An Abbotsford Police officer convicted of breach of trust in 2017 arranged for drugs to be trafficked at a target’s home in order to include that information in an application for a search warrant, according to a report released Tuesday (Dec. 8).
The annual report of the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) includes details about the criminal investigation into Christopher Nicholson.
The case initially resulted in the OPCC saying it was investigating 17 other officers for 148 allegations of misconduct linked to Nicholson’s case. The number was later reduced to four officers and 15 allegations.
The OPCC annual report – which lists “substantiated allegations” concluded by the agency from April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020 – lists Nicholson’s investigation as a case study titled “Abuse of police enforcement powers and the use of confidential informants.”
The Abbotsford Police Department (APD) announced in 2013 that Nicholson had been charged with six counts of obstructing justice, three counts of breach of trust and one count of unsafe storage of a firearm.
He pleaded guilty to just one breach of trust charge in late 2017, and was sentenced the following year to a 17-month conditional sentence (served in the community). The remaining charges were stayed.
The OPCC’s role is in addition to any criminal repercussions involving municipal police departments.
The agency looks for infractions under the Police Act; officers deemed to have committed wrongdoing face disciplinary measures ranging from a written reprimand to a suspension or firing.
The annual report says the criminal investigation into Nicholson was launched based on “concerns with the integrity of statements sworn or affirmed before judicial officers in which authorizations for search warrants were obtained.”
The report states that Nicholson committed two counts of corrupt practice under the Police Act “for facilitating the trafficking of a controlled substance to a target residence through a confidential source in order to include this interaction in an Information to Obtain (ITO) so a search warrant could be obtained.”
In addition, two search warrants executed at Nicholson’s home following his arrest turned up three loaded firearms in a safe, the report indicates.
The OPCC report states that he was also seen speeding excessively and “committing other driving infractions” while under surveillance by police.
An OPCC hearing into Nicholson’s behaviour was delayed due to court battles involving the protection of confidential informants listed as part of the investigation, but it eventually went ahead in the time period covered in the annual report.
Nicholson was fired from his role as a police officer for four violations under the Police Act: discreditable conduct, corrupt practice, public trust offence and improper use or care of firearms.
In arriving at his decision, OPCC chief officer Dave Jones said Nicholson’s behaviour had “a negative effect on the APD, the criminal justice system and the public confidence.”
Jones said that not only were the allegations serious, but they went “to the very heart of the need for public trust and the support that the police need to maintain when they are entrusted with unique powers and authorities.”
The OPCC report indicates that 42 complaints were registered involving the APD in 2019/20 and nine investigations were ordered.