A Victoria police officer has been given a 30-day suspension without pay for his conduct during an off-duty sexual encounter with a woman in Vancouver four years ago.
In May, retired judge Wally Oppal found VicPD Sgt. Brent Keleher committed discreditable conduct during the 2018 incident. The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) continued its public hearing into the matter last month and Oppal issued a decision on corrective measures on Oct. 5.
Keleher was in Vancouver for a bachelor party in May 2018 and his group arranged to meet up with the complainant and her friend. The woman and Keleher were well acquainted as the complainant had worked with his wife. All members of the group “consumed a large amount of alcohol” during the meetup before the misconduct took place at a hotel later that night.
The decision states there’s no disputing the woman was in an advanced state of intoxication and Keleher testified the woman “nevertheless consented to the sexual acts.” In any event, he argued he had an honest but mistaken belief that she had consented to the sexual acts, the decision said.
Oppal said the latter was not credible evidence and based on the woman’s intoxication, she didn’t have the capacity to consent and “did not in fact consent.”
“At the very least, Sgt. Keleher was reckless in concluding she had consented to the activities that took place,” the judge wrote.
Oppal said the complainant was clearly vulnerable, and Keleher ought to have realized this as an experienced police officer.
The judge wrote that there is no doubt the misconduct was serious but “this is not a case that calls for dismissal,” before noting the now 42-year-old has held positions in multiple sections during his 19 years with the department.
The decision then cites the support Keleher received from his department and beyond. Oppal said VicPD Chief Del Manak called Keleher a “hard-working officer and a quality investigator” and that the officer expressed a great deal of remorse.
“The Chief Constable is confident that the incident that gives rise to these proceedings will not be repeated,” the decision said. The finding cited several other officers along with Keleher’s sister-in-law, who called him a gentleman and “a downright nice guy.”
Oppal said mitigating factors that led him to issue a suspension rather than a dismissal included the statements in support of the officer, the fact that he has no prior history of misconduct as a police officer and that he accepted responsibility for his actions. Dismissal should be used in the most serious circumstances, but in this case, it would have an adverse effect on the officer’s family and career, the judge said.
The decision noted 30 days is the maximum suspension length allowed under the police act.
A VicPD spokesperson said it respects the OPCC process, findings and discipline ordered and noted Keleher was also investigated and cleared of criminal wrongdoing.
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