Peel police launch review after teen with autism Tasered despite being on vulnerable persons registry

In a statement posted online Wednesday, police say they recognize 'the severe impact' of the Nov. 4 arrest of Abdullah Darwich, as well as on his family and the entire community.  (Submitted by Majd Darwich  - image credit)
In a statement posted online Wednesday, police say they recognize 'the severe impact' of the Nov. 4 arrest of Abdullah Darwich, as well as on his family and the entire community. (Submitted by Majd Darwich - image credit)

Peel police say they've launched a review of the circumstances that led officers to Taser a 19-year-old with autism earlier the month after neighbours spotted him in a pile of leaves — despite the fact that he was on the force's vulnerable persons registry.

In a statement posed online Wednesday, police said they recognize "the severe impact" of the Nov. 4 arrest of Abdullah Darwich as well as on his family and the entire community.

The statement comes two weeks after CBC News reported on the arrest of Darwich, which left him cut, bruised and, according to his father, "terrified of everything."

"In light of the incident involving the Darwich family, and similar occurrences in other jurisdictions, we are evaluating how we identify and constructively engage people with autism," Peel police said in the statement.

"We will continue to explore opportunities to access timelier information through the Vulnerable Persons Registry and innovative approaches to alert officers of the specific needs that an individual may have."

As previously reported, police have said they were responding to a call on Nov. 4 about "a suspicious person in a state of undress, attempting to enter a vehicle and a house." They have also said officers were unaware of Darwich's identity or condition.

CBC News spoke with multiple neighbours who described a young man playing in the leaves followed by a large and aggressive police response.

Police didn't know teen's identity or condition: officers

Darwich's father, Majd Darwich, told CBC News officers told him his son tried to run away and that that is why he was Tasered.

Following the arrest, uniformed officers who weren't involved in the incident visited the family's home and told Darwich's father he should have been looked up in the system. They apologizing for the way the situation was handled.

Nevertheless, Majd Darwich said, he planned to file a complaint with Ontario's Office of the Independent Police Review Director.

Peel police's handling of cases involving people in crisis, in particular people of colour, has come under scrutiny in recent years.

Those cases include the death of Clive Mensah, who suffered from mental illness and died after police Tasered him in his own backyard in November 2019. D'Andre Campbell, who had schizophrenia, was shot by police while holding a knife in his family's kitchen in April 2020. Later that year, in June, 62-year-old father of four Ejaz Choudry, who also suffered from schizophrenia, was killed after his famliy called a non-emergency line for help while he was in crisis.

In all three cases, the province's Special Investigations Unit ruled against laying criminal charges against the officers involved.

In their statement, police say "upholding the human rights of those we serve and ensuring the safety and well-being of all community members is the most important priority of our service."