Vancouver Police Staff Sergeant Mark Horsley wanted to put an end to the abuse that disabled people in the city’s Downtown Eastside had been facing. Over the past year and a half, there have been 28 cases in Vancouver where a wheelchair-bound individual was attacked. More than half of these took place in the Downtown Eastside, known for its high rates of homelessness and crime.
He went undercover as a wheelchair user, in an attempt to apprehend any criminals who tried to take advantage of his position.
But while he expected many would treat him with, at best, indifference or callousness, if not outright violence, he was moved by what he found.
“The caring and compassion expressed to me in my undercover role was inspiring. This community has soul. Victimizing the vulnerable is far beneath the people of the Downtown Eastside.”
One man visiting from Quebec asked permission to pray for Horsley’s recovery. This same man noticed that Horsley had money hanging out of a wallet, but had no intention of swiping it. Instead, he reached down, zipped up the wallet, and gently warned the sergeant to be careful, lest he lose his money. Then the man spent some time sharing his own story, as one would with a friend:
“The community accepted me very quickly as being one of theirs.”
Horsley exchanged food and other items with passers-by, informing them that he couldn’t count. He expected to be duped, but not one person shortchanged him. If anything, he actually ended up with an extra $24.75.
“The generosity, the caring was inspiring.”
Horsley wasn’t able to track down the perpetrator, but he gained an appreciation for a community whose conscience he’d doubted.
“For the very rare and despicable person who’s willing to victimize vulnerable people, you should know: the police are watching,” he said. “But more importantly, the people of the Downtown Eastside are watching.”