Simon Fraser University (SFU) and the Burnaby RCMP are facing backlash after the Tasering and arrest of a Black man on campus, who has since been identified as an alumnus of the University.
On Twitter, Student Society President Osob Mohamed called SFU a “sick” institution, following the December 11 incident.
@SFU is a sick institution. A Black alum was pepper sprayed, tased and arrested for simply trying to get food in the dining hall on campus. This after countless conversations about de-escalation and the dangers of police presence on campus.
— Osob Mohamed (@osobmhd) December 12, 2020
“A Black alum was pepper sprayed, tased and arrested for simply trying to get food in the dining hall on campus,” she continues. “This after countless conversations about de-escalation and the dangers of police presence on campus.”
Video of the incident was shared on Twitter by 2020 Computing Science Alumni Giovanni HoSang.
The police then proceeded to escalate the situation using pepper spray until he was in pain and disoriented, and left to try and defend himself from being tasered. He was later brought to the hospital where he was treated to remove the electrode from his skull. pic.twitter.com/IdJa7RKxe4
— Giovanni HoSang (@giovannihosang) December 13, 2020
“I am shocked and appalled that while these instances of racism on campus are nothing new, it is deplorable that the police were called on a person that was causing no harm to anyone around him,” wrote HoSang in a statement.
“SFU Campus Security are there to offer public safety to students and as soon as there is an isolation and control of an incident, the Security has a role to de-escalate and make the situation resolved.”
Calling the police on a Black man, continued HoSang, “can be a death sentence, especially if there are instances and prior history of mental health conditions. Specific to this person and violent arrest, SFU Security knows of this student and knows that this former student has never caused harm to the SFU community prior to this.”
A GoFundMe alleges the man was “profiled, security perceived him as a threat prior to this, followed him, and then called the police.”
When the police arrived, it continues, “they used unnecessary force, pepper sprayed him, tazed him and continued to restrain him and then arrested him.”
The GoFundMe’s creator says the page has been set up because “right now, he needs support financially, anything will help to support the person in this stressful time.”
Funds raised are being directed to the alumni to use for any legal support and defence.
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Burnaby RCMP said they were called to the campus around 9 pm, after campus security requested “assistance with a man familiar to them who was refusing to leave a campus dining hall.”
Police said campus security reported to police that the man was not a student of the university and refused to leave contrary to the safety requirements placed by SFU during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Upon arrival, “a single officer located the man inside the dining hall, circling and yelling at several campus security employees,” said 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,” police said. “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 pepper spray.”
During this altercation, the man “subdued the officer and placed the officer in a chokehold,” police said. “Fearing for his safety, the officer deployed a conducted energy weapon.”
Police said that once the man was in custody, the officer then sought the assistance of BC Ambulance Service, after which the man was taken to hospital to be treated for injuries sustained from the CEW.
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.
Police said that when an 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 Supt. Graham Delagorgendiere. “This report, along with witness testimony and video evidence is now being reviewed by the supervisor of the involved officer.”
In light of this incident, HoSang wrote that “the distrust between SFU and Black and Indigenous students is further widened.”
Many times in the past, “it has been asked that the SFU Security always err on the
side of de-escalation and to have caution around police presence. SFU security needs
to ramp up its racial sensitivity training and substitute current security with learned
security who are aware and have lived experiences of Black and Indigenous
community members on campus, focused around community care and
community-led safety instead of policing.”
SFU, he said, “needs to reevaluate its relationship with the Burnaby RCMP and stop allowing them to recruit on campus, and stop calling the police on Black and Indigenous
peoples if no harm to the SFU community is being caused.”
Finally, SFU “needs to change its policies on H1 rating for COVID-19, or not enforce the policy if there is no equal approach to ensure that all ID holders are asked if they are current “community members.” Furthermore, the SFU Alumni definitely has an issue with SFU closing off access to valid SFU identification for them to do business.”
University “aware” of incident
In a statement, SFU Chief Safety Officer Mark Lalonde said the university is “aware” of the December 11 arrest.
“We recognize that comments and the videos posted may cause distress to SFU community members, particularly for Black & Indigenous members,” he said.
The role of Campus Public Safety” is to provide public safety and protection services to the SFU community,” he continued. “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, he continued, “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,” he added. “Our number one priority is always the safety of our SFU community.”
A continuous theme of targeting
HoSang offered two examples that he said “show explicitly that there is a continuous theme of targeting and unequal execution of policy around IDing students.”
Speaking about the December 11 incident, HoSang said “if there was a disturbance that security was alerted to in West Mall Center, the security team then had clear control of the situation and had full opportunity to de-escalate.”
The student “showed the ID, and the security guard at hand asked for ID, which she then proceeded to call the supervisor after additional checks were done to say that the alumnus did not take classes in this semester.”
At this point, “there was an opportunity missed by security to de-escalate and say that the situation is controlled and walk away.”
The security guards “followed the alumnus to the dining hall, a place in which he had every right to be at, since he purchased a pass to get his food.”
Instead, HoSang wrote, the man was told by another security guard to “peacefully leave or the RCMP will be called,” which is essentially a death sentence for the Black man. This was after the alumnus had been asking why he was being asked to leave if he was already checked, and was allowed to enter the dining hall.”
“[Police] then arrived at around 9:15 pm, and within 10 minutes of arrival, the violent pepper-spraying arrest, and subsequent tazing, took place.”
HoSang said that following the incident, the man was brought to the hospital “where he was treated to remove the electrode from his skull. He was not detained under the Mental Health Act and was discharged. He is now recovering in privacy.”