A suspension for a deleted video. Nothing for the gunpoint stop of an innocent man.
Deleting the phone video of a man stopped at gunpoint last year netted an Abbotsford Police officer a five-day suspension.
An Abbotsford police officer was suspended for five days this spring for deleting a phone video captured by an innocent man detained at gunpoint last year. But there won’t be any punishment handed down for the gunpoint stop itself, which the subject said caused him to fear for his life.
Navee Thandi was working late at night at his security job in an Abbotsford industrial park last summer when he was confronted by a person pointing her gun at him. The woman was an Abbotsford Police officer in plain clothes, but Thandi said he didn’t see a badge and that he feared for his life. Thandi started recording on his cell phone. The officer was soon joined by others. One with a beanbag gun threatened to shoot Thandi if he didn’t drop his phone.
Thandi was handcuffed, read his rights, and told he was suspected of a break-and-enter in the area. Eventually, the officers realized he did, indeed, work at the property and let him go. But when they gave him his phone back, the video of the arrest was missing.
This spring, Const. Kylie Thiessen was disciplined for deleting Thandi’s phone following the arrest. That she did so was never in dispute: the disciplinary document delivered to Thandi and read by The Current confirms that, immediately after the interaction, Thiessen admitted to deleting the videos, then emptying his phone’s “deleted videos” folder as Thandi was being led to the police cruiser.
“Just like right away I was like, ‘Ah, I really fucked up,” she told a superior officer who later interviewed her, according to the disciplinary document.
But Thiessen’s reasons for deleting the video were less clear. Following the incident, the reason she gave for deleting the video shifted. Immediately after deleting the video, Thiessen told her superior officer that anger at being filmed got the best of her. But when interviewed months after the event, she said she deleted the video because she was worried that its publication would risk a future career in another profession. (The exact profession is redacted from documents seen by The Current.)
APD deputy chief Paulette Freill, who was in charge of Thiessen’s discipline, didn’t believe Thiessen’s amended reasons for deleting the video. Freill concluded Thiessen had deleted the video “out of frustration and anger that Mr. Thandi was argumentative and videotaping her actions” and not out of concern about her future job prospects.
Thiessen’s five-day suspension without pay was deemed a serious punishment by Freill, who said it showed poor judgment and reflected poorly on the APD. She said Thiessen had broken the “sacred trust” that enables police officers to hold and access evidence and personal property in the course of their duties.
But while she didn’t believe Thiessen’s reasons for deleting the video that recorded the interaction, Freill declared the “evidence” showed Thiessen acted “appropriately in this high stress situation and relied on her training during the take-down.” Because the video evidence had been deleted, the evidence would have consisted of the accounts of the officers present and Thandi, who was able to make written submissions but wasn’t interviewed.
Unlike for tasers, there are no provincial police standards on when or how officers draw and point their guns at people. The decision doesn’t explain why Thiessen pointed her gun at Thandi, who says the event was traumatizing and the stop unjustified. The Abbotsford Police Department declined to comment on the decision when contacted by The Current.
Thandi says he should have been entitled to be present at, and speak at, Thiessen’s disciplinary hearing and respond to the accounts of the officers about the gunpoint stop.
“I wish I was there to show my part of the story. I look guilty kind of, right, because no one’s going to believe me because all my evidence got deleted by that officer. I’m kind of glad they actually did something, but I was just hoping a little bit more would have been done.”
Thandi also believes his race was a factor in the stop. “I’m a dark[-skinned] person. There was no asking, ‘Hey, sir, what are you doing here?’ If that was the case, everything would have been different… If it was like, ‘Excuse me sir, we had a complaint about this and that, could you tell me what you’re doing here?’
“No, just straight gunpointing. I seriously thought she was going to shoot me.”
According to data obtained by The Current, the frequency with which Abbotsford Police Department are drawing and pointing pointed firearms has more than doubled in recent years. We will have that story in an upcoming edition.