14 Victoria Police officers retired while under investigation in last 10 years

Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

The Victoria Police force is the subject of new revelations after recently marred by allegations of corruption, including tainting important investigations and potentially lying to lawyers.

Freedom Of Information (FOI) documents show that in the last decade, 14 Victoria Police officers have retired or resigned while under investigation.

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Seven officers were under investigation for abuse of authority, which encompasses several things, including excessive force the second most common allegation is neglect of duty.

“This isn’t a system functioning as it should,” said Stephen Harrison, a police accountability advocate. “I would say that it shows officers don’t want to participate in those Police Act investigations.”

In B.C., the investigation into an officer’s alleged misconduct continues despite their retirement, but officers aren’t legally compelled to participate.

Harrison filed the FOI request after seeing a CBC story that found 88 cops in Edmonton and Calgary had left their jobs while under investigation.

“Based on Stats Can figures on the average number of officers over those years. As a percentage of officers retiring each year, it looks like VicPD is about three times higher than Calgary or Edmonton,” said Harrison.

“0.6 per cent of officers are retiring while under investigation.”

Harrison believes retiring hampers the investigation and results in a lack of consequence.

The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) handles those investigations and says that if found at fault, retired or not, the discipline will show on their record.

“This can be an important safeguard to support the prevention of police officers who commit serious allegations of misconduct from obtaining employment with another policing agency,” said Andrea Spindler, deputy police complaint commissioner with the OPCC.

B.C.’s former top cop says in his experience, many of those retiring while under investigation are nearing retirement anyway and wouldn’t be looking for another policing job.

“It continues to happen,” said Kash Heed, current Richmond city councillor, former B.C. solicitor general, West Vancouver police chief and longtime police officer.

Heed has expressed frustration with the process for years, starting in 2008 when two West Vancouver officers were accused of using stress leave to dodge their disciplinary hearings.

“A lot of them use it as a bit of an escape plan,” said Heed.

“The officers would book themselves off sick, on leave and carry on until they had sufficient years of service until they can get full pension.”

In B.C., whether police officers retire, resign or are fired, their pension is not impacted.

Heed believes that’s the right practice. What should be fixed, he says, is better oversight into whether officers are booking sick time for legitimate reasons.

On the other hand, Harrison believes that officers should still be required to participate in their investigations when they retire.

When asked, Victoria Police told CHEK News “the vast majority of investigations do not end in substantiation.”

On Thursday February 22, Victoria Police provided more context behind the investigations.

“Of the 14 officers who left VicPD while under investigation, 12 retired at their normal time, and 2 resigned. Every officer except one fully cooperated with every aspect of the ongoing investigations until completion. Of the 14, 12 had complaints that were found to be unsubstantiated or inadmissible. The officer who did not fully comply ended up with 19 substantiated Police Act violations and was administratively fired at the end of the investigation,” said Victoria Police’s Director of Community Engagement Division, Cheryl Major, in a statement.

“Of the two who resigned, one transferred to another police department, with no substantiated violations, and one is the officer who ended up with 19 substantiated Police Act violations. We do not have any concern, or evidence, that officers are leaving their jobs in order to avoid discipline.”

Editors note: This story has been updated with additional context from Victoria Police on the point in the officers’ careers in which they retired. A previous version of this article said that Cheryl Major’s title was constable, CHEK News regrets the error.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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