Hamilton police are investigating a video that surfaced on social media Thursday and appears to show an officer lunging at a woman.
In a news release Friday morning, Hamilton Police Service described the video as “concerning” and said its professional standards branch is leading the investigation.
Officers shown on the video — which is footage from a surveillance camera —were responding to a neighbour dispute at the time, said police spokesperson Jackie Penman.
The footage appears to have been captured Thursday before it was released on social media. It shows two masked, uniformed officers at the door of a basement unit of a Hamilton home, asking to speak with the tenant.
One officer appears to point at the camera before speaking with the resident, who has the door cracked open.
Tenant says neighbour wants her evicted
The footage shows the resident — a transgender woman with disabilities — telling the officer her neighbour has made a complaint against her. She also says he is the superintendent and he made past complaints about her. CBC has agreed to withhold the woman’s name because she is concerned for her safety.
In the video, she says the neighbour is trying to allow renovations that are contrary to the zoning of the home and he is trying to evict her. The superintendent is “harassing his tenant and making it construed to be the opposite,” she says.
“Can I finish my sentence?” one officer says. “If you damage his property, you are going to be arrested.”
The woman says she didn’t damage any property.
“Please don’t speak to me like that,” she says.
In a raised voice, the officer says: “I’ll just speak over you because clearly you’re unreasonable and you don’t listen.
“If you damage his property, you are going to be arrested. So do not damage anything. Is that clear? Thank you.”
Resident accuses officer of bullying
The woman says she understands and, as the officers are leaving says “Enjoy your bullying of a position.”
That’s when the officer is seen turning around and lunging toward the woman as she quickly shuts the door.
He looks up at the other officer and laughs, then leaves.
“I was feeling worried and concerned … What if I hadn’t moved out of the way after he lunged at me?” the woman told CBC News. “Would he have followed through with arresting me just to cover [himself]? Would he have hit me? He acknowledged the video camera and so did his colleague moments before he decided to act like that.
“I literally called him a bully and he bullied me on camera,” she said.
The woman said she was told that if she wanted the officers reprimanded, she would need to file a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD). Instead, she said she had someone post the surveillance footage to social media.
Police pledge to improve relationship with LGBTQ+ community
In a news release issued Friday morning, Hamilton police said “Public trust and accountability” is integral to the work of the service.
“And we are committed to upholding these values,” the news release said.
Hamilton police have not said who in the professional services branch is leading the investigation and have not named the officers in the video.
Last year, after a damning report showed the force failed to stop violence at a 2019 Pride festival in the city’s Gage Park, Police Chief Eric Girt apologized on behalf of the service.
That independent report by Toronto lawyer Scott Bergman stated relationship between Hamilton Police and LGBTQ residents of the city needed mending.
As of September 2020, the service had acted on 34 of 38 recommendations. Of those, six were complete, 28 were in progress and four hadn’t started.
The woman in the video said she has no faith in the police to make any meaningful change.
“Their public image is just a farce,” she said.
Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger also commented on the video, also calling it “concerning.”
“Our police service members are rightfully held to the highest standards of professionalism and integrity and have a positive duty to treat all members of our community with respect,” he said.
“The incident is now under investigation and I look forward to the outcome.”