A Victoria police officer was found to have abused their power and neglected their duty while failing to adequately investigate a report of intimate partner violence.
It’s just one of the substantiated allegations outlined in the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner 2021/2022 annual report released Nov. 22.
The OPCC oversees complaints related to the work of municipal police officers, special municipal constables and officers serving on other police agencies throughout British Columbia. Saanich, Victoria, Oak Bay and Central Saanich all have municipal departments.
During 2021/2022, the OPCC opened 1,528 files, a nine per cent increase from the previous report.
While only a handful of files found substantiated allegations upon investigation, file counts were mostly up locally as well. This past year the OPCC opened 17 Central Saanich files, up from nine, with 92 in Saanich (up from 77) and 181 in Victoria/Esquimalt (up from 153). Oak Bay dipped only slightly with 11 files this year, down one.
None of the files were substantiated in Central Saanich.
Victoria Police Department
An officer with the Victoria Police Department was found in neglect of duty and discourtesy and abuse of authority in an August 2019 incident by conducting an inadequate investigation into a report of intimate partner violence.
The complainant also reported the member treated her in a degrading, demeaning, and discourteous manner.
After investigation, the authority did not find the member committed misconduct but the commissioner disagreed, believing the member did not adequately assess the risk. The commissioner appointed retired provincial court judge Brian Neal to review the matter.
Neal found the member appeared to have committed three allegations of misconduct and that they failed to complete a “thorough evidence-based, risk-focused investigation.”
Neil also determined the member may have demonstrated discourteous behaviour towards the complainant and treated the person in an oppressive manner by using profane or insulting language that “tended to demean or disrespect the complainant based on her sex.”
The officer earned a written reprimand, two two-day suspensions without pay, and training, specifically to attend and complete the Facilitated Trauma Informed Practices Foundations course offered by the Justice Institute of B.C.
VicPD was also tasked with some retraining after three reports from the public with concerns about an officer stopping them for carrying open alcohol. The complainants reported that the member made inappropriate comments and became aggressive in his language and tone during the August 2019 incident. The officer was found in misconduct and given a verbal reprimand and tasked with completing a police ethics and accountability course.
Saanich Police Department
Saanich had four substantiated allegations. A member faced written reprimand for neglect of duty for displaying negative behaviours towards others, including speaking ill behind people’s backs, ignoring colleagues, unduly criticizing others for errors, and making sarcastic comments in a 2018 incident.
In a second substantiated file, dated December 2019, during an off-duty social gathering, the member inappropriately touched a female work colleague. Discipline for the discreditable conduct included 10 days without pay and mandatory training regarding sexual assault, sexual harassment and workplace harassment.
In the third, an officer earned a written reprimand for losing their badge and not reporting it immediately.
The investigation found the Saanich Police Department member told their watch commander in November 2020 that the department-issued wallet containing their badge and police identification was missing. The investigation determined the member discovered it missing in late August or early September.
The fourth substantiated allegation was an investigation requested by the Saanich Police Department after a member met with an unknown civilian while working surveillance. According to the Saanich Police Department, a civilian reported she met the member through a dating application and talked on the phone and met with the officer while they were on duty conducting surveillance.
During a rehearing conference, it was determined the member had a momentary lack of judgement and in hindsight, realized the meeting was not appropriate. The OPCC reviewed the proposed disciplinary/corrective measures and deemed the written reprimand as appropriate.
Oak Bay Police Department
Oak Bay Police Department’s lone substantiated file included five allegations against one member. Ordered by the OBPD, it included allegations of alcohol abuse on and off-duty, abusive and intimidating behaviour to the partner and family members, erratic behaviour, an incident of physical violence, and the inappropriate use of a conducted energy weapon (CEW). The Police Act investigation was suspended pending the outcome of a criminal investigation regarding the incident of physical violence. No criminal charge was filed and the investigation resumed.
The investigation found the allegations were substantiated and characterized as serious misconduct.
The discipline authority noted that “deploying a CEW as a party trick on two separate occasions, repeatedly napping on duty without informing their shift mates, disabling the GPS on a police vehicle to conceal their whereabouts at home, remaining at home for inappropriately long periods of time and displaying an inattentive attitude while on duty, establish a pattern of behaviour inconsistent with the expectations that the public and fellow officers place on a higher ranking member.”
The officer was reduced from sergeant to first class constable, prohibited from competing for a promotion for a year and requires approval from the chief constable to compete for promotion.
The member did not request a review of the disciplinary decision.
The OPCC received 583 complaints from the public about police conduct, but only 258 were considered admissible. Complaints must contain allegations of misconduct that are outlined under the Police Act. There are 13 disciplinary breaches of trust that officers can be reprimanded for and complaints must be made within a year of the alleged offence, however, the commissioner can waive that.
RCMP complaints are handled through the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP.
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