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December 13, 2004

Mistaken identify – police put cuffs on hearing-disabled man

From: CBC Saskatchewan, Canada - Dec 13, 2004

REGINA – A Regina man with a hearing impairment says he was "shell-shocked" last week when police grabbed and handcuffed him outside his workplace.

James Ferguson, 25, was arriving at work at a restaurant on the east side of the city Dec. 6 when he saw a police officer approach him and tell him to get on the ground.

When he saw the officer put his hand on his holster, Ferguson complied.

"I told him I'm hard of hearing," Ferguson said. "He was more concerned about getting me on the ground."

What Ferguson didn't know at the time was that police were looking for a man involved in a violent incident at a crosswalk some minutes earlier.

According to Insp. Ken Black of the Regina Police Service, around 8:50 a.m. a pedestrian became "enraged" after a car slid into the intersection at the corner of Victoria Avenue and Park Street.

The man swore at the driver and kicked out a headlight. He took out a knife and stabbed it into the front tire, then fled.

Ferguson, who was not the man police were seeking, said he was flabbergasted when he saw several police cars arrive outside the restaurant.

Police cuffed him with his hands behind his back. An employee from the restaurant rushed out to tell police they had the wrong man.

Ferguson, who is studying political science at the University of Regina, said one officer said he was sorry.

Ferguson's mother, Lois, said she appreciates that police have a difficult job to do, but in this case they should have been more careful.

Police also need more training to help them deal with deaf and hard of hearing people, she said.

She added a written apology from the Regina police service would also be appropriate.

"It's very unfortunate this happened," said Black. "Our officers were being very careful."

Copyright © CBC 2004