The latest fusillade in the politics of policing was fired today by the Police Complaints Commissioner, Stan Lowe, when he sent out a media release headlined “Disclosure of Investigation Pursuant to Police Act”
A press release about an investigation not yet complete? Allegation are allegations, proof is an entirely different thing.
Then it used this explosive language. “To date, the investigation involves 17 members of the APD and includes 148 allegations of misconduct under the Police Act. The allegations of misconduct include allegations of Corrupt Practice, Deceit and Neglect of Duty pursuant to the Police Act.”
Sounds serious indeed.
It generated headlines across the country like this story in the Toronto Sun: 17 BC cops under investigation for misconduct
And this one in the Vancouver Province: ‘It’s going to be a circus’: Probe of Abbotsford Police Department corruption could unravel successes in fight against gangs
Corruption? In reality, one of the 17 officers is Christopher Nicholson who has already been charged criminally in May of 2013. And 58 of the 148 allegations mentioned involve Nicholson. The rest are questionable paperwork resulting from an audit conducted by Vancouver Police Department investigators at the request of Abbotsford Chief Constable Bob Rich as a result of the Nicholson investigation.
Major police corruption story? Not hardly.
So much so that Rich held a hastily called press conference in front of police HQ saying that not one of the other 16 police officers has been removed from duty. That speaks volumes. Here’s the raw video of the press conference: www.youtube.com/embed/q0kEsQnCIiI
There’s no question the allegations against Nicholson are serious and if proven, speaks to a bad cop. One bad cop. But, Rich when informed he may have a bad cop by members of his own department did everything right by asking for an investigation by an outside agency, in this case the VPD, which resulted in Nicholson being arrested and charged criminally. He then went further by asking for an audit into the APD’s procedures in obtaining warrants, which is the basis for the criminal charges as revealed in the VPD investigation.
That audit revealed other potential issues in the paperwork done in Informations to Obtain by other Abbotsford officers in drug investigations. Things like not identifying the complete criminal record of a source in the ITO.
This isn’t corruption. What Nicholson is alleged to have done is corruption. One guy manipulating the system to benefit a source’s operation. That, if proven, is wrong. Getting the paperwork wrong in the writing an ITO is not corruption, it’s a failing of the officer trying to deal with the bureaucratic process imposed upon them by an unwieldy system.
To understand this point, in the 1990’s an ITO could be written simply describing why you wanted a search warrant, where the information came from and what it was you believed the search would yield. A page or two was usually sufficient. Now, the average ITO is over a hundred pages outlining every detail of the investigation in bureaucratic minutiae. It’s ridiculous what we make cops go through to get a search warrant these days. But it is what it is.
Given that, is it possible a cop could make an error or omit a factoid that an audit might discover? Absolutely and that is what is at the heart of this story that for whatever reason the head of the OPCC felt he had to release this grenade of a press release this morning.
Chief Bob Rich was right to come out defending his members. And good on him. He knows that little or nothing will come from this and the OPCC is playing a game in trying to over-reach in their disclosure battle with the VPD and New Westminster PD. This is the politics of policing not outrageous corruption in a police department.
Here’s a prediction backed up by personnel within the OPCC, nothing much will result from all of this.