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Police watchdog launches probe into officers from eight B.C. departments

Officers from departments in Abbotsford, Vancouver, New Westminster, Delta, Surrey, Saanich and Victoria, along with Metro Vancouver Transit Police, are being investigated, says the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner.
Clayton Pecknold.jpg
B.C. Police Complaint Commissioner Clayton Pecknold.

The conduct of 19 police officers from eight B.C. departments — including Victoria and Saanich — during an undercover officer training course last month is being investigated.

A statement from the police complaint commissioner says an independent investigations unit in Manitoba has been tasked with probing allegations of serious misconduct concerning the 19 officers in candidate and supervisory roles.

Officers from departments in Abbotsford, Vancouver, New Westminster, Delta, Surrey, Saanich and Victoria, along with Metro Vancouver Transit Police, are being investigated, the statement said.

Complaints about the municipal undercover training course held on May 2 were initially made to the B.C. Municipal Chiefs of Police by the RCMP, which had officers present in an observer role.

The matter was then reported to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, an independent agency that oversees complaints and investigations of municipal police in the province.

The actions of some municipal police officers while performing various physical acts and activities in some of the scenarios “caused concern that their actions could be defined as potential misconduct under the Police Act,” the statement said. “The nature of the allegations includes serious and concerning conduct performed in front of course supervisors and other course participants.”

In a report published last month, Global News reported that the police officers were attending an undercover training course conducted by the Association of B.C. Municipal Police Chiefs at a downtown Vancouver hotel when they were asked to convincingly portray themselves as criminals.

The role-play allegedly involved defecation, food used in a sexual manner, and other disturbing or perverse acts. The course was stopped and some officers reported it to their supervisors.

Asked about the incident this month, Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said if the allegations were true, “it sounds disgusting … it’s just appalling, frankly.”

Representatives from both Victoria and Saanich police departments said Monday they are aware of the investigation but unable to comment.

“As this matter is being investigated by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, we are not able to speak to any of the allegations,” said Saanich Const. Markus Anastasiades.

Const. Cam McIntyre said Victoria Police Department officers were at the training course, but “out of respect for the investigation,” the VicPD would not be able to comment on any involvement in the OPCC’s investigation.

Chief Const. John Lo of the West Vancouver Police Department has been appointed as the discipline authority.

The OPCC said the investigation will look into undercover candidates who took the course, as well as officers in supervisory positions.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com