Winnipeg police confirm officer took photo of intoxicated man on bus bench, issue apology

Photo: Justin Gregory Highway/Facebook

Police confirm officer used cellphone to take photo

Winnipeg Police Constable Rob Carver, issued a public apology Wednesday after an officer took a photo of an intoxicated man on a bus bench who appeared to be unconscious and resting his head on the shoulder of a smiling Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS) employee.

A separate photo of the incident on Friday — at a bus stop on Grant Avenue and Stafford Street — was taken by Justin Highway a passerby, who posted it to social media.

Highway told CBC News over the weekend he saw the female officer take a photo of the man.

Highway wasn’t able to capture the officer taking a photo of the man but he’s confident the officer took a photo because of the way she had her phone turned.

In Highway’s photo, a female officer is seen standing in front of an indigenous man on a bench. She is accompanied by another police officer and four WFPS employees. The first responders were criticized for making light of the situation by posing with the man, who was in a vulnerable state and not able to verbalize consent.

The photo created immediate backlash online.

On Wednesday, Carver said an officer’s phone was used to take a photo.

“I want to confirm that our investigation has concluded that a cellphone was used by one of the police officers to take a photo at the scene,” Carver said at a news conference.

“We apologize to this individual. We know the citizens of Winnipeg expect us to treat everyone with dignity and respect, and they deserve nothing less.”

A Twitter user brought the controversial photo to the attention of Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman.

The city has since put out a statement in reaction to the photo:

“We have been looking into this since the photo first began making rounds on social media on Friday, and have taken statements from all involved,” the statement read. “WFPS staff spent approximately 90 minutes caring for this individual while awaiting WPS transport. At the point this photo was taken, WFPS staff were providing information to WPS, while the individual was resting his head on the shoulder of one of our WFPS members. 

“We can assure you that this individual was treated in a respectful and professional manner at all times.”

However, some members of the indigenous community in Winnipeg have told the Northern Plains Freelancer that the officer who took the photo and the WFPS members involved should face disciplinary action.