Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Public hearing called for VPD sergeant accused of sexual misconduct

Investigation into Sgt. Keiron McConnell stems from complaints from four students, three officers.
B.C.'s complaint commissioner has called a public hearing into allegations of sexual misconduct involving Vancouver police Sgt. Keiron McConnell. Photo Dan Toulgoet

B.C.’s police complaint commissioner has called a public hearing into allegations of sexual misconduct involving a Vancouver police sergeant in relation to his conduct towards seven women, including female officers and former students.

The allegations against Keiron McConnell, a 33-year member of the Vancouver Police Department and policing instructor at Royal Roads University and Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU), stem from complaints dating back to 2015 from four former students and three officers.

The nature of the complaints are largely related to private electronic messages allegedly sent by McConnell via Facebook and text to the complainants, according to the notice of public hearing released Wednesday by commissioner Prabhu Rajan.

The notice states the VPD contacted the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) in March 2022 about McConnell’s conduct. The contact was made after a female officer provided a series of Facebook messages to the VPD’s professional standards unit in January 2022 that she had allegedly exchanged with McConnell in 2018.

The officer alleged the Facebook messages began as friendly but progressed to what she felt were inappropriate and sexual. She felt she could not report McConnell’s conduct due to his rank and status within the VPD, and believed there would be consequences for her at the department, if she did.

The officer’s information was reviewed by then-police complaint commissioner Clayton Pecknold, who ordered the VPD to investigate the allegations under the Police Act.

Royal Roads University

During the investigation, Pecknold’s office received information that McConnell had allegedly sent electronic messages of “an inappropriate and/or sexual nature” to three female students who had been enrolled in the sergeant’s courses at Royal Roads University, between 2015 and 2017.

The women are referred to in the notice as students A, B, C and D.

Student A alleged that, in November 2016, McConnell invited her and fellow students out for drinks. While at the establishment, she became increasingly uncomfortable with McConnell’s behaviour towards her.

“She decided to leave by taxi,” the notice said.

“Student A alleged that Sergeant McConnell unexpectedly and without invitation boarded the taxi she was occupying. Student A further alleged that when she attempted to exit the taxi upon arriving at her destination, Sergeant McConnell prevented her from exiting the taxi and attempted to kiss her. She departed the taxi on her own and ran to her friend’s house.”

Student B alleged that during one class in a course she was taking from McConnell between September 2015 and January 2016, she received a message from him on her personal cellphone number, which she considered inappropriate.

“She did not know how he obtained her number,” the notice said. “Sergeant McConnell continued to send Student B text messages to her personal cellphone, as well as emails to her from his personal email account. Student B reported that Sergeant McConnell’s communications made her feel uncomfortable.”

Student C alleged that, in 2017, she received a series of Facebook messages from McConnell, “which included euphemisms for sexual terms,” the notice said.

“She reported that, as she aspired to become a police officer, she was concerned that Sergeant McConnell may speak negatively about her to recruiting personnel if she did not respond to his messages,” the notice said.

“Student C ultimately changed her mind about becoming a police officer, which she attributed to her experience with Sergeant McConnell.”

'Jeopardize her academic status'

The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner received additional information from another female — student D — who alleged that McConnell sent her sexually inappropriate messages in 2017 and 2018 while she was enrolled in his course at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

“Student D reported the messages concerned and upset her because Sergeant McConnell was well connected in the policing environment, and she did not want to offend him and jeopardize her academic status or a future career as a police officer,” the notice said.

“Student D further alleged that Sergeant McConnell sent her a sexually inappropriate message after she had graduated from KPU that she interpreted as him seeking a sexual act from her.”

The OPCC then received information that McConnell had allegedly been sexually inappropriate with two female subordinate officers, known in the order as member B and C.

“Member B alleged that Sergeant McConnell made sexualized comments about her in person and through text messages between 2015 and 2018, and that he also made sexualized comments about other female officers,” the notice said.

Member C reported that, between 2017 and 2019, McConnell made repeated sexualized and inappropriate comments to her.

Member C specified that McConnell would send these comments via social media direct message, often at night when she was off duty, “and that they included fantasies about her engaging in sexual acts with him at his desk.”

“Member C indicated that she did not confront him about these comments as he was in a senior position, and she worried that if she said anything there would be negative career implications,” the notice said.

'Between consenting adults'

During the investigation, McConnell admitted to sending some of the messages as alleged. However, he stated that, among other things, the communications were intended to be private and were exchanged "between consenting adults."

McConnell, a longtime gang squad member, maintained that had the recipients of these communications told him to cease, he would have done so, the notice said.

“Sergeant McConnell also disputed Student A’s version of events in certain respects and, in general, denied that he had engaged in discreditable conduct with respect to the allegations made by the seven women,” the notice said.

In April 2024, the Surrey Police Chief Norm Lipinski — the “discipline authority” in the Police Act investigation — determined that allegations of discreditable conduct involving six of the seven women “appeared to be substantiated.”

Lipinski did not substantiate allegations involving Student B.

“The discipline authority concluded that, while it was clear the boundaries between student and teacher had been ‘blurred,’ the text messages and emails did not disclose any conduct that would constitute harassment or bullying,” the notice said.

“The discipline authority further noted that [Royal Roads University] did not have any policies in place at the time governing student-faculty relationships.”

'Any possible power imbalance'

In stating his reason for ordering a public hearing, Rajan said it will help “consider the impact of any possible power imbalance” that may have been present throughout McConnell’s interactions with the students, former students and officers.

“The seriousness of these allegations of misconduct are further demonstrated in that they are alleged to have occurred over a period of approximately five years and, if proven, suggest an ongoing pattern of unwanted and inappropriate sexualized behaviour towards female officers, and his students and former students,” Rajan said.

An accompanying press release from Rajan’s office emphasized the allegations against McConnell have not been proven.

“It will be the responsibility of the appointed adjudicator to determine whether the member committed misconduct, to determine appropriate disciplinary or corrective measures, if necessary, and to make recommendations, if appropriate,” the release said.

Retired provincial court judge Carol Baird Ellan will preside as adjudicator in the hearing. Dates for the hearing haven’t been determined.

It will be the first public hearing arranged by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner since legislated changes came into force allowing the commissioner to call a public hearing earlier in the police discipline process.

Glacier Media sent an email Wednesday to McConnell’s email address at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, but did not receive a reply before deadline.

In a statement to Glacier Media Thursday, VPD spokesperson Sgt. Steve Addison said: "These are serious allegations, and we took immediate action when they came to our attention. We notified the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner and the officer was suspended from duty. We respect the independent authority of the Office [of] the Police Complaint Commissioner and will await the outcome of this Police Act process."

[email protected]