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Vancouver Police Sergeant Convicted of Unprovoked Assault Seeks Absolute Discharge


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When the Braidwood Commission made its Report 2 - PART 10: POSTSCRIPT — POLICE INVESTIGATING THEMSELVES the recommendation was made for the creation of a civilian led and staffed agency with the sole power and authority to investigate "police-related incidents". This agency was termed the Independent Investigation Office (IIO).


One component that has received little attention was what happens with the results of the civilian investigation into the potential police misconduct. Braidwood had concerns that the usual Crown Counsel who interact and work with the police daily may have, or be seen to have, a potential conflict of interest. In the result he recommended that a Special Crown Prosecutor be responsible for reviewing the evidence collected, deciding in charges are warranted, laying the applicable charges and actually prosecuting the case. As noted in the report:

Two issues arise. Who should make the charge assessment decision? If charges are approved, who should prosecute the police officer? In considering these questions, I return again to the pivotal concerns about conflict of interest, public distrust, and an undermining of public confidence in the police and in our justice system. In light of the explicitly stated concerns about perceptions of conflict of interest in the Criminal Justice Branch’s policy cited earlier, it would in my view be inappropriate for lawyers within that branch to make charge assessment decisions in police-related incidents. In such sensitive matters, it only takes a perception of conflict of interest to undermine public confidence. I am also uncomfortable with the director of the independent investigative body making charge assessment decisions. British Columbia has a long and respected tradition of keeping the police investigatory and the quasi-judicial charge assessment roles separate. It would in my view be a regrettable blurring of those roles for the director of the independent investigatory body to make charge assessment decisions.

For these reasons, I have concluded that in every police-related incident that is assigned to the proposed independent investigatory body, a special prosecutor should be appointed in accordance with the Crown Counsel Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c.87. The special prosecutor should make the charge assessment decisions and should, if charges are approved, assume conduct of the prosecution.

The rationale for the Special Crown Prosecutor in such cases became evident during the trial of Vancouver Police Sgt. Darcy Taylor for the unprovoked assault on a bystander using his police baton to strike down Justin Wachtel with a full on blow to the throat. Taylor was initially charged with assault with a weapon and there was video and dozens of witnesses to the baton strike.

However Crown counsel Jay Fogel called no witnesses. Taylor’s testimony, his duty report and an “admission of facts” made up the only evidence presented at trial. The victm, Justin Wachtel, nor none of the dozens of witnesses to the assault who gave statements were called to testify and Taylor was convicted of the lesser charge of simple assault.

The victim's lawyer, Jason Tarnow who obtained the video footage from a business near where the assault occurred noted it clearly showed the assault with the baton and is outraged by the proceedings and notes if any other person had taken the same actions he/she would have been convicted of assault with a weapon:

“The sergeant was out-of-control, he just ran up to Justin and hit him as hard as he could on the throat with his baton,” said Tarnow, who said Wachtel, 27, is a marketing professional and a small, slight man.

“Justin is completely non-aggressive and now he has just lost all trust in police and the justice system. Dozens of witnesses would have testified the officer was cursing and striking out.

“The video clearly shows the officer’s behaviour. It was just brutal.”

The video obtained by Tarnow, part of which was shown in court, shows Taylor striking Wachtel, who falls backwards. Taylor then turns on another man, who picks up his bike to ward off the police officer.

Wachtel questioned why Crown counsel agreed to a “watered-down version” of the facts.

And another issue is why Wachtel's lawyer was the person who found the videotape and not Sergeant Taylor's police colleagues. Just more evidence why as the Braidwood Commission concluded you cannot have the police investigating themselves and that it needs to be done by a civilian led and staffed investigation agency independent of the police. We are still waiting for the Braidwood recommendations to be acted upon.

“Why I, or the 18 other citizens who gave statements, were not called upon to testify is very troubling to me,” said Wachtel. “A wealth of evidence was collected by the Crown, but it seems to me the majority of it was conveniently omitted.”

Sergeant Taylor's version of what and why:

Taylor apologized at his trial for his “adrenalized” state, admitting Wachtel did nothing wrong and “did not deserve to be pushed.”

“I am concerned about my actions,” Taylor said at trial, adding he has sought help to “learn techniques necessary to defuse my adrenalin.”

Yup it was that old devil adrenalin that made him do it and the full-swing baton strike to the throat of the victim became a "push". :blink:



Now Sergeant Taylor is up for sentencing and is asking for an absolute discharge so it will not interfere with his ability to travel to the US.

Vancouver police sergeant Darcy Taylor, who was convicted of assaulting a bystander, has asked a sentencing hearing to recognize his 20 years’ service by granting him an absolute discharge.

“Sgt. Taylor is held in the highest esteem. Surely 20 years exemplary service should be extremely persuasive,” Taylor’s lawyer Kevin Woodall told Judge David Pendleton on Friday in Vancouver provincial court.

Taylor was convicted of assault last November after hitting innocent bystander Justin Wachtel with his wooden police baton while on duty.

A widely-distributed surveillance video showed Taylor running across the street and striking Wachtel in the head. Woodall said it was an “adrenalized” moment brought on by a “chaotic” situation on the streets.

“He reacted in a way that denied his ordinary self-control,” said Woodall. “It was a very chaotic and frightening event.”

During the hearing Taylor sat upright in his chair, absolutely motionless, with his eyes straight ahead and hands on his lap.

“Putting my police department and colleagues in a poor light has deeply disturbed me,” he told the court. “That I lost control of myself is the first thing I think of in the morning and the last thing before bedtime.”

Taylor, 48, is a trained geologist who has spent 20 years with Vancouver police. Several constables showed their support by attending court.

His volunteer activities include teaching grade school students about geology with a challenge to “stump the geologist” by presenting unidentifiable rocks.

He has been reassigned to a desk job.

Woodall said an absolute discharge would mean Taylor can travel to the U.S. to visit his wife’s family and continue his work at high schools and with scout groups.

Crown counsel Jay Fogel, meanwhile, said the offence warrants a period of 6-to-12 months probation with court-imposed community service hours or a suspended sentence.

“The focus of the sentence should be on denunciation and general deterrence,” he said.

“Sgt. Taylor was in a position of authority, carrying responsibilities,” he said. “An absolute discharge is rarely appropriate. Given the lack of provocation, on balance it is not a fitting sentence.”

Wachtel did not give a victim impact statement or attend the proceedings.

Judge Pendelton has reserved his decision.


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