Three off-duty police officers arrested in Vancouver
VANCOUVER, B.C. - Three off-duty police officers from different suburban departments were arrested Wednesday on allegations they assaulted and robbed a man in Vancouver.
The Vancouver Police Department said the three officers were involved in an altercation with a 47-year-old newspaper delivery driver from Surrey, B.C.
Police declined to provide many details, citing the continuing investigation, but said they responded to a 911 call about a fight outside an upscale hotel in the city's downtown around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday morning.
The three male officers remained in custody Wednesday afternoon but no charges had yet been filed, spokeswoman Const. Jana McGuinness said.
"We're expecting that they'll be released today," she said. "The investigators are working hard to determine whether a crime has been committed before any charges are laid."
The Crown would be asked to review any charges, McGuinness added.
Since the officers were off duty it's not likely they were armed, she said.
An ambulance was called but any injuries suffered in the fight were minor and no one needed hospitalization, she said.
The officers taken into custody work for police departments in West Vancouver, New Westminster and Delta, B.C. They were not identified but all three of their departments quickly issued news releases confirming their arrest.
West Vancouver police said one of its junior constables was among those in custody but referred all other questions to Vancouver police, which is conducting the investigation.
Delta police spokeswoman Const. Sharlene Brooks said her department does not have all the details because the investigation is in its early stages.
Brooks said Delta Chief Jim Cessford has a range of options for dealing with the officer - a constable with three years on the force - ranging from reassignment to suspension.
"We're hoping we'll have additional information available to us as soon as possible so that when the officer is due to return to work we'll have a decision made as far as what his duties involve," she said in an interview.
The three departments also said they notified the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner to request authorization to begin internal investigations under the Police Act regulations that cover an officer's off-duty conduct.
Deputy Commissioner Bruce Brown said his office was informed around breakfast time.
"Of course the Police Act investigation will take a little bit of a back seat until the criminal investigation is completed," he said.
The commission monitors internal department probes to ensure the investigations are impartial and can order anything up to a public inquiry if it's not satisfied.
"It's our responsibility to ensure that those investigations are thorough, fair, transparent and if we're not satisfied with the progress of an investigation ... we can order other investigations," he said.
Cessford said his department is committed to core values of honour, integrity, courage and trust.
"It is not only the expectation but it is the standard that our officers conduct themselves consistent with these values," he said in a news release.
The quick flurry of statements by four police departments came after criticism last year that information regarding charges against police officers in the Vancouver region was sometimes slow to trickle out to the public.
Several incidents last year involved impaired-driving charges against five officers - one of them fatal - involving three Mounties and constables from Vancouver and New Westminster.
New Westminster Const. Tomi Hamner pleaded guilty last month after driving her unmarked police vehicle into a sign while off duty in October. She was fined $1,000 and lost her driver's licence for a year.
The other impaired-driving cases, including one against a Richmond RCMP officer involved in the notorious Taser incident that ended in the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, are still pending.
McGuinness said the officers involved in Wednesday's incident got no special consideration.
"There's no exceptions made for the fact that they are police officers," she said. "When we receive information like this, we want to get that out. There's no reason to withhold it."
Statistics released by the office of the complaints commissioner in November found that 106 municipal police officers were guilty of misconduct between Oct. 1, 2006, and Oct. 1, 2008.