Two violent incidents in Calgary show authorities are unlikely to charge doormen or mall security who injure citizens
The line between excessive force and public safety is a balancing act for many authority figures. This even includes security guards and nightclub doormen.
But two recent Calgary incidents show privately hired security personnel are unlikely to be charged when trying to subdue a potential threat, no matter how far they go. An expert for this article says this is because of changes to Canada's Criminal Code and lower chances of conviction.
The revisions came into effect in March 2013. Before then, the two sections protected citizens from assault charges when faced with potential "death or grievous bodily harm." Now it includes defense of a person (34) or property (35).
Issues of excessive force re-entered Calgary's public conversation last Aug. 31, 2014 when cell phone footage —taken by witness Harmon Kandola — shows doormen repeatedly punching James Clement in the face — his head bouncing off the pavement after each blow.
"The video doesn't show how vicious the beating actually was – it was horrible, it was savage," witness Rocky Kandola, told the Calgary Sun in an article published on Sept. 3, 2014.
As of yet, the doormen have not been charged by Calgary Police, which said the case was under consultation with the Crown. Police would not talk further about the case. The CPS media line said they would not speak further about an ongoing investigation via phone.
According to a statement posted online by Jamesons Pub, Clement was harassing female patrons and attempting to start fights in the bar.
When being removed, the statement said that Clement began fighting the doormen, his friends had to restrain him and drag him out of the building. Clement returned 30 minutes later and began throwing punches at the doormen, at which point Kandola's phone began recording.
According to a phone interview with Clement two months later, he sustained nerve damage in his arm and leg, and is still suffering from sporadic headaches.
"I couldn't leave the house for a month, "said Clement.
Despite the injuries Clement still suffers from, he said, "no one is accountable."
"I just don't understand why they don't have training to handle people properly when they are aggravated and drunk," said Clement. "First they over serve them, then they beat on them – it just makes no sense."
After consulting professionals and knowing all of the possible options, Clement said he does plan to take legal action.
"I am meeting with a Calgary police constable this week. I've got two years to press charges so I just have to make sure all of my ducks are in a row first," said Clement.
Jamesons' statement said that when the police came to the scene they reviewed the security tape and said, "the doormen indeed acted in self-defense."
It is unlikely that there will be charges, said Michelle Christopher, a criminal lawyer who teaches law at the University of Calgary. She said usually doormen and security guards are not charged because they have a strong defense through (Criminal Code) section 35 – defense of property.
"They can pretty much make out a case that the nature and proportionality of what they did in response to the use of threat, the use of force, or the threat of the use of force is reasonable," said Christopher.
According to Christopher, the Crown only lays charges in these situations if there is a good chance of conviction.
"Jamesons' response escalated in response to what that person [Clement] did," said Christopher, "so I think the reason no charges would be laid is because under those circumstances, it would be very difficult to sustain a conviction. "
In March 2013, there were two important changes to Criminal Code of Canada that enhanced the right to protect property and act in self-defense.
These are still unknown to many Canadians, said Roland LaHaye, a criminologist who teaches at Mount Royal University. He said the justice community has done a poor job of educating the public on what the revisions of sections 34 and 35 mean for the average citizen.
The revised sections can try to protect someone from excessive force. LaHaye said a person who intervenes, legitimately; to stop an offence from taking place can be protected from criminal charges.
LaHaye does not believe that the changes to the section 34 and 35 should protect those, like bouncers, who beat up on people.
"What it has more to do with are the attitudes of too many bouncers who feel that because they are hired to police such establishments they inherit special powers to abuse patrons. This very occupation attracts individuals who are prone to the abuse of power," said LaHaye via email.
The revisions came into effect in March 2013. Before then, the two sections protected citizens from assault charges when faced with potential "death or grievous bodily harm." Now, it has changed to defense of a person or property.
Another Calgary brutality incident also resulted in no criminal charges. The same month as the Criminal Code changed, March 2013. Dan Doussept, 31, was violently restrained and punched by five Chinook Centre security guards. The footage is on YouTube.
According the Calgary Herald on March 19, 2013, Doussept said the altercation began with a heated verbal exchange between himself and the guards because he was sitting down on an escalator.
The footage shows four guards pinning Doussept down, while a fifth enters the frame and repeatedly punches him.
"Stop fighting," said one of the guards – "I'm trying not to," screams Doussept.
Further into the video, which runs for over two minutes, one of the guards can be heard saying, "I'm going to f*ck you up."
Chinook Centre's Stacie Woolford said via email that the mall conducted its own internal investigation and appropriate actions were taken. One guard involved was fired – and the Calgary Police Service confirmed no charges were laid due to the unlikelihood of conviction.
She wrote, "Our internal review did result in the management team making enhancements to specific protocols and training procedures."
LaHaye said the public usually holds higher standards for bouncers because they believe they have proper training. "Their training is often times non-existent," he added.
Devin DeFraine, a bouncer with more than eight years of experience and the founder of "The Doorman Network" a Facebook hub for 256 doormen across Calgary, said he believes cases with excessive force among doormen have decreased mainly due to the fact that anyone can post a video to YouTube.
DeFraine said a way to further decrease these cases might be to follow the lead of the Calgary Police Service and have each doorman wear a body camera.
"I think, especially nowadays with liability issues, doormen tend to air on the side of caution," said DeFraine.
Still, two violent incidents in Calgary resulted in no criminal charges to date.
- By Garrett Harvey