B.C.’s police standards commissioner opened 38 files on the New Westminster Police Department in the 2018/19 fiscal year, including 17 registered complaints against the force.
That’s double the number of files opened in 2017/18 (19 files), but still well below the 50 to 73 files opened annually between 2014/15 and 2016/17, according to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner’s annual report.
The OPCC holds municipal police forces to provincial standards and investigates complaints made against those police departments.
According to the 2018/19 annual report, the OPCC’s 38 files opened on the NWPD include six admissible registered complaints and 11 inadmissible registered complaints. That compares with three admissible complaints and six inadmissible complaints in 2017/18, according to that year’s annual report.
Most complaints filed with the OPCC throughout the province are deemed inadmissible “because the complainant has not identified an allegation of misconduct,” according to the report.
One investigation was ordered at the request of the department, while two were ordered at the request of the OPCC. That’s an increase over the year prior, when just one investigation was ordered at the request of the NWPD and none was initiated by the OPCC.
The 38 files also include one mandatory external investigation of death or serious harm – investigations that are conducted by the Independent Investigations Office, a civilian police oversight agency. There were no mandatory investigations in 2017/18.
The NWPD also had four question/concern files, two internal discipline files and 11 “monitor” files.
Monitor files are matters that the OPCC follows until a decision is made whether or not to open a formal investigation, such as injuries resulting from police conduct. Question/concern files involve calls from people who have questions about police conduct that don’t amount to a complaint (for instance, whether officers are allowed to use their phones while driving).
NWPD spokesperson Sgt. Jeff Scott said the department takes public complaints “very seriously.”
“We have two full-time detective sergeants in our professional standards unit who work alongside the OPCC to address complaints,” Scott said. “We see tremendous value to work with the OPCC to maintain trust, transparency, and ultimately better service for the public.”
OPCC acting deputy commissioner Len Statz said the office could not comment on individual files due to privacy laws.