THE Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) has ordered a review of an Abbotsford Police Department decision regarding the misconduct of an officer accused of intimate partner violence.
The officer admitted to five allegations of misconduct under the Police Act. The allegations are related to the assault and harassment of the officer’s estranged spouse over several months.
The disciplinary conduct investigation found the officer committed misconduct under the Police Act in five instances which included the assault, installation of GPS tracking devices, harassing behaviours and inappropriate use of police databases. In a separate criminal investigation by the Vancouver Police Department the officer was charged and convicted of assault in relation to the matter.
The Abbotsford Police Discipline Authority considering the Police Act matter recommended that the officer receive a suspension without pay of between one and five days for each of these allegations of misconduct, for a total suspension of 16 days without pay.
In his Notice of Review issued on June 23, the Police Complaint Commissioner found the proposed penalties did not reflect the serious, sustained and deliberate nature of this behaviour which spanned a number of months. The Commissioner noted that while the discipline authority correctly underscored the seriousness of domestic violence and the public’s expectation that those “sworn to protect the vulnerable from intimate partner violence must not engage in it themselves,” those principles were not sufficiently reflected in the proposed penalties.
The name of the officer has been withheld to protect the identity of the victim.
Retired Provincial Court judge David Pendleton will preside as the adjudicator of the Review on the Record, which has yet to be scheduled.
Updates on the review will be shared on the OPCC website.
The Police Complaint Commissioner is a civilian, independent Officer of the Legislature overseeing complaints, investigations and discipline involving municipal police in British Columbia. For more on the OPCC, visit: https://opcc.bc.ca/about-us/
- On July 17, 2017, the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) received information from the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) in relation to a number of incidents involving one of their members which occurred between January 2017 and June 2017.
- According to the Abbotsford Police Department, it is alleged that on May 2, 2017, the member entered the residence of the member’s estranged spouse as the spouse attempted to close the door. It was reported that the member grabbed the spouse’s wrist and prevented the spouse from calling the police for assistance by taking phones away. During the interaction, the member is alleged to have pulled the spouse’s arm and controlled the spouse physically. Further, the member reportedly locked the door leading to the garage which prevented the spouse from leaving the house. As a result of the altercation, the spouse sustained a significant bruise.
- Further, on two separate occasions, in January and May of 2017 respectively, the member is reported to have placed GPS tracking devices on the estranged spouse’s vehicle.
- Between the dates of January 2017 and June 2017, it is reported that the member followed the estranged spouse and subjected the spouse to unwanted communication. The member received a letter from the estranged spouse’s lawyer advising the member to stop any unwanted and inappropriate communication with the estranged spouse. This letter also advised the member to cease entering the estranged spouse’s residence when the spouse is not present. It is alleged that the member continued to communicate with the estranged spouse and entered the spouse’s residence when the spouse was not present after receiving this letter from the lawyer.
- The Abbotsford Police Department further advised that there was an ongoing criminal investigation into the conduct of the member and the Criminal Justice Branch approved four Criminal Code of Canada charges. The Abbotsford Police Department requested that the Police Act investigation into this matter be suspended pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.
- On July 27, 2017, after reviewing the information forwarded by the Abbotsford Police Department, former Police Complaint Commissioner Lowe ordered an investigation into the conduct of the member pursuant to section 93(1) of the Police Act. In addition, the Police Act investigation into this matter was suspended to avoid prejudicing the ongoing criminal investigation or prosecution.
- On July 5, 2018, the suspension of the Police Act proceedings was lifted as the OPCC was advised by the Abbotsford Police Department that the member entered a guilty plea to the charge of Assault, pursuant to section 266 of the Criminal Code. The member received a conditional discharge and was placed on probation, with conditions, for a period of one year. A Stay of Proceedings was directed by Crown on the remaining three charges.
- Abbotsford Police Professional Standards investigator, Staff Sergeant Mike Novakowski, conducted an investigation into this matter and on August 8, 2019, submitted the Final Investigation Report (FIR) to the Discipline Authority. The FIR identified additional misconduct: that the member identified themself as an Abbotsford Police Officer to bar staff to access security video footage recording of the spouse; and the member made queries on PRIME unrelated to duties as a member.
- On August 20, 2019, following her review of the FIR, Deputy Chief Constable Paulette Freill, as the Discipline Authority, found that five allegations of misconduct appeared to be substantiated. Deputy Chief Freill offered the member a Prehearing Conference.
- A Prehearing Conference was held on September 16, 2019, and disciplinary/corrective measures consisting of a total of twelve (12) days suspension without pay were agreed to.
- On September 24, 2019, I rejected the Prehearing Conference agreement and the matter proceeded to a Discipline Proceeding.