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Abbotsford Police officer cleared of misconduct

An Abbotsford Police officer has been cleared by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) of misconduct related to a strip search in 2009.

The officer, whose name has been redacted in the OPCC ruling on the matter, had been accused of abusing her authority during the traffic stop of a suspected drug dealer.

According to the documents, two officers were transporting a prisoner from hospital to police cells on Aug. 15, 2009, when the prisoner told them he recognized a female drug dealer driving a vehicle in the area.

The officers pulled over the car in the 32500 block of South Fraser Way, and were joined by a third officer in a separate cruiser.

A police check indicated that the woman, whose named was also redacted in the documents, was awaiting disposition of charges for drug trafficking, as well as breaching her conditions.

All three officers noticed the smell of burning marijuana coming from the woman's vehicle as they approached it.

The suspect was "lippy and mouthy" and did not follow police directions, the OPCC report stated.

Her vehicle was searched, and no drugs were found. A female officer then told her she was required to be strip-searched.

The driver's vehicle had a temporary permit that was two hours away from expiring. The officer gave her the option of being searched at the police station or in the washroom of the nearby gas station, to save time and avoid her car being towed when the permit expired.

She opted for the immediate search, through which no drugs were found. The woman was released without charges, but filed a complaint with the Abbotsford Police Department 18 months later, alleging that there had been no grounds for the strip search.

The matter was turned over to an APD sergeant, who concluded that there had not been any police misconduct or abuse of authority.

Chief Bob Rich concurred with the findings, but the OPCC decided there was "reasonable basis to believe the discipline authority was incorrect" in determining there was no misconduct, and a review was held.

OPCC adjudicator William J. Diebolt concluded that there had been reasonable and probable grounds for the officer to conduct the strip search. These grounds  included that the suspect was known to be involved in the drug trade, she had difficulty in following police instructions, and marijuana could be smelled coming from her vehicle.

"The evidence which I accept convinces me that the search was conducted in an appropriate and acceptable manner," Diebolt stated.

 

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