A West Vancouver soccer coach is raising questions about racial profiling following an incident involving the West Vancouver Police Department (WVPD).
It happened when Desmond Tachie was collecting poppy donations for the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 60 in West Vancouver — something he’s done for the last two years.
But this year was different.
On Oct. 27, Tachie, who is the head coach of the West Vancouver Football Club’s U21 team, says he and another young player were leaving the Whole Foods at Park Royal after having spent two hours handing out poppies ahead of Remembrance Day.
“I turned left to turn left to go back to Marine Drive towards the Legion and as I turned left, the police car pulled up behind me and I everything I did, he did the same thing,” Tachie said, recalling the moment he realized he was being followed by police.
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Tachie says the officer followed him to the Legion on 18th Street. It wasn’t until both vehicles arrived there Tachie says he learned why he was being followed.
“He said, ‘I saw you boys pulling out of Park Royal with the poppy trays.’ So I responded, ‘Yes,’ and he said, ‘What were you doing with it?’ and I said, ‘I was collecting money for the Legion,’ and he said, ‘OK, what are you doing with it now…returning it?’ and I said, ‘Yeah.’ And then he said, ‘Thank you,’ and then drove off,” Tachie said.
“For me, it was a bit uncalled for.”
Tachie said he and the young player were the only ones stopped and questioned by police that day.
“We were the only two black people doing it at that time,” Tachie said. “Saying that he saw us leave was where I felt a bit that we were racially profiled.”
Tachie said the incident upset him. Hoping for a resolution, both the football club and the Legion spoke with police on Tachie’s behalf.
“That morning, they were representing us,” Pat Morton, the local Legion president, said. “They might as well have been wearing the Legion uniform because that’s what they were doing.”
Morton said he spoke with police, as did Ruth Burr, president of the West Vancouver Football Club. Burr said she was not impressed following her initial conversation with West Vancouver police.
“The first response was no, they don’t apologize,” Burr said. “I was assured that if he was pulled over, it wasn’t because he was black and I was left wondering if that’s not the case then why was he pulled over.”
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Burr said Tachie has been a coach with the club for five years. He is well loved by both players and parents, and she said the incident is upsetting. Burr said shortly after her initial conversation with police and a conversation with the city’s mayor, police have followed up with her.
“Perhaps they realized that the response had been a bit harsh,” Burr said.
She said police have since offered to meet with Tachie and a mediator.
“I just wish it had happened sooner and I wish that had been the first offer out of the gate,” Burr said.
West Vancouver police say neither Tachie or the young man were wearing anything that identified them as being with the Legion. Officers are aware of poppy box thefts at that time of year, though no reports of theft were received that day.
Police have launched an investigation into the incident and have notified the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner, though no formal complaint has been filed.
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Cst. Jeff Palmer, the department’s communications officer, said this is not a case of racial profiling.
“He’s on general patrols, he happens to see two individuals and conducts follow up, and upon being satisfied, there’s no further basis to conduct further checks,” Palmer said of the officer’s actions that day.
The officer is a 10-year veteran of the force. Palmer said the officer is also willing to meet with Tachie.
“It’s important for us that if people are concerned about actions of our officer that we have an opportunity to meet, to clarify, to build a stronger understanding,” Palmer said.
Tachie said he’s open to meeting with police. Still, he felt the story needs to be shared publicly.
“You shouldn’t make someone feel like they don’t belong or like they’re up to no good because they don’t look a certain way or because they don’t act a certain way,” Tachie said.
“I hope we can all learn from this and not be naïve and think that racial bias doesn’t exist.”
Police release transcripts related to traffic stop
On Friday night, West Vancouver police released a transcript both of the officer who stopped Tachie’s radio conversation with dispatch, and of the dash cam in his vehicle.
Global News has reproduced it here with no alterations.