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B.C. police complaint watchdog finds 14% increase in files opened in annual report

The complaint commissioner’s report found only 7% of allegations were substantiated

The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner released its 2015/16 report in August.

Emily Jackson / Metro Order this photo

The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner released its 2015/16 report in August.

There is a 14 per cent increase in the number of complaints against municipal B.C. police forces in the last year, according to the police watchdog’s annual report.

The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) opened 1,230 files this year, almost 150 more than the previous year, according to the report.

But only 50 files resulted in officers being disciplined, ranging from verbal reprimands to dismissals.

In fact, the OPCC found that only 7 per cent of the allegations it processed were substantiated.

Police Complaint Commissioner Stan Lowe explains increase in the number of files is mainly due to a jump in the number of ‘monitor files,’ which are cases that involve injuries but don’t necessarily result in an investigation.

It turns out many of the complaints do not include any actual misconduct from police officers. About 44 per cent of the complaints fall into this category, according to the report.

Of the complaints that do involve misconduct from police, about half of them allege abuse of authority, according to the report. Other common allegations include discourtesy, discreditable conduct, and neglect of duty.

The report uses data collected from April 2015 to March 2016 and does not cover jurisdictions like Surrey, Richmond, Burnaby and Coquitlam, which are policed by the RCMP.

The OPCC report includes recommendations for police forces and details various infractions – both alleged and substantiated – that officers have made over the past year.

Here are a few examples.

1) Incident: Abbotsford Police Department

An officer stated his or her department-issued rain jacket was damaged and asked for a new one, but when the officer was asked to show the damaged jacket, he or she cut a colleague’s jacket instead to “conceal his/her actions,” said the report. The same officer also asked for a new winter jacket in another incident, stating he or she had lost the original.

Discipline:

Dismissal (the officer resigned before he or she could be dismissed)

2) Incident: New Westminster Police Department

An officer stole money from a container that the department’s Street Crime Unit had been contributing to.

Discipline:

Dismissal. The officer was also charged with two counts of theft and one count of breach of trust

3) Incident: Delta Police Department

When an off-duty officer was kicked out of a nightclub for being intoxicated, he or she tried to get back into the club by claiming to be an undercover officer.

Discipline:

Written reprimand, a one-day suspension, and further training to assess the officer’s behaviour

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