A Victoria police officer caught on video kneeing and kicking two men while they were being handcuffed during the break up of a downtown street fight will not face any charges.
B.C.'s Criminal Justice Branch said Friday it reviewed last spring's incident, including watching the video which was viewed by thousands of people on line, and concluded the officer was using legally permissible force to gain control of a dangerous and volatile situation.
"The visual images on the video showing the application of force are emotionally disturbing, however, in all the circumstances of the incident there is evidence that the officer was using force lawfully in order to gain control in an unstable and unsafe situation," said a statement from the Criminal Justice Branch.
The decision not to charge the officer is one of several incidents involving use of force allegations against Victoria police, including Const. George Chong, the brother of B.C. Liberal cabinet minister Ida Chong, who was charged with assault last July in a case in which a man was hurt.
Other incidents have included the tethering of a 15-year-old girl to a jail cell door for four hours, and a handcuffed man who was slammed to the jail floor from behind, causing brain damage.
Last fall, a police use-of-force report examining the brawling image of the Victoria Police Department and made 80 recommendations relating to use of force and jailhouse operations.
Posted on YouTube
In the latest case, the Criminal Justice Branch says three Victoria Police officers and two reserve officers were on foot patrol in downtown Victoria when they came upon a full-scale brawl involving up to 10 people and being watched by up to 40 bystanders.
One man involved in the brawl was unconscious on the ground with another man kicking him in the head, said the statement. Two of the police officers believed the unconscious man was in danger of being beaten to death.
"The police officers attending were of the view that they needed to quickly gain control of the situation by stopping the fighting and preventing any crowd of onlookers from becoming involved," said the statement. "The officers also believed that they needed to bring the situation under control to allow paramedics to attend to treat the unconscious man."
Bystanders uploaded video footage of the arrest on YouTube, creating a stir among many who accused the officer of using too much force.
The statement said the video footage provided 57 seconds of the incident which lasted anywhere between five and twenty minutes. Six males were arrested.
"While the use of kicking as an instrument of force calls for close scrutiny, a court is likely to find that this was a measured use of force to achieve a legitimate purpose, and therefore justifiable," said the statement.
The statement acknowledged that many witnesses viewed the officer's conduct as heavy handed, but others also said the two men who were kicked during their arrests were resisting efforts to be handcuffed.
Victoria Police Chief Jamie Graham has said police officers regularly encounter trouble in the city's downtown core, which he described as an area of "drunkenness, debauchery and silliness."