The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) has announced that it is discontinuing the investigation into the misconduct of 11 Abbotsford Police officers.
But it will continue to look into allegations against four other officers, the agency stated today (Tuesday) in a press release.
The OPCC said that of the 137 allegations it was investigating against these officers, it will continue to look into 15 claims.
The agency stated that its decision to drop most of the allegations resulted from a court battle related to confidential informants named in information to obtain search warrants (ITOs).
The courts determined that only officers conducting criminal investigations are permitted to access information relayed by informants.
That means that the New Westminster Police Department (NWPD) – the agency conducting the OPCC investigation into the Abbotsford officers – is unable to access information into allegations where informants are involved.
“In short, investigators are unable to determine if certain sworn statements contained in ITOs are accurate or not. Thus, there is no realistic means of properly and fully investigating the alleged misconduct in these cases,” the OPCC said in its release.
The agency announced in February 2015 that it was looking into 148 allegations of misconduct into 17 Abbotsford Police Department (APD) members. (The claims were later narrowed down to 137 involving 15 officers.)
The OPCC said the allegations included corrupt practice, deceit and neglect of duty, and stemmed from the investigation into Const. Christopher Nicholson.
He was arrested and charged in May 2013 with several criminal offences, including breach of trust, conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance, and obstructing justice.
Nicholson, whose charges are still proceeding before the courts, is alleged to have leaked information to a drug dealer so that person could avoid arrest, and is accused of providing false information to other officers, who used the details to obtain search warrants for drugs in private residences.
He is also alleged to have conspired with a confidential informant to have drugs delivered to a residence and have other police officers execute a search warrant soon after.
The APD asked the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) to conduct an investigation into Nicholson after two APD members informed an inspector of his alleged misconduct in July 2012.
The OPCC says that during the VPD investigation, officers discovered further allegations of misconduct against Nicholson and other members of the APD.
Many of the claims related to concerns about the integrity of statements sworn or affirmed before judicial officers in which authorizations for search warrants were obtained, the OPCC said at the time.
The NWPD was then asked to handle the OPCC investigation, with support from the RCMP and the Delta Police Department.
Abbotsford Police Chief Bob Rich said, in reacting to today’s announcement, that there were issues in the way that the department had been doing search warrants based on informant information.
“Many of the issues that led to our members being under scrutiny arose from inherent weaknesses in our system,” he said.
Rich said the APD has since implemented recommendations made by the VPD, which included updates in policy, training and internal audits.
He said he has “complete confidence in the integrity and professionalism” of the officers who were accused of misconduct.
“It has been a huge strain on them to have this investigation hanging over their heads for the past three years … The work they have continued to do in these circumstances is exceptional.”
The OPCC says ti will release a report on the findings into the remaining allegations once the investigation is complete. The agency does not lay or recommend criminal charges, but any officers who are determined to have committed any wrongdoing under the Police Act can face disciplinary measures that range from a written reprimand to a suspension or firing.