ON Friday, December 11, at around 9 p.m., an RCMP frontline officer responded to call from Simon Fraser University campus security who were requesting assistance with a man familiar to them who was refusing to leave a campus dining hall. Campus security reported to police that the man was not a student of the university and was refusing to leave contrary to the safety requirements placed by SFU during the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately 12 other individuals, including both SFU students and employees, were inside the dining hall with the man.
The officer located the man inside the dining hall, circling and yelling at several campus security employees. The police officer spent several minutes using crisis intervention and verbal-de-escalation techniques with repeated requests, asking the man to leave the premise, according to Burnaby RCMP.
When the man refused to comply with the direction to leave by both the campus security and the police officer, the police officer told the man he was under arrest for causing a disturbance. While attempting to take the man into custody, the man took the officer by the arm and a physical altercation ensued and the officer deployed oleoresin capsicum spray (pepper spray).
Burnaby RCMP said that during this altercation, the man subdued the officer and placed the officer in a chokehold. Fearing for his safety, the officer deployed a conducted energy weapon (CEW). Only with use of both police intervention tools was the officer able to take the man into custody safely.
They said that when a police officer is required to use force during the arrest of an individual, the officer completes a Subject Behaviour / Officer Response report. Each occurrence demands accurate documentation that demonstrates in detail the necessity of such a response, said Burnaby RCMP Superintendent Graham Delagorgendiere of the Burnaby RCMP. This report, along with witness testimony and video evidence, is now being reviewed by the supervisor of the involved officer.
Burnaby RCMP said that once in custody, the police officer then immediately sought the assistance of BC Ambulance Service. With the assistance of police, an ambulance took the man to hospital where he was treated for minor injuries sustained from the CEW deployment. The man was then released from police custody to medical staff after being apprehended under the Mental Health Act. Criminal charges for cause a disturbance and assaulting a peace officer are pending.
“RCMP officers use the Incident Management Intervention Model (IMIM) when interacting with the public. IMIM emphasizes communication which includes de-escalation. Situations involving people in mental health crisis are complex and dynamic. Police officers may have to use force along with communication and de-escalation,” according to Burnaby RCMP.
“The RCMP has strengthened crisis intervention and de-escalation training for all its officers. Mandatory training helps them determine when and how to use crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques. This training complements what cadets learn at the RCMP Training Academy, as well as other training offered in BC and the Burnaby RCMP Detachment.”
Following the incident, police officers were notified by University Campus Public Safety that the man was an alumnus of the university.
Mark Lalonde, Chief Safety Officer, SFU Safety and Risk Services, issued the following statement:
We are aware that a recent incident on the evening of December 11, 2020 on Burnaby campus is being shared on social media. We recognize that comments and the videos posted may cause distress to SFU community members, particularly for Black & Indigenous members. Please be reminded that 24/7 culturally safe mental health supports for students are available through mySSP. For more information about student mental health supports at SFU please go to – https://www.sfu.ca/students/health.html. Faculty and staff have access to our Employee and Family Assistance Program and can contact Homewood Health at 1-800-663-1142.
For privacy reasons, we’re not able to discuss details of individual incidents, including this one.
The role of Campus Public Safety is to provide public safety and protection services to the SFU community. With the current pandemic, we also have additional safety requirements in place, these include reducing access to our three campuses to only current students, faculty and staff, as well as the requirement to wear masks in public areas and physical distance from others.
When responding to a call from community members, Campus Public Safety (CPS) officers always take a peaceful approach to resolve situations. All CPS members have mental health first aid, crisis response and debriefing, verbal de-escalation and conflict resolution training, in addition to equity, diversity and inclusion education. Police are only called when the situation has escalated outside of the role and capacity of Campus Public Safety officers.
Our number one priority is always the safety of our SFU community.
SFU President Joy Johnson issued the following statement on Sunday:
An unsettling event involving a Black SFU alumnus, campus security and the RCMP occurred in the Burnaby campus dining hall recently, and is raising important questions about our processes and protocols. I want to acknowledge that this incident is distressing for many in our community, particularly for those who are Black, Indigenous or persons of colour.
We will undertake an external review of the situation. There are learning opportunities in everything we do, and we will review this event to learn what we can improve. We will also seek out learning from experts on the impact of policing on Black people. In the coming days I will reach out to Black faculty, staff and students for input. Recommendations from this review will be shared with the SFU community and necessary changes implemented.
Keeping our campus community safe, particularly during a pandemic, is our first priority. However, this task is not without complexity and challenge. There are many layers to the situation that occurred, but supporting the individuals involved by protecting their privacy means we will not have a full public debrief of events. At the heart of this situation is an individual who deserves privacy and support.
I am committed to improving equity and inclusion at SFU. I acknowledge that it won’t be quick or easy, but I will continue to lean in on these issues. We must always learn, grow and change, and to do that we must have difficult conversations and examine our own processes and behaviours.
Please reach out for support if you need it. This has been an incredibly difficult time for many, and there are supports in place for students, faculty and staff. Take care of yourselves, and take care of one another.