Video shows police Tasering woman during arrest that witness claims was excessive use of force

A still from a video posted to YouTube shows Metro Vancouver Transit Police officers arresting a woman at the Granville Street SkyTrain station around 4:30 p.m. PT on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. CBC News has blurred the face of the woman arrested. (Rakesh Dutt/YouTube - image credit)
A still from a video posted to YouTube shows Metro Vancouver Transit Police officers arresting a woman at the Granville Street SkyTrain station around 4:30 p.m. PT on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. CBC News has blurred the face of the woman arrested. (Rakesh Dutt/YouTube - image credit)

WARNING: This story contains details and video of a woman in distress during a police incident.

A Vancouver man who videos police interactions with people in the city alleges Metro Vancouver Transit Police used too much force on Thursday when they arrested a woman at a transit station.

Rakesh Dutt says he's been documenting police behaviour and, over the past year, has published dozens of videos to his YouTube page.

On Thursday evening, he published video showing two transit police officers struggling with a woman wearing a red bra, dark pants and only one sock at the Granville SkyTrain Station.

The video records the woman screaming and pleading with the officers as they tell her to put her arms behind her back while they hold her on the floor of the station.

She repeatedly says to officers, "I'm not resisting."

At one point, the officers can be seen driving a knee into the woman's body. The officers also use their Tasers on the woman more than once.

WATCH | Metro Vancouver Transit Police officers make arrest at Granville Street Skytrain station:

Dutt says from what he saw, police used too much force arresting the woman.

"She wasn't being threatening to anyone, so it wasn't like doing anything violent, anything like that," he said. "She was unarmed, no weapons or anything like that, but I think somebody called the police on her and reported her as a possibly dangerous person."

Dutt says he is documenting incidents like this to try to show that police reform is needed over how officers use force in making arrests or dealing with people who are homeless or face mental illness.

"Police reform is needed in this city and pretty much across the world," he said.

Police say force warranted

In a statement, Metro Vancouver Transit Police said officers responded to the Granville SkyTrain Station around 4:30 p.m. PT for reports of a "woman suffering from an apparent mental health crisis."

Police said callers described the woman "chasing other passengers, screaming incoherently and removing her clothing."

The statement said officers arrived at the scene and tried "to defuse the situation verbally, using several de-escalation techniques to help her, which were ineffective.

"Concerned for her safety and the safety of other transit users, they had to physically gain control of the woman to further assess her well-being and mitigate potential risk to her and the public," police said in the statement.

The force tweeted about the incident on Thursday, which affected SkyTrain operations.

Metro Vancouver Transit Police said that using knee strikes and deploying Tasers to restrain people are approved in certain circumstances "where a suspect is actively resisting and displaying assaultive behaviour."

Transit Police said the woman in the video fought with the officers and tried to grab their weapons.

Dutt said he did not witness any of this behaviour. He initially saw the woman around 4 p.m. Thursday on his way to Burrard Street SkyTrain Station before police arrived. When he returned around 30 minutes later, he began filming the police officers trying to arrest the woman.

Increase in mental health calls

She was sedated by paramedics, taken to hospital and admitted under the B.C. Mental Health Act, according to transit police. The police statement also said no injuries were reported.

"Over the past several months, we have seen an increase in mental health calls that are often unpredictable and dynamic in nature," Transit Police said in the statement. "Our primary goal is always to preserve the safety of everyone involved when resolving these types of incidents."

Benjamin Perrin, a professor at UBC's Allard School of Law, who studies cases involving use of force, says it's difficult to comment on the arrest because it's impossible to know all the facts around what happened from the video alone.

He said in an email to CBC News that what he did view in the video "was very disturbing" and warrants an independent investigation.

"The police use of force model is fatally flawed when it comes to people with mental health challenges," he wrote. "It is cruel, ineffective and too often deadly. The majority of people killed during police interactions in Canada were experiencing mental health and/or substance use issues."

B.C.'s Independent Investigations Office, which investigates incidents of death or serious harm that may have been the result of the actions or inactions of a police officer, said it was not currently investigating the arrest seen in Dutt's video.