A Vancouver police officer has been found guilty of assault for Tasering a Black man after he was stopped and arrested for jaywalking in the city’s downtown core nearly five years ago.
Const. Jarrod Sidhu was convicted of assault with a weapon in Vancouver Provincial Court on Monday. Court heard Sidhu used his Taser three times on Jamiel Moore-Williams while he was surrounded by five other police officers on Granville Street in 2018.
“I reject … that Mr. Moore-Williams posed a risk of imminent bodily harm to anyone. I reject … that no lesser use of force was available to address any risk,” Judge Emmet Duncan told the court as Sidhu sat in a dark suit next to his lawyer.
“I do not accept the Taser was proportionate [or] necessary.”
Sidhu was one of two officers charged after Moore-Williams was stopped for stepping into the street in front of a police cruiser. Moore-Williams, who has an ongoing civil suit, has long maintained the officers targeted him because of his race.
“I think years ago, this type of decision would’ve been less likely to occur. I think there is a trend now for us to see things differently,” said Donna Turko, Moore-Williams’ civil lawyer.
A spokesperson for the police department on Monday could not immediately confirm whether Sidhu will remain on duty.
“A Police Act investigation will be resuming, as it was suspended during the criminal trial. As such, it would be inappropriate to provide any other details,” the spokesperson said in an email.
Judge relied heavily on testimony, Snapchat evidence
On Monday, court heard Moore-Williams hesitated to provide identification after police stopped him for stepping into the road.
The judge found he did so because he had “legitimate questions” as to why he needed to show his ID, “particularly given past experiences with police.”
“[His] behaviour on the corner was respectful, non-threatening, focused, but firm,” Duncan said.
Court heard police thought Moore-Williams was hesitating because he was hiding something criminal.
“I conclude that [officer] Sidhu believed that Mr. Moore-Williams was obstructing his attempt to obtain ID, though I have concerns about the hastiness of this decision,” said Duncan, who relied heavily on witness testimony and several Snapchat videos in making his decision.
The judge ultimately found the arrest for obstruction was legal but said the situation escalated afterward.
WATCH | Jamiel Moore-Williams is arrested in downtown Vancouver in February 2018:
Police took Moore-Williams to the ground by grabbing his arms and legs. At least three officers kicked, kneed and hit Moore-Williams while he was on the ground.
Sidhu used his Taser three times in less than two minutes. The judge said Moore-Williams was lying flat on his back on the ground, “virtually motionless,” by the second shock.
Moore-Williams has maintained he was reaching for his ID when officers took him down.
In explaining his decision to use the Taser, Sidhu told the court Moore-Williams had put him in a headlock while resisting arrest, and the officer feared he was being choked. The judge found Sidhu was a relatively inexperienced officer with less than two years of experience who believed Moore-Williams — a former defensive lineman for the University of British Columbia football team — was “exceptionally strong.”
Still, the judge said Sidhu was wrong to use the Taser multiple times.
“I find Const. Sidhu’s decision to deploy his [Taser] was not proportionate to the threat Mr. Moore Williams would’ve posed surrounded by five police officers,” he said.
“Using the [Taser] to gain compliance was not necessary.”
Officers later wrote Moore-Williams a ticket for jaywalking and obstruction. Crown later stayed those charges.
Sidhu and his colleague, Const. Jagpreet Ghuman, were both criminally charged on Dec. 8, 2020, after an RCMP investigation.
The charge against Ghuman was stayed last July.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.