The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) announced today that it has ordered an investigation into 17 Abbotsford Police officers for 148 allegations of misconduct.
The OPCC said the allegations include corrupt practice, deceit and neglect of duty.
Abbotsford Police Chief Bob Rich addressed the media at 11:30 a.m. to speak on the matter.
The OPCC said the matter stems from the investigation into Const. Christopher Nicholson, who was arrested and charged in May 2013 with several criminal offences including breach of trust, conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance and six counts of obstructing justice.
Nicholson, who first began working with the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) in 2005, has remained on suspension without pay from his job as the case proceeds through the courts.
Nicholson is alleged to have leaked information to a drug dealer so that person could avoid arrest, and is accused of providing false information to other officers, who used the details to obtain search warrants for drugs in private residences.
He is also alleged to have conspired with a confidential informant to have drugs delivered to a residence and have other police officers execute a search warrant soon after.
The APD asked the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) to conduct an investigation into Nicholson after two APD members informed an inspector of his alleged misconduct in July 2012.
Up to a dozen investigators were involved in the covert operation.
The OPCC says that during the VPD investigation, investigators discovered further allegations of misconduct against Nicholson and 16 other members of the APD.
“A large number of these allegations relate to concerns with the integrity of statements sworn or affirmed before judicial officers in which authorizations for search warrants were obtained,” the OPCC said in a statement.
The OPCC said it is concerned about “the extent to which the search warrants in issue may have contributed to potentially unsafe prosecutions.”
The investigation into the 17 officers is being handled by the New Westminster Police Department, with support from the RCMP and the Delta Police Department.
The investigation was ordered in August 2013, and the OPCC said it withheld that information until now “to protect the integrity of the investigation,” but believes it is “in the public interest” to inform the public of the matter.
The agency said there have been challenges in proceeding with the investigation due to its complexity and “lack of adequate disclosure from police.”
“At this juncture, the OPCC has only received a fraction of the very large number of documents that it requires to review in order to provide meaningful oversight of this investigation.”
The OPCC said that as a precautionary measure, several investigations have been suspended while it awaits the disclosure of the investigative materials “in order to ensure that the related criminal proceedings are not prejudiced.”
The investigation is continuing and the OPCC said a summary report will be released to the public at the conclusion of the process.
The OPCC does not lay or recommend criminal charges but looks for infractions under the Police Act. Officers who are determined to have committed any wrongdoing under the act face disciplinary measures that range from a written reprimand to a suspension or firing.