B.C.’s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner is questioning a disciplinary decision by the Vancouver Police Department that cleared one of its officers of wrongdoing in an aggressive 2021 traffic stop.
Commissioner Clayton Pecknold announced Wednesday (Nov. 9) he is ordering a review into the decision, to be done by retired judge Mark Takahashi.
The officer whose actions are being examined is Const. Lance Fraser. On May 16, 2021, video footage shows Fraser pulled over a man, Roshan Soroush-Nasab, who was riding motorcycles with his friends near the Ironworkers Bridge. Fraser is seen slamming Soroush-Nasab to the ground and handcuffing him, while a friend calls out “Why are you arresting him?”
A VPD spokesperson later said Soroush-Nasab and his friends were pulled over for excessive speeding, but its own disciplinary authority found Fraser never told Soroush-Nasab why he was being arrested before taking him into custody.
VPD’s disciplinary authority examined two areas of alleged misconduct: abuse of authority, relating to the level of force Fraser used, and neglect of duty, relating to his failure to tell Soroush-Nasab why he was being arrested. It found while Fraser’s telling of events wasn’t always consistent and he did forcefully take Soroush-Nasab to the ground, his actions were reasonable. The authority also determined Fraser wasn’t required to explain what was happening to Soroush-Nasab.
B.C.’s police complaint commissioner disagreed.
Pecknold said his office received a request from Soroush-Nasab on Sept. 29, 2022 asking that they look into VPD’s decision. Soroush-Nasab claimed Fraser never asked him to put his hands behind his back and never attempted to communicate what was going on verbally. Soroush-Nasab said he believed Fraser was angry that some of the motorcyclists had gotten away and was taking his feelings out on him. He added that Fraser should have been able to recognize he wasn’t in danger and that he could have diffused the situation peacefully.
Taking this into account along with VPD’s decision, Pecknold said there is a “reasonable basis to believe” the department’s choice was incorrect. Pecknold said he has concerns around the inconsistencies in Fraser’s telling of events and “the rapid deployment of force with an absence of effective verbal communication.”
Pecknold called Fraser’s use of force “disproportionate to the circumstances.”
There is no timeline yet on when the review of VPD’s decision will be complete.