Disabled man pushed for years to see the video from the night he claims a cop flicked urine on him. Police maintained no video existed, until they recently found it.
Udhbirprasaud “Joe” Bhikram has maintained he was mistreated while in police custody in 2009. A holding cell video police said no longer existed has just surfaced. By: Alex Ballingall News, Published on Sun Jun 15 2014
Toronto police “made a mistake” in asserting for years that video footage didn’t exist from the night a disabled man claims an officer flicked urine on him in a 52 Division holding cell, a police spokesman says.
Udhbirprasaud “Joe” Bhikram has pushed for years to have the video released, appealing to the province’s police watchdog and suing the information and privacy commissioner in an effort to see images from Jan. 28, 2009, the night he spent several hours in police custody and alleges he was mistreated.
After years of maintaining video from that time had been recorded over, the police found the footage and agreed to hand it over to Bhikram on June 5, said communications director Mark Pugash.
“The mistake certainly shouldn’t have happened,” he said. “As soon as we discovered that the video did exist, Deputy Chief (Michael) Federico wrote immediately to the information and privacy commissioner and we gave Mr. Bhikram the video.”
Pugash said he “does not have the specifics” of how the video was found.
Bhikram’s allegations have not been proven in court. The officer in question “unequivocally” denies the accusations, Pugash said.
The newly released video, obtained by the Star, does not show an officer urinating or flicking urine in the holding cell.
Bhikram, a 60-year-old man who uses a wheelchair because of a stroke he suffered more than a decade ago, was adamant in an interview that the video is incomplete. He reiterated his claim that an officer used the cell toilet, then shook drops of urine onto him while he lay on the floor.
“Where is that video?” Bhikram asked. “I want to show the public everything. . . . A partial truth, a fragmented truth, can never give birth to justice.”
There are several gaps in the footage, which can be seen based on sudden jumps in the time-stamped video. Pugash said the gaps are explained by the fact that the cameras are motion activated and stop recording when there is no movement.
In an emailed statement, information and privacy commissioner spokesman Trell Huether said “we were disturbed” to learn of the video’s existence.
“This comes after multiple searches by the police and the provision of a sworn affidavit to this office stating that the video had been deleted,” said Huether, referring to the police service’s response to Bhikram’s requests to access the video.
“It appears the (police) had not undertaken a sufficiently diligent search.”
The video shows Bhikram wheeled into the “bullpen” at 52 Division. He was arrested that night on charges of threatening a police officer, which were later dismissed. Bhikram is shown dressed only in his underwear and a light-coloured mask covering his mouth; he is also handcuffed.
After a few minutes he is seen trying to move out of his wheelchair, and falls to the floor. Bhikram said he injured his hip in the fall. After wriggling on the floor for a moment, he lies still, and the video jumps six minutes to show him in the same position on the floor.
That’s when officers enter the cell to take notes, and eventually help Bhikram back into his chair and get dressed in clothes they provided.
Bhikram claimed the urination episode occurred while he was on the ground “moaning and groaning.”
Pugash said that, as far as he’s aware, no additional video exists from Bhikram’s time in custody that night. He said any movement in the holding cell would have been recorded on the video released to Bhikram last week.
“What we have are unproven allegations, and a police officer who specifically denies those specific allegations,” he said.
Though unsure of what he’ll do next, Bhikram said he won’t stop pushing to find proof of his claims.
“I want someone to force them. They have it,” he said, sobbing. “I know they covered it up.”