More questions than answers surround the case of a veteran Vancouver constable suspended for 15 days without pay after accessing sensitive information from police databases about a young person and disclosing it to “unauthorized persons.”
The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner will not disclose the officer’s name, the nature of the data, the age of the young person or whether the information shared caused harm to the person.
“Naming the officer could reveal the identity of the young person,” said Deputy Police Complaint Commissioner Andrea Spindler in an email to the Courier Tuesday.
“Unfortunately, I can’t confirm the nature of that relationship, as even releasing the nature of the relationship could potentially identify the young person involved. Because this matter involved the Youth Criminal Justice Act, we are restricted in the information that can be released about this.”
Spindler said the searches were deliberate and covered several subjects involving the young person.
The case dates back to November 2017 when the officer made five queries over two days on police databases—including the Canadian Police Information Centre and Police Records Information Management Environment—about a young person.
The data is supposed to be protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
The officer then shared that information with people unauthorized to view or learn of the officer’s findings. The Vancouver Police Department informed the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner Jan. 15, 2018 of the breach.
Police launched an investigation but the penalty recommended—a written reprimand for all counts—did not satisfy then-police complaint commissioner Stan Lowe, who appointed retired judge Brian Neal to conduct a review of the file.
Neal said there would be “little corrective benefit” from issuing a written reprimand. Neal said the officer ignored written policy and the law to conduct searches and disclose information of personal interest to him.
“I acknowledge that the sanctions imposed are at the upper end of the range of discipline decisions in roughly similar circumstances,” said Neal, who delivered his decision July 18 to suspend the officer for 15 days.
“However, I believe that the seriousness of this misconduct by a senior officer, particularly where much of the subject matter is data protected by the [Youth Criminal Justice Act], merits discipline that will serve as a deterrence to other members.”
Neal also recommended that Police Chief Adam Palmer apply a renewed focus to train all officers on the importance of complying with policy and statutory obligations “in connection with access to police databases, disclosure of information on those databases and privacy obligations of members with respect to such data, particularly data governed by the [Youth Criminal Justice Act].”
Note:This story has been updated since first posted.