Police watchdog tells board an external agency should conduct VicPD complaint investigation


The province’s police watchdog is telling Victoria’s Police Board to go back to the drawing board and review the procedures it’s supposed to have in place for processing complaints to ensure they’re in line with the Police Act.

The recommendation comes after the board’s confusion on how to deal with a complaint brought forward a few weeks ago related to ‘Project Juliet’.

What is Project Juliet?

Project Juliet was one of the biggest drug busts in B.C. history. In 2020, Victoria Police took down what they called ‘a fentanyl drug ring’, only for it to be botched four years later.

Charges were quietly stayed against three people as a Supreme Court judge found that VicPD investigators misled Crown and obscured investigative information to hide a ‘disgraced’ officer’s involvement.

“I can say, mistakes were made,” Victoria Police Chief Del Manak said in a press conference in February.

Two complaints

As an Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) investigation into individual officers’ actions during the project moves forward, a separate complaint has surfaced.

Former Victoria Police Board member Paul Schachter believes VicPD’s structure and upper management should also be investigated.

Shachter brought forward the complaint a few weeks ago. The board decided to ask Manak to head the investigation, something Schachter, and now the OPCC, suggest against.

Get an external agency to investigate

“Upon review of the matter, the OPCC recommended that the Board initiate an investigation into this Service or Policy Complaint with consideration of requesting an external agency, independent of the Victoria Police Department, to review and report back to the Board on the matters relating to the Division 5 concerns brought forward by the Complainant,” said Andrea Spindler, deputy police complaint commissioner in a statement to CHEK News.

Schachter also shared his concerns with CHEK News on Thursday.

“The police board got off on the wrong track,” he said. “My concern is that they are listening to the police chief and his staff rather than acting independently based upon the Police Act.”

“The police chief and his staff really should have nothing to do with this investigation because they have a conflict of interest,” Schachter added. “They’re the ones whose management is going to be reviewed, it’s common sense.”

Unclear if Police Board will change course

It remains unclear if the board will accept the OPCC’s recommendations, something Schachter says would fully restore trust with the police department.

The OPCC also recommends that the Victoria Police Board review the Police Act on how to act on future complaints. When asked Thursday, Victoria Police Board Chair Barb Desjardins said she had nothing to say at this time.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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