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Former police board member claims Victoria police face 'crisis of integrity'

Darpan News Desk The Canadian Press, 20 Mar, 2024 02:53 PM
  • Former police board member claims Victoria police face 'crisis of integrity'

A former member of the Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board says a complaint he filed against the Victoria Police Department is about shoring up public trust between the community and the police. 

Paul Schachter told a police board meeting Tuesday that policing in Victoria is facing a "crisis of integrity" as he pointed to concerns set out by a B.C. Supreme Court judge who criticized officers for "intentionally lying" to prosecutors and the court, derailing a major drug investigation. 

Schachter's complaint filed with the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner of B.C. last month is now slated to be investigated by officers from the Surrey Police Service and Delta Police, but he said in an interview on Wednesday that a "cloud of smoke" remains over the department's handling of the complaint. 

He said the investigation into the complaint should not involve Victoria police Chief Del Manak, and instead should be overseen by a retired judge or an "impartial person." 

"I think that's an inherent conflict of interest," he said. "The question (is) did Victoria (police) know of and approve the deception that was made to the Crown and the court about Project Juliet that caused the collapse of the drug investigation and drug prosecution? If they did something has to be changed." 

Police board co-chair Esquimalt Mayor Barbara Desjardins issued a statement Wednesday saying, "as a board we have confidence in the policies, training and leadership within our department, which we pay very close attention to, but we have a responsibility to listen and respond to concerns from our communities.”

The department declined to make anyone available for an interview, but Manak said in an email statement that "integrity and accountability are key values of the Victoria Police Department and we support the Governance Committee’s decision to request an external review." 

In a decision from the B.C. Supreme Court last year, a judge found that Victoria police investigators had misled Crown prosecutors by concealing the existence of an initial drug investigation that stopped when an officer involved was arrested for breach of trust and obstruction of justice. 

That officer, Rob Ferris, had come under scrutiny by the RCMP's anticorruption unit, and Victoria police stopped the investigation that the officer was involved in after he was arrested in June 2020, the court ruling says. 

Charges were not brought against the constable, but 19 Police Act allegations were substantiated against him and he resigned before the force could begin the dismissal process, Victoria police said in a news release in February. 

Schachter, a retired lawyer who resigned from the board in late 2022, said he made a six-part complaint under the Police Act against the department, claiming there's a "failure in general direction and management or operation" of the Victoria Police Department. 

He said Wednesday that any possibility of "corruption and dishonesty" during police investigations should be looked into by impartial investigators because of public perceptions that "police will look after their own."

Schachter said he believes members of the police board are "very concerned about antagonizing" the police department's management, which he called "disturbing." 

"A police board should be willing to ask hard questions," he said. 

Victoria Police Board member Paul Faoro said at Tuesday's meeting that it's a "complex investigation" and the board can expect to hear back from external investigators by early this fall. 

"Obviously we want to get this resolved as soon as possible," he said. 

 

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