Again and again….and again…..

……..policing vs the rules

“A man left in pain and naked in a Brantford police holding cell for hours has filed a $2.5-million lawsuit against the Brantford Police Service Board, the chief of police and six police officers.”  Alyshah Hasham, Toronto Star, Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Philip Alafe, a 27 year-old Nigerian refugee claimant, in Canada since 2010, and living in Etobicoke, was arrested on an outstanding warrant late in the afternoon of July 3 in 2015 for driving offenses in Brantford. He was transported by the OPP to Brantford where he told the booking officer at the police station he had mental health issues – depression and anxiety – and suffered from sickle cell anemia. Without medication sickle cell anemia causes extreme pain. There was no indication he was suicidal, and the booking officer noted he was sober and passive.

Ontario Court Justice Kenneth Lenz stayed Mr. Alafe’s criminal charges in April of this year after ruling Brantford police, and Staff Sgt. Cheney Venn in particular, subjected Alafe to “cruel and unusual treatment”, and violated his rights under sections 7 and 12 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Judge Lenz described the treatment as “egregious” and “clearly degrading to human dignity” after viewing the video exhibits, and found that Staff Sgt. Venn repeatedly violated police policies on the handling of people in custody and people with mental health concerns. “They were just treating me worse than an animal,” is how Philip Alafe put it.

Simply put, Mr. Alafe spent the evening and much of the night at first being ignored when his medical needs where not met, doing what he could to protest and, as the judge put it, “was a pain in the neck” as his discomfort increased. But, the police officers on duty not only didn’t respond according to policy, they…..Staff Sgt. Venn notedly….became aggressive, belligerent, and bullying, eventually leaving Mr. Alafe naked in a cold cell. This only exacerbated his pain. It wasn’t until a shift change the next morning that matters were put right.

Interestingly, nowhere in the material does the issue of race arise. The statement of claim filed with the Superior Court in Toronto alleges the defendants “maliciously, intentionally, unlawfully and/or without justification subjected the plaintiff to an escalating course of punishment, deprivation of basic needs, physical assault, infliction of mental anguish and other infliction of harm.”

August 1, 2017

Geoffrey Nelson, Chief,
Brantford Police Department,
344 Elgin Street,
Brantford, ON N3S 7P6

Re: “They were just treating me worse than an animal”

Chief Nelson:

In the very early 60s, then a naïve country boy new to Toronto, I met with a local police commander, looking to improve relations between police and members of the community in which I lived.

That meeting did not go well. It seemed positive community relations were subordinate to intrusive control of civilians, even if it meant skirting rules, policy and the law.

Assuming Alyshah Hasham’s report in the July 22 Toronto Star is factual, your Staff Sergeant Cheney Venn’s treatment of Philip Alafe not only caused Ontario Court Justice Ken Lenz to stay charges against Mr. Alafe, but is another example of how little police culture has changed in the last half century.

Too bad. After all, when push comes to shove, it is the people who are really in charge.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

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