Saanich Police Officer Found To Use Excessive Force During Arrest
Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, assessing $120,000 in non-pecuniary damages for a plaintiff who sustained a shoulder injury while being arrested by the Saanich police. The Court found there was negligence however the claim was ultimately dismissed as the Plaintiff failed to provide the needed statutory notice under the Local Government Act.
In the recent case (Lapshinoff v. Wray) the Plaintiff was removed from his vehicle while being investigated for erratic driving. The Defendant forcefully took the plaintiff to the pavement which resulted in a complex shoulder injury requiring two surgeries along with “an irreparable rotator cuff tear that is permanently disabling“.
The Court found that while the arrest was lawful the police used excessive force. In reaching this conclusion and assessing non-pecuniary damages at $120,000 Mr. Justice Meiklem provided the following reasons:
 I accept Mr. Lapshinoff’s evidence that his initial comment about his truck being hit and asking what that was about was not belligerent or loud. He had no concern about damage to his very experienced dilapidated vehicle, but that exchange and Mr. Lapshinoff’s immediate request for ID probably contributed to an antagonistic atmosphere. Constable Wray did not provide ID, and demanded Mr. Lapshinoff get out of the vehicle. Mr. Lapshinoff unlatched his seat belt but did not get out promptly. Constable Wray repeated the demand more emphatically with a profanity. Lapshinoff was in the process of complying, perhaps somewhat reluctantly, with his left foot partially out the door which he opened partly, at the same time repeating that he would still like to see ID, when Constable Wray reached over and yanked him out forcefully in the manner previously described.
 The fact that Constable Wray was able to pull the 200-pound Mr. Lapshinoff out of the truck in one pull, even though he said that he did so as hard as he was able, is consistent with Mr. Lapshinoff being turned and beginning to get out on his own. If both his feet were still in the vehicle and he was facing forward when he was yanked out, it is difficult to see how he could have emerged even partially on his feet.
 In my view, this very forceful removal was completely unnecessary and is only explainable as Constable Wray acting out of a loss of self control and anger, rather than necessity. He acknowledged that he did not consider any less violent means of dealing with the situation he perceived.
 It is clear that he was either blind to the fact that Mr. Lapshinoff was starting to comply with his demand to get out, or that he simply expected a faster response and was making that point with physical aggression.
 I note that during cross-examination Constable Wray volunteered an explanation as to how the plaintiff could have reacted differently and how it is in the interests of people to listen, even if they disagree with the reasonable grounds. He suggested that was “safest for everyone”. He neglected to practice that advice himself in dealing with Mr. Lapshinoff. He perceived Mr. Lapshinoff as belligerently wanting answers to the questions he was asking. If he was in fact providing the answers he claims he was providing and perceived that Mr. Lapshinoff was not hearing or listening him, as he testified, there were certainly safer and more reasonable measures that he could have employed to gain his attention and compliance other than yanking him out of the truck within seconds of arriving and engaging him in a tussle for a few seconds before tripping him and forcefully sending him to the ground.
 The plaintiff’s right shoulder or arm struck the truck door as he was yanked out, causing it to fly open. This further demonstrates a degree of aggressiveness and lack of foresight and care for the safety of the plaintiff, which was unnecessary and disproportionate to the exigencies of the arrest. Although it is unknown whether that impact actually contributed to the plaintiff’s shoulder and arm injuries, there certainly was a foreseeable risk of injury in yanking the plaintiff through a partly open truck door.
 There was also a foreseeable and unnecessary risk of injury with a 6’ 3”, 240 lb officer taking a person to the ground with a leg sweep trip while holding his upper body and falling with him.
 In light of the consensus between the parties on the appropriate general damage award, which I find to be appropriate, no detailed analysis is required on that issue. I would award general damages in the sum of $120,000 against the defendant Saanich. I would not award punitive damages.
bc injury law, excessive use of force, Lapshinoff v. Wray, Mr. Justice Meiklem