The 2011 Michener Award finalists talk about their award winning stories and the people who helped make them happen – Michener Awards Ceremony, June 12, 2012.
The Windsor Star showed courage and determination in exposing a web of brutality and deceit within the Windsor Police Service. The shocking beating of a local doctor by a Windsor detective led the newspaper to court documents and to uncover more incidents that validated a disturbing pattern of violence against innocent civilians, unethical behaviour, and cover-ups within the police service over a number of years.
On April 22, 2010, a young doctor was on his way to Windsor, Ontario to check out office space for his new practice. Dr. Tyceer Abouhassan got off the train and jogged to the medical centre.
When he got there, he put his backpack on the window ledge, and was rummaging for his cell phone when he was knocked unconscious by a hulking man who attacked him from behind.
His attacker was a plainclothes police officer.
Det. David Van Buskirk had received a telephone call from his 12-year-old daughter saying she’d been harassed by a man at the tennis courts near the medical centre. Van Buskirk left his post at the downtown headquarters and set off to find the man. Mistaking Abouhassan for that creep, Van Buskirk broke the doctor’s nose, gave him a concussion and detached his retina.
As awful as all that sounds, it’s not the worst part of this story.
Van Buskirk lied in his report of the incident, saying the doctor had attacked him. Van Buskirk’s friends on the force ignored what the surveillance video showed and backed up the detective. The doctor was charged with assault.
An investigation by provincial watchdog agencies sorted out the entire mess eventually. But the incident exposed a culture of corruption and deceit at the police force.
As the court reporter, I’d heard rumblings about how police officers would beat up innocent people, then lay criminal charges against their victims to cover up their behaviour. But when I started investigating, I found Van Buskirk had done it many times before, and so had other officers on the force including those who had backed him up in the Abouhassan case.
We at the Windsor Star were relentless in our desire to right this injustice. I wrote stories about it. Anne Jarvis wrote columns about it. Karen Hall wrote editorials. Mike Graston drew cartoons.
The police chief stepped down.
People in Windsor now look to the Star as the police watchdog. Just last week, a man came to us with video showing an instance of police brutality. He brought the video to police, but he brought it to the paper first. With all we had exposed before, the police acted quickly, suspending the officer and charging him with assault.
We are told the police fear us. That’s fine. Because now the people of Windsor have less to fear from the police.
Michener Awards Ceremony
June 12, 2012.