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Vancouver Police release updated policy 2 years after wrongly handcuffing retired judge

Selwyn Romilly was publicly handcuffed May 2021, and the updated policy came into effect October that year

The Vancouver Police Department has publicly released its updated handcuffing policy nearly two years after wrongly detaining a retired Supreme Court justice in 2021.

Officially released Friday (April 7), the updated policy came into effect October 2021, five months after VPD officers handcuffed retired Supreme Court Justice Selwyn Romilly, “who was detained during a police investigation near Stanley Park in May 2021, despite having no involvement in the incident being investigated.”

VPD previously told Black Press Media that Romilly fit the description of a man who was assaulting strangers near the seawall at English Bay.

“When it became obvious that he was not the suspect and had done nothing wrong,” police said the handcuffs were quickly removed. Officers eventually found the correct suspect along the seawall.

Romilly, who was 81 years old at the time, was B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court justice.

Police contacted Romilly and offered an apology, and was also told of the process for filing a complaint.

READ ALSO: Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

The Vancouver Police Board undertook a review of the previous policy in January 2020, which included examining the existing policy, training, case-law and legal authorities surrounding the use of handcuffs ad other restraint devices.

That review followed a 2019 incident where VPD officers wrongly arrested an Indigenous man and his granddaughter outside a Bank of Montreal branch in Vancouver when employees took issue with his Indian Status card and wrongly reported a fraud in process to police.. Maxwell Johnson, who is from the Heiltsuk Nation, was trying to open an account for his then 12-year-old granddaughter Tori-Anne.

A settlement between Maxwell, his granddaughter and the VPD was reached in September 2022. A human rights complaint was settled in May 2022.

READ MORE: Heiltsuk man, granddaughter handcuffed outside Vancouver BMO reach settlement with police

The updated policy notes Vancouver Police officers “must consider a person’s age, ethnicity, and the seriousness of an alleged prior to applying handcuffs.” It adds that before handcuffing, an officer “must have lawful authority that is objectively reasonable, is proportionate to the potential risk of harm the officer faces, and is necessary to fulfill a legitimate policing objective.”

VPD says the officers must be able to state the specific reason for why the handcuffs are needed to restrain somebody.

Further, an officer who uses force in their duties is “legally responsible for the force applied and cannot rely on an administrative director or order issued by the VPD, or any officer or supervisor within it to protect the member from legal responsibility.

– With files from Jane Skrypnek


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Lauren Collins

About the Author: Lauren Collins

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media's national team, after my journalism career took me across B.C. since I was 19 years old.
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