An Abbotsford Police officer lost his or her job last year after lying to try to receive a new jacket and then damaging a colleague’s coat in an effort to conceal the misconduct.
The officer was one of five in Abbotsford disciplined for misconduct over the past year, according to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC), which released its 2015/16 annual report this week.
The incidents were among more than 1,000 investigations across British Columbia conducted or monitored by the OPCC, which oversees municipal police departments, but not the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
According to the report, an APD officer facing dismissal resigned earlier this year following a disciplinary investigation into attempts to obtain new department-issued rain and winter jackets.
The investigation found the officer had reported that his/her rain jacket had been damaged when that was not the case. When asked to produce the jacket, the officer took another officer’s jacket from the locker room and then cut the coat “in an effort to conceal his/her actions.” The officer also reported that a winter jacket had been lost in order to receive a new one. When questioned by internal investigators during two interviews, the officer lied, the OPCC report says.
Together, the actions amounted to five incidents of misconduct, including deceit, discreditable conduct, and damage to police property, each of which warranted dismissal, according to a discipline authority.
Two other incidents resulted in discipline administered between April 2015 and March 2016.
Last spring, a police officer accessed a database “for purposes unrelated to his/her duties.” That warranted a written reprimand.
The officer then failed to obey a “cease contact order” issued by the chief constable. That resulted in a 12-day suspension, along with a demotion that resulted in the removal of the officer’s “senior” rank.
The third incident occurred in November of 2013, when three police officers and the jail supervisor, who is not an APD officer, “failed to properly document the authorization and strip search” of three people, one of whom complained. A finding of “neglect of duty” was recorded, with the members and jail supervisor issued “advice to future conduct.”
The OPCC also made two separate recommendations for the Abbotsford Police Boards. The APD has subsequently updated its policies regarding the disposal of property, along with members’ use of PRIME, a police database.
In total, the OPCC opened 81 files related to the Abbotsford Police Department. That number was the fifth highest among the 14 departments overseen by the organization. The Vancouver Police Department had the most files opened, with 600.
Of Abbotsford’s 81 files, 29 were deemed “inadmissible,” a designation given for a range of reasons, including being frivolous. Most of the remainder were being “monitored.” The 81 files opened was the lowest of the previous five years, and is in contrast to provincial numbers that saw an increase in opened files.
APD Const. Ian MacDonald said the report, while it may shine a light on police misconduct, is important to show complaints are taken seriously and investigated.
“We hold ourselves to a higher standard, and so does the public,” he said. “Unfortunately, not everyone is going to meet it.”
He said police officers are human beings asked to do a difficult job and aren’t infallible.
The result of some of those mistakes, he noted, is an opportunity for officers, and sometimes the department as a whole, to learn and improve – as in the case of the accessing of police databases.