When a Saanich woman, whose identity CHEK News is protecting, came forward to make a complaint about an on-duty Saanich police officer’s actions, she was shocked to find out that the Saanich Police Department would be doing the investigation.
“How is it possible, someone has deep roots with Saanich Police, working from patrol to this position, how is he going to maintain an unbiased approach?” said the woman. “He also assured me police officers can’t lie, if they do there are consequences.”
The woman, who CHEK News is referring to by the pseudonym Devon, decided to trust the process and continued to lay out her allegations.
She says she met with the married Saanich police officer while he was on duty, sometimes for hours at a time, and that during one of those meetings the officer reached into her pants and touched her sexually.
The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) turned down the Saanich Police Department’s final report twice, because it lacked investigative information. The third report was accepted on Dec. 1, 2023.
“That was the first time I could see the work that was being done,” said Devon. “I was shocked, actually, to see that the member had blatantly lied. And my issue in this, is that I have no recourse.”
The report shared with CHEK News found several points of possible misconduct. That report then went to the Discipline Authority (DA), which in this instance was also Saanich Police.
It deemed the allegations unsubstantiated.
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Not once was Devon allowed or asked to respond to the allegations made by the Saanich officer.
“I’m kind of caught in this weird loophole where I didn’t realize that the officer was going to make such wide, sweeping lies about me, so I wouldn’t even know what evidence I have which would disprove what he said,” she said.
Devon says she has evidence to disprove the officer’s allegations. She thinks coming to the conclusion of unsubstantiated is a loophole police play to avoid consequences.
“I think there is an aspect of manipulation. I think they knew if they ruled all ‘unsubstantiated’ that I would have no way to respond,” said Devon.
Devon’s only avenue was to request a review of the evidence that had been already submitted. The OPCC agreed to the review.
“There is a reasonable basis to believe that the decision of the Discipline Authority is incorrect with respect to the conduct of the member,” wrote Clayton Pecknold, Police Complaint Commissioner in a Notice of Appointment document shared with CHEK News.
“I have concern that the Discipline Authority did not give sufficient weight to the exchange of intimate text messages and photographs in support of the nature of the relationship when the sexual touching is alleged to have occurred…I disagree with the Discipline Authority’s assessment of the reliability and credibility of the related parties,” the document continues.
“In addition, I have a reasonable basis to believe that the decision of the Discipline Authority is incorrect with respect to the determination that, because there is no policy prescribing duration of breaks or guide to when and where personal meetings may take place, officers are given considerable latitude. The Discipline Authority has not sufficiently measured the conduct of the Member, in relation to the frequency and duration of the meetings with the Complainant, against the reasonable expectations of the community.”
Changes needed to Police Act
BC’s all-party committee on reforming the Police Act from 2022 had this among its 11 recommendations: To establish a single, independent, civilian-led oversight agency responsible for overseeing conduct, complaints, investigations, and disciplinary matters for all police.
When those recommendations will come into play, the Ministry of Public Safety was unable to answer before deadline.
Until then, Devon is worried true oversight isn’t happening.
“It kind of makes me wonder how many other situations are being marked as unsubstantiated,” said Devon.
Saanich Police didn’t answer any questions about its investigative process and why the complainant wasn’t given a chance to respond to the officer’s claims.
“The Saanich Police take allegations of misconduct seriously and fully supports the ongoing OPCC investigative process,” said Sgt. Damian Kowalewich.