Abbotsford Police Chief Bob Rich said he is confident with the job being done by 16 officers under investigation for possible misconduct, and none have been suspended from their jobs.
Rich, speaking at a press conference Wednesday morning outside of the Abbotsford Police Department (APD), said the officers are “great cops.”
“They continue to serve this community even while under investigation, and I am proud of how they have conducted themselves through difficult times,” he said.
Rich said the officers are not involved in any drug investigations at this time, but are still doing “police work.”
Any files involving them have been put on hold until the investigation is complete. Rich estimates “10 to 20” cases are affected.
A 17th officer, Const. Christopher Nicholson, was suspended from the APD without pay after he was charged in May 2013 with several criminal offences.
He is part of an investigation ordered by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) and also involving the 16 other officers.
The OPCC announced earlier today that the investigation mainly concerns statements sworn or affirmed in obtaining search warrants.
Rich said he believes most of these allegations will be proved to be mistakes in the way the information to obtain (ITO) a search warrant was filled out.
For example, he said there had been some confusion among officers about how much information on the ITO needed to be revealed about informants – such as their criminal records.
He said there were also matters in which two signatures were required but only one was provided.
“I have a view (in those circumstances) that that member likely made a mistake. The Police Complaint Commissioner has a view that the member did something deceitful. We disagree on that point.”
Rich said the APD could have done a better job in the past with training and “tighter procedures” involving search warrant applications.
“That’s our bad, as a department, as management, that we didn’t provide really good clarity for our members about what our expectations were.”
Rich said an audit by the Vancouver Police Department has resulted in several recommendations, which the APD is implementing to limit mistakes made in the future.
All 220 APD members are receiving training on the matter, he said.
Rich also responded to the OPCC’s statements that there has been a “lack of adequate disclosure from police.”
He said those comments were not made in reference to the APD, which turned over all its relevant files to the Vancouver Police Department for its investigation into the initial allegations against Nicholson that resulted in charges being laid.
Those files are now with the New Westminster Police Department, which is heading the further investigation, and issues about which files are shared with the OPCC is an ongoing matter before the courts, Rich said.
He said the delays have been “frustrating” for the officers under investigation.
Rich said he does not believe that these allegations tarnish the reputation of the APD or the community.
“What the community expects from us is that when we make mistakes, we own up. When we found there was a problem, we did something … We are doing everything we need to do to maintain the confidence of the public.”
Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun, who chairs the Abbotsford Police Board, told The News that when he became mayor he was briefed by the police chief about the Nicholson investigation and was aware of the ongoing investigation, but he was “blindsided” by the OPCC announcement to media.
He said it’s important to remember that the investigation began with APD officers who brought the matter forward and “that in itself, I think, speaks volumes for the integrity of the organization.”
He said it is a very important matter, but he has faith in the OPCC investigation.
“I would urge people not to jump to conclusions before all of the facts are known.”
Braun praised Rich for his work, saying “from everything I’ve seen, the police chief has handled this in a very professional manner.”