of North Okanagan men after the episode was filmed and posted online.

The video was shot by 20-year-old Cayden Hanson, the passenger in a vehicle that was stopped by members of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit at roughly 10:15 a.m. July 4. In an interview, Hanson says he and his grandfather — the driver of the vehicle — were parked outside a loan agency across from Polson Park when a police SUV blocked them in. Hanson says he and his grandfather were asked for their identification, but were not given an explanation for the random check.

That’s when he started filming. (Video and transcript are below.)

“These guys were being really hostile and intimidating. I felt uncomfortable and figured I’d start recording,” Hanson says.

The video, which has been shared nearly 400 times on Facebook as of Thursday morning, shows one of the officers — dressed in a black uniform and wearing tactical gear — telling Hanson to shut the camera off. A couple of years ago, a Kelowna officer was investigated following a similar exchange. 

“I don’t need to (shut it off),” Hanson can be heard saying in the video.

The officer replies that “if you want to be a dick” he would give them a ticket.

Hanson then asks why they were stopped in the first place.

“Well we drive by we can verify anyone’s driver’s license and insurance,” the cop says, later adding, “We saw you and wanted to pull you over. That’s all it is.”

Hanson admits that while his grandfather has a valid driver’s license, he forgot it that day. Despite not being able to produce it for the officers, he didn’t receive a ticket, Hanson says.

At one point in the video, the officer says: “So, I mean, if you want to film then I’ll just give him a ticket. Up to you.”

“A lot of what troubled me most was the officer who threatened to give us the ticket if I didn’t turn off the camera. That’s extortion,” Hanson says.

After they were let go, Hanson says the officers followed them “right on the rear end of their car” for a couple blocks.

Hanson has contacted the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, an independent agency that reviews complaints made by the public about the conduct of on-duty RCMP members. Hanson says he spoke to the commission on July 5, but the complaint is pending until he supplies more detailed information about the incident, such as the exact road names where it took place.

Meanwhile, the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit is reaching out and asking Hanson to contact them directly.

“If they have concerns about any of the interactions they’ve had with our members, absolutely, we would encourage them to contact us. We’d love to hear their side of the context of that interaction,” spokesperson Sgt. Brenda Winpenny says.

She says the unit will be reviewing the incident.

“Part of that would be that the members involved would be spoken to to understand what actually happened during that interaction,” she says.

Winpenny was unable to comment further about the incident itself, including why Hanson and his grandfather were pulled over.  

“The Motor Vehicle Act does stipulate that an officer can pull someone over to verify the driver’s license and insurance,” she says.

As for filming the exchange, she says that is completely within an individual’s rights.

“We can ask them to stop filming, but it’s everyone’s right to film in public. We can ask, and if they choose not to, it’s their legal right to do that,” she says.

She would not comment on the officer’s conduct and whether or not it was appropriate.

“It would be inappropriate for me to comment on that because I don’t know the context of that interaction,” she says.

The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit is an anti-gang agency made up of seconded officers from every police department in the province that targets organized crime groups. Members are deployed to communities around the province to support local detachments as needed. When asked why the unit was deployed to Vernon, Winpenny would only say it is a common ocurrence for members to be sent out to assist agencies in other jurisdictions. Last summer, the unit was deployed to Vernon to support the RCMP following an escalation of violence including several shooting incidents. 

The officer in the video works for the New Westminster Police Department, and spokesperson Sgt. Jeff Scott says they are reviewing the incident in conjunction with the Special Forces unit.

“Our management has reviewed the video. There’s a robust investigation body that takes conduct of anything where there’s police misconduct or an allegation of it. I’m not suggesting there was — we haven’t received any complaints — but we’re aware of the video and are looking into it,” Scott says.

The following is a transcript of the video. Due to audio quality, the dialogue may not be exact. 

LANGUAGE ADVISORY

[Various discussion between Hanson and driver about why they were stopped]

[Officer walks into view]

OFFICER: If you wanna be a dick I’m going to ticket whoever’s—
HANSON: Why is this being a dick though, right?
OFFICER: I mean, why do you need to film though, right?
HANSON: But why did you guys stop us? Like, I just want to understand.
OFFICER: Well we’re driving by, we see a car. We can stop it to verify drivers license and insurance, valid insurance.
HANSON: So how’s that not being a dick yourself though, right?
OFFICER: Sorry?
HANSON: How’s that not being a dick yourself?
OFFICER: How is that not?
HANSON: Yeah
OFFICER: Because that’s our authority to do that.
HANSON: OK
DRIVER: You guys got too much authority but…
OFFICER: Sorry? We have too much authority? Well, I mean, we’re police officers. We have to enforce the law.
HANSON: What law are you enforcing right now?
OFFICER: It’s a privilege to drive.
HANSON: Ok… did we do anything wrong? I don’t get it.
OFFICER: Well we drive by, we can verify anyone’s drivers license and insurance.
HANSON: So why aren’t you verifying theirs?
OFFICER: Well … [overlapping chatter] we saw you and wanted to pull you over. That’s all it is.
HANSON: Ok
OFFICER: Well your (driver) here doesn’t have a driver’s license.
HANSON: You didn’t know that.
OFFICER: I didn’t know that, but now that I talked to him I do know that.
HANSON: Ok
OFFICER: So I mean if you want to film, then I’ll just give him a ticket. Up to you.
HANSON: That’s, uh, blackmail.
OFFICER: No it’s not blackmail.
HANSON: That you just said if I want to film … and you just said, and I have you recorded saying it, if I want to film, you will give him a ticket. That is blackmail.
OFFICER: No, it’s not blackmail…
HANSON: 100 per cent
OFFICER: At the end of the day, I can film you too and do the same thing….
HANSON: So do that. Film me. By all means. Go ahead film me.
OFFICER: I don’t really want to, to be honest. I don’t really care.
HANSON: Ok, I’m just filming to make sure you know everybody’s safe. I’m filming for my own safety.
OFFICER: We’re not going to do anything that’s not… within our power
HANSON: How do I know that?
OFFICER: I guess, if you want to film then do whatever you need to do.

[Officer walks out of the frame]

[Various other discussion between Hanson and driver]

VIDEO: LANGUAGE ADVISORY

 

 

Credit: Cayden Hanson
Video of Hanson and his grandfather being followed after their exchange with B.C. Combined Special Forces Enforcement Unit officers.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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