VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A video of a Transit Police officer calmly confronting a woman who refuses to wear a mask while she accuses him of harassment, berates him, and kicks him in the groin before being arrested is going viral.
According to spokesperson Sgt. Clint Hampton the incident which took place last December shows what officers have been faced with since masks became mandatory.
“This is a good example of the challenges that police officers, in general, have faced specifically regarding mask enforcement,” he says.
“Definitely we saw an increase in belligerent behaviour, obstructive behaviour, and in the worst cases assaultive behaviour when we started enforcing masks on the transit system.”
Charges have been recommended to Crown Counsel but not approved, and the woman was issued a $230 ticket.
The officer is being praised online for his calm demeanor, and Hampton says he reached out personally to follow up when the incident first made news.
“I think sometimes it’s underestimated a little bit how the impact something like this can have, because as a police officer, you don’t anticipate being out in the media like that for an incident where you’re just trying to do your job,” he says.
Transit Police have issued over $74,000 in fines related to people breaking COVID-19-related rules. That works out to a total of 322 tickets.
TransLink mandated masks in August, but prioritized education over enforcement. Hampton says they stopped taking the education approach around November when provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry made wearing a face-covering mandatory in indoor spaces.
“From that time to the end of 2020, we issued 228 mask-related tickets,” he said. “In the beginning of 2021 — that would have been January to Feb. 21 — we had issued 94 mask-related tickets,” Hampton said.
He says months later, it remains tricky to deal with people who refuse to wear a mask.
“When they’re dealing with those people, those people’s health status is really unknown. So, it’s already a concern for the officers.”
With files from Ria Renouf