Edmonton police release full video of woman shoved to ground by officer

·3 min read
The knife seized by Edmonton Police Service last Thursday after an officer shoved a woman to the ground. (Edmonton Police Service - image credit)
The knife seized by Edmonton Police Service last Thursday after an officer shoved a woman to the ground. (Edmonton Police Service - image credit)

One week after a police officer shoved a woman to the ground in central Edmonton who police allege was brandishing a knife, a complete video of the incident was played at a police commission meeting Thursday afternoon.

A much shorter clip circulated on social media last Friday went viral and sparked outrage.

Shortly after, police spokesperson Cheryl Voordenhout said that the video captured police response to a weapons complaint in the area of 100th Street and 106th Avenue. Voorderhout said in a statement that the woman had a knife and "pushing her to the ground would require the least amount of force possible to allow him to safely arrest the suspect."

A longer video compilation recorded from CCTV shows that the woman who was pushed had a knife and she appeared to be threatening another woman with it when a police vehicle pulled up.

"I certainly saw the posturing between her and the other person," acting police Chief Devin Laforce said.

"I saw her pull the knife out of her waistband. She had it kind of tucked up behind her arm. It looked like an event that was going to get a lot more dangerous very quickly."

Laforce told police commission members that he believed the officer's actions were reasonable.

"Situations like this are dynamic and require officers to make split-second decisions, he said. "We have no issues standing by our officer's actions here."

An officer who teaches use-of-force tactics told police commission members that officer training absolutely does not include using hand-to-hand tactics with someone who has a knife.

"The officer needs to protect themselves," Staff Sgt. Joe Tassone said. "Create some distance."

But Tassone said officers are also taught to use sound judgment and to take advantage of a situation when they react.

"There was an ability to end a confrontation and control the situation because the subject's attention was turned away for a moment, which gave that member the ability to take that opportunity," he said.

The video shows two women circling each other in the middle of the street as the police cruiser pulls up. As the officer is getting out of his vehicle, the suspect walks past.

It takes about six seconds from the time the officer opens his door until he shoves her to the ground from behind, then handcuffs her.

Experts disagree on best approach

A University of Alberta criminologist said he's even more troubled now that he's watched the extended video.

"In my opinion, this is a fine example of how not to respond," Temitope Oriola said.

"There is no indication in that video that there is any real interaction — verbal interaction of any kind — between the officer and the woman," "I believe a more humane approach was needed. There was no immediate threat."

Edmonton Police Service
Edmonton Police Service

Oriola thinks the woman with the knife should have been given a chance to respond before she was pushed to the ground.

Mount Royal University justice studies Prof. Doug King strongly disagreed.

"The officer in question used really excellent judgment," King said. "If that individual with the knife reeled around and started charging the officer, what was the distance? Maybe ten metres if that, and that would not be enough time for the officer to defend themselves."

Police said the suspect was intoxicated and no charges would be laid.

Before the video was played, a use-of-force report for the first two quarters of 2022 was presented to police commission members.

It shows that there were 1,522 police use-of-force incidents in the first half of this year, which was a seven per cent increase from the 1,429 incidents recorded in 2021.

Two-thirds of the reported incidents involved level one, or a more minor use of force, with about one-third considered to be a category two, which involves an increased use of force.

Police said the push to the ground is classified as a category two use of force.