Pubdate: Wed, 19 Jan 2005
Source: Vancouver Courier (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 Vancouver Courier
Author: Matthew Claxton, Contributing writer


Downtown Eastside activists say a protest against a police shooting is just 
the opening salvo of a campaign to change the way city officers deal with 
local residents.

"This is just the start, of course," said Thia Walter, director of the Life 
Is Not Enough Society.

About 85 people protested Monday outside the Interurban Gallery on East 
Hastings, angry about the Dec. 26 shooting of a man Vancouver police tried 
to arrest in an alley.

"The type of training they receive is basically battlefield conditions, and 
we're not the enemy," Walter said. "Very often they fear what they don't 
understand, and that quite obviously was the case with the 29-year-old 
Gerald Chenery."

Chenery was stopped by two rookie officers in a lane near the 200 block of 
East Hastings. They attempted to arrest him for having violated his parole 
on a robbery charge.

Chenery pulled a knife and charged one officer. The police shot him, firing 
15 rounds, although the department did not say how many of the shots hit 
Chenery. Drugs and alcohol are not believed to be a factor in the incident. 
Chenery had a record for stabbing others.

LINES and the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users organized the protest, 
and their leaders say they need to stop the climate of fear that separates 
police and Downtown Eastside residents.

The organizations are calling for a minimum of four hours of sensitivity 
training for police before they start walking a beat.

"People in this neighbourhood feel like it's Russian roulette," said VANDU 
organizer Ann Livingston. "People that are sick and addicted and in alleys, 
perhaps shooting them isn't the best approach."

Livingston also questions how much force Vancouver police are allowed to 
use. She wants to see changes to the force's operating manual, so 
non-lethal methods will be considered over giving officers permission to 
shoot when they are threatened.

"Maybe we could change those. That should be the very, very last resort," 
said Livingston.

"We have sensitivity training, a lot of it," said Const. Anne Drennan, a 
media liaison for the Vancouver Police Department. "This shooting had 
nothing to do with sensitivity issues or sensitivity training."

She said the officers used their guns because they were attacked by a man 
with a knife. Both officers are currently on leave and receiving counselling.

Neither officer was armed with a Taser or a beanbag shotgun. Several weeks 
before Chenery was shot, officers successfully subdued a man armed with a 
knife by shooting him with a Taser. In that case, officers were responding 
to an incident and were not on routine patrol.

A petition created by VANDU and LINES with hundreds of signatures was taken 
to the Vancouver Police Board on Tuesday asking for the changes.

If the community groups don't get action from the police board, they will 
also approach city hall, said Walter.
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