Appropriate or excessive force? Questions raised after Edmonton police shove woman to ground during arrest

Click to play video: 'Woman shoved to ground by police in central Edmonton caught on video'
Woman shoved to ground by police in central Edmonton caught on video
Video sent to Global News showing an Edmonton Police Service member pushing a woman from behind on 100 Street near 106 Avenue in Chinatown on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. Edmonton police said the woman was armed with a knife and refused to drop it. – Sep 16, 2022

A video of an Edmonton Police Service member pushing a woman to the ground is raising questions about the amount of force used and whether the officer should be charged.

The incident happened just after 4 p.m. Thursday, according to both Edmonton police and the person who took the video. Global News is not naming the person who took the video, as they fear repercussion.

It happened on 100 Street, between 105 and 106 avenues, kitty corner to the Hope Mission in Chinatown.

Judith Gale works with The Bear Clan Patrol Edmonton Beaver Hills House, a community-based organization that provides food and support to vulnerable Edmontonians.

Read more: Community group unhappy with treatment by security officer at Edmonton mall

She knows the person who took the video and spoke with them about it.

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“Two of our sisters were having a heated discussion. And they were yelling at each other and having a visible argument,” Gale said.

As the two women were arguing, an EPS officer pulled up and separated the pair.

At that point, the witness said the woman who was pushed said something to the officer and began to walk away as seen in the video, which is when she was shoved from behind by the officer and fell to the ground. Gale said the woman was then arrested.

Click to play video: 'Questions raised after Edmonton police shove woman to ground during arrest'
Questions raised after Edmonton police shove woman to ground during arrest

Edmonton police released a statement Friday afternoon depicting a similar series of events, but added the woman in the video was also armed.

“The officer was driving in the area, and was flagged down by a member of the community who reported that two females, one of whom was armed with a knife, were about to fight,” the EPS statement said.

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“The officer directed the woman to drop the knife, but she refused, expressing her affiliation to a criminal gang, and walked away in an area where bystanders were present.”

Read more: Review shows increase in use of force by Edmonton police officers, EPS attributes rise to better reporting

Police said the officer was then faced with a decision on how much force to use, given the woman was armed, and determined “pushing her to the ground would require the least amount of force possible to allow him to safely arrest the suspect.”

Police said that is what is captured in the 12-second video and the woman was not injured.

EPS said the knife in question was seized by police while the woman was arrested for possession of a weapon dangerous to the public.

Gale isn’t satisfied and wants the officer taken off frontline duties.

“It just boils my blood. I am just so mad. I want to see this so-called public servant off the street,” Gale said.

Read more: Witness, criminal lawyer concerned over violent arrest made by Edmonton police officer

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An Edmonton criminal defence lawyer, whose practice regularly involves law enforcement issues, said the situation warrants more than reassignment — there should be criminal charges.

“This is obvious. Charge him criminally with assault, suspend him without pay and get on with it,” said Tom Engel, who is the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association policing committee chair.

Engel said were the situation reversed and the woman shoved the officer, there would be no delay in the assailant being arrested and charged.

“She’d be arrested and charged. That’s what has to happen to this officer. If it doesn’t happen, everybody will just say, ‘Well, you know, double standard, that’s what cops get away with. Nothing is going to happen.’ Well, the chief better react immediately and lay a criminal assault charge. Do I expect that to happen? No.”

Engel said it’s unclear from the video whether the woman was holding a knife and believes she could have been holding a cell phone.

Click to play video: 'Use of force numbers show Edmonton police pulling their guns more often'
Use of force numbers show Edmonton police pulling their guns more often

Edmonton Police Association president Mike Elliott doesn’t deny the optics are terrible: a larger man in a position of authority shoving a smaller woman to the ground.

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But he countered that was the safest move for everyone involved, given the woman reportedly wouldn’t drop her knife.

“He’s not going to go hands-on with the female because you don’t go hands-on with somebody with a knife — he could get stabbed or slashed, whatever case may be. So then he’s going look at, what are my options?”

Elliott said the options were for the officer to pull his firearm, use his Taser on the woman, strike her with his baton or use his hands.

“Of all the use-of-force options that are available, he took the option of a push — which, if you slow the video down, you will see that the push pushed her to the ground, dislodged the knife, and then he took her into custody.”

Read more: ‘Last resort’: Police forces struggle to provide support for people in crisis

Engel said police officers are held to a higher standard and a verbal warning should have been given before the officer tried to disarm the woman.

“Without any warning, she’s pushed from sort of like the back, the side and just flung violently to the pavement.

It’s unclear from the video whether a verbal warning was issued.

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Engel said he wasn’t surprised to see the level of force being used — rather, he called the officer’s actions brazen.

“What’s shocking is that it was video recorded, it was in broad daylight, it was near the Hope Mission in the inner city.

“Another thing that shocked me is, you know, there’s that woman who’s walking by — doesn’t even pay attention to it. It’s almost as if, ‘Yeah, this happens frequently. Nothing really to see here.'”

Read more: Edmonton police chief discusses use of force by officers

Elliott admitted policing isn’t always pretty.

“It’s not the movies. This is not Hollywood. So when a member shows up and goes, you have a potential stabbing that’s potentially going to occur when they’re fighting with a knife, he has to determine what is the best mechanism at that instant to dislodge that knife from that person.”

“It doesn’t look pretty, but it was extremely effective and took the knife out of the way.”

Edmonton police said it obtained CCTV from the area that captured the event from a different angle to confirm what the officer said happened.

The video quickly made the rounds on the internet and was shared wide, including by some on city council.

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“I’ve already seen city councillors put out posts already saying, ‘You know, we need to hold police accountable’ It’s like, well wait a minute — you haven’t even waited to find out what’s occurring or what’s going on and you’re already putting post out about you’ve got to come to the police commission, you’ve got to hold people accountable for this?

“You’re stirring up issues when potentially there isn’t even is an issue yet — let alone you haven’t waited to find out what happened to lead up to this incident.”

After reviewing the incident, police said there are currently no grounds for an investigation by the EPS Professional Standards Branch.

Read more: Alberta Mountie placed on administrative duty after video surfaces of arrest involving use of force

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