The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) has disagreed with a decision of the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) to give a 16-day suspension to an officer who admitted to the assault and harassment of his former wife over several months.
The OPCC has ordered a review of that decision, saying in a press release today (Tuesday) that the penalty “did not reflect the serious, sustained and deliberate nature” of the behaviour.
The officer, whose name is being withheld to protect the identity of the victim, previously admitted to five allegations of misconduct under the Police Act from January to June 2017.
An APD disciplinary conduct investigation found that there were five instances which included assault, installation of GPS tracking devices on the victim’s vehicle, harassing behaviours, and inappropriate use of police databases.
According to OPCC documents, in one instance, the officer entered his estranged spouse’s residence and, as she tried to close the door, he grabbed her wrist and took phones away so that she couldn’t call the police.
He prevented her from leaving the house by pulling on her arm and locking the door leading to the garage, the documents state.
He also followed her, entered her residence when she wasn’t there, and sent her unwanted texts, emails and phone messages even after a letter was sent from her lawyer advising him to stop.
The documents state that the officer’s behaviour all stemmed from his marital breakup and being fixated on what his spouse was doing and whom she might be seeing.
Under the Police Act, the APD discipline authority recommended that the officer receive a suspension without pay of between one and five days for each of the allegations of misconduct, for a total suspension of 16 days without pay.
In a separate criminal investigation by the Vancouver Police Department, the officer was charged with assault, unlawful confinement, criminal harassment and uttering threats in relation to the same matter.
He pleaded guilty to assault and received a conditional discharge in July 2018 with one year probation.
The OPCC found that while the discipline authority correctly underscored the seriousness of domestic violence and the public’s expectation that those “sworn to protect the vulnerable from intimate partner violence must not engage in it themselves,” those principles were not sufficiently reflected in the proposed penalties.
The OPCC does not lay criminal charges, but 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.This is separate from whatever criminal charges are laid.
The OPCC review has not yet been scheduled.