A review will be carried out next month of the disciplinary decision taken in the case of a Victoria police constable who was found to have lied about skipping out on the last day of a three-day work conference.
It is set to begin in Vancouver on October 8.
B.C. Police Complaint Commissioner Clayton Pecknold ordered a review of the discipline imposed on Const. Marty Steen for deceit and neglect of duty.
According to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) of British Columbia on Feb. 14, 15 and 16, 2018, Steen attended a work conference in Vancouver. Then in April 2018, Deputy Chief Const. Steve Ing learned a rumour that Steen had only attended the first day of the conference.
When asked, Steen said he attended all but two of the presentations. Later he said that while he attended all the sessions on Feb. 15, 2018, he only attended one session on Feb. 16.
The OPCC also states Steen submitted expense claims for lunch on Feb. 15 and Feb. 16, despite lunches being provided at the conference on those days.
In July, VicPD provided additional information to the Office of the OPCC where Steen gave a statement admitting he was not truthful regarding his attendance and indicated that he provided false or misleading information to his supervisors.
It was established he did not attend any conference sessions on Feb. 16.
Former Police Complaints Commissioner Stan Lowe ordered an investigation into Steen’s conduct under the Police Act.
On March 7, 2019, Deputy Chief Colin Watson, acting as the discipline authority, found that Steen had neglected his duty by failing to attend training sessions at the conference on Feb. 16. Watson proposed a verbal reprimand as a disciplinary measure.
Watson also found Steen committed deceit by providing false or misleading information about his attendance to his supervisors on March 29, 2018, and April 11, 2018. The proposed discipline was a reduction in rank. In Steen’s particular case, this would be a revocation of the pending promotion to sergeant. VicPD Chief Del Manak had delayed the promotion pending the Police Act investigation.
At the discipline proceeding, Steen said deceit is always serious but it was less serious than cases that directly impact a member of the public or directly impact the administration of justice. He also told Watson that there was “zero chance of future misconduct” and the matter represented a lapse of judgment that was out of character.
Watson remained somewhat troubled that although Sheen acknowledged the conduct once the formal investigation began, “there appeared to be some focus on explanations for the conduct rather than the taking of full responsibility.”
Watson was of the view that a reasonable person would be troubled to learn that an officer, in these circumstances, would be promoted to a position of increased authority, responsibility and influence.
He was also concerned that there would be “a high degree of general concern among police officers within the department.”
On March 12, 2019, Steen asked for a review on the record. Officers can receive a review when disciplined with dismissal or reduction in rank.
Pecknold found that the proposed discipline did not amount to an actual reduction in rank and ordered it to be reviewed.
“Even though Constable Steen was set to be promoted to the rank of Sergeant, he was not promoted due to the Chief Constable exercising his discretion to not promote Constable Steen,” Pecknold wrote in the OPCC notice of review said.
“Constable Steen remained a first class constable throughout the investigative and disciplinary process. Referring to this disciplinary measure as a “reduction in rank” is not correct as Constable Steen has not effectively had his current rank reduced.”
Pecknold also determined a review is necessary due to the seriousness of the complaint or alleged misconduct and the fact that the case could undermine public confidence.
Ron McKinnon, a retired B.C. Supreme Court judge, has been appointed to determine the appropriate discipline.