Saras View on Life with Sara Troy aired July 21st-27th
We hear so many stories these days on corrupt police and of the down and out communities in our city’s, but this is a story of dignity, of caring for each other, of looking out for each other. When you give a dam, spend some time with people and DON’T JUDGE, you see humanity uniting to support each other. Thank you Staff Sgt. Mark Horsley for seeing life as it can be.
A veteran Vancouver police officer went undercover as a wheelchair user with a brain injury in an attempt to catch those responsible for a spate of violent attacks on people in wheelchairs since January 2014.
Equipped with a $16,000 wheelchair borrowed from GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre and a backstory that he became an incomplete quadriplegic in a motorcycle accident, Staff Sgt. Mark Horsley spent five days and nights in the Downtown Eastside leaving himself vulnerable to an attack.
“Essentially our operator was our bait, and we were trying to catch the predator,” Insp. Howard Chow said at a news conference Thursday.
Despite intentionally leaving cash hanging out of his fanny pack, he wasn’t robbed or attacked. Instead, Horsley was surprised and inspired by the volume of kindness and compassion he received from the community.
Two young men talked to him and returned an hour later with pizza. One man bent down to zip up his fanny pack. In more than 300 interactions, some of which involved bartering, no one took advantage of him or took any of his money – in fact, he walked away $24 richer.
“I was ready to be victimized. Our plan was just to take whatever the assault or the robbery was… I was really taken by the politeness, the courteousness,” said Horsley, who has been going undercover since 1986.
“In the DTES I found that far more people would get down to my level to talk to me,” he said, adding people would often check if he had someone to care for him.
Police didn’t find the person or people responsible for the 28 attacks on people in wheelchairs over the past 18 months (21 assaults, six robberies and one sexual assaults), the majority of which occurred in the Downtown Eastside.
But they aren’t considering this a failed operation. Instead, they’re using it as a chance to draw attention to the fact that it’s not just the police watching out for people who use wheelchairs – it’s the entire community.
“Part of what we’re doing, bringing awareness to a despicable person that might commit a crime like this,” Horsley said. “It’s an entire community that is supporting the vulnerable.”
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Walt Lawrence, a peer support worker who has used a wheelchair for 46 years after a diving accident, helped coach Horsley to use the chair. He called Vancouver fortunate to have such caring and compassionate individuals and said he feels bad for the perpetrator who has fallen to that level.
Ian Denison of GF Strong agreed. “If these perpetrators get wind of the video, they might be thinking twice.”
NEVER JUDGE, NEVER TURN A BLIND EYE, NEVER ASSUME, AND NEVER STOP CARING FOR EVERYONE NO MATTER THEIR SITUATION.