An Abbotsford Police officer who lost his job after initially lying to his superiors about a car crash was described in court on Tuesday as an exemplary employee whose actions were “completely out of character.”
Judge John Lenaghan said Nathan Brown, 31, did not deserve the $1,000 fine recommended by the defence and Crown lawyers.
He said although police are held to a higher standard, that measure was already applied when Brown was fired from the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) last spring.
Lenaghan gave Brown a $500 fine for the offence, under the Motor Vehicle Act, of making a false statement in reporting an accident. Brown pleaded guilty in Abbotsford provincial court on Tuesday morning.
A criminal charge of obstructing a police officer was stayed.
An emotional Brown addressed the court.
“I just want to say that this wasn’t a true representation of myself or a reflection of the Abbotsford Police, but I do apologize,” he said, wiping away tears.
Brown had spent the evening of April 14, 2011 at a facility run by the Abbotsford Police Association, and had a few drinks.
He drove home in an unmarked police car that was authorized to him, and crashed into a light standard at a MacDonald’s drive-thru, causing moderate damage to the vehicle.
The next day, he told his superiors that the accident had occurred that morning, after he had been distracted when he spilled coffee on his lap. As is standard procedure, an investigation ensued.
Brown confessed to his superiors on April 26 that he had lied about what had happened. A determination could not be made of whether he had been impaired during the crash, and he was charged in October 2011 with obstructing a police officer.
An investigation and disciplinary process followed, and Brown was fired last March for “discreditable conduct” on the night of the incident and for lying about it afterward. He later cancelled a public hearing that would have appealed that ruling.
Brown’s lawyer said Brown had intended to immediately tell the truth about the collision, but panicked when he found out there would be an investigation and he could possibly lose his job.
But he was then racked with guilt and came forward to admit the truth.
Letters referenced in court written by Brown’s co-workers described him as hard-working, a person of good character, an excellent communicator and someone with a strong sense of ethics and integrity.
Several stated that his actions on April 14, 2011 were “completely out of character.”
Brown had been with the APD for five years at the time and was a member of the gang suppression unit.
He was described by his superiors as having been “filled with remorse” but ready to “accept full responsibility” following his confession.
Lenaghan acknowledged that if Brown had not confessed, police likely would not have discovered the truth. He said Brown has since been deprived of a career that he loved.
“It’s a very sad case,” the judge said.
Brown now lives with his wife and two-year-old child in Castlegar, where he works at a manufacturing plant in Castlegar that produces specialty metal and chemical products.