British Columbia Police Officer Faces Allegations of Sexual Assault From Fellow Officers

VANCOUVER — A police officer in British Columbia is being investigated for sexual assault following allegations made by two of that officer’s colleagues.

New Westminster Police Department, an external agency, is investigating the allegations. In a statement, the department said the allegations occurred in January and February of this year in New Westminster.

Investigators, however, would not provide the name of the suspect officer’s police agency, citing concerns that doing so may lead to victims being identified.

“The NWPD has conduct of an investigation that involves three members of an outside police agency,” Sgt. Jeff Scott said in the statement. “However, it is important to note that two of those are complainants, and one is a suspect under investigation.”

Scott said the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner has been notified of the investigation.

“Sex assault investigations, by their very nature, are sensitive, so consideration to the victims and the formal investigation is paramount,” Scott said. “There is no public safety concern and the home police agency of the officers is fully aware of the allegations.”

New Westminster police said more information will be released if charges are laid, and that the investigation is “nearing completion.”

The OPCC, which provides oversight into police conduct, only has jurisdiction over files involving municipal police departments. In cases of officer-involved sexual assault in B.C., it is police, rather than civilian-led investigatory bodies, that conduct the investigations.

Rollie Woods, deputy commissioner with the OPCC, said his office would wait to see the results of any criminal investigation. His office is generally confined to oversee Police Act misconduct investigations, for conduct such as abuse of authority, discourtesy to the public, bringing discredit to the police department and lesser allegations of that nature.

B.C. does have an Independent Investigations Office, led by civilian investigators, for cases involving police where serious harm or death was the result. But sexual assault is not considered “serious harm” in the province.

“Serious harm has a specific definition that is related to bodily harm, effectively, and specific types of bodily harm that results in death or serious disfigurement, or substantial loss or impairment of mobility,” said Ron MacDonald, chief civilian director of the IIO.

“The simple answer is that the statue doesn’t give us jurisdiction over sexual assault.”

That’s not the case in other places in Canada. For example, in Ontario and Nova Scotia, MacDonald said, independent civilian investigators are permitted to investigate allegations of sexual assault made against officers.

B.C.’s attorney general has the authority to make changes through regulations to permit the IIO to investigate officer-sexual assault, MacDonald said. The Ministry of the Attorney General did not respond to inquiries on whether or not it would consider making changes to the IIO’s purview.