BC police complaints commissioner
fielded 960 conduct complaints
last year

Dirk Meissner, Canadian Press, Jan. 8, 2010

VICTORIA, B.C. — Two British Columbia municipal police officers ended up in court, on the wrong side of the law last year, according to the latest report from the province’s Police Complaints Commissioner.

Those two cases were among 97 complaints from the public substantiated by commission investigations in 2009, said the report released Friday.

In one case, an off-duty officer was convicted of assault after spraying a person with bear spray. The officer received a conditional discharge, one year of probation and a one-day suspension, with pay, as well as a written reprimand.

Another off-duty officer received a conditional discharge and nine months of probation after pleading guilty to assault.

Another complaint involved an on-duty officer accused of sexual assault. Criminal charges were not approved in the case, but the officer resigned prior to an internal police disciplinary proceeding.

Deputy police complaints commissioner Bruce Brown said many of the complaints involved individual instances of officer misconduct but there were no reports of major corruption of the kind that have plagued other police departments.

In total, there were 960 allegations of misconduct against B.C. municipal police officers in 2009, compared to 989 complaints each in 2008 and in 2007.

But amendments to British Columbia’s Police Act last fall could mean more complaints, suggested Brown.

“The new Police Act is going to make it easier for the public to file complaints against the police,” he said.

Brown said his office now allows British Columbians to access a website where they can file misconduct complaints online. People will also be able to file complaints over the telephone as opposed to completing a form that some found onerous, he said.

“The new act has a number of features in it that are going to make oversight much more robust,” Brown said.

It allows the complaints commission to continue misconduct investigations even if the officer decides to retire or leave the force prior to the completion of an investigation, he said, which has been an issue in the past.

The provincial Police Complaint Commissioner monitors between 2,500 and 3,000 police officers from 11 municipal police departments, two aboriginal police departments, a special crime unit and transportation police in the province.