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Public hearing called into DPD misconduct claims
The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner announced Wednesday it will be holding a public hearing into allegations of police misconduct by two members of the Delta Police Department.
Const. Aaron Hill and Const. Aaron McRae of the Delta Police Department are alleged to have used unnecessary force against Edward Pecaskie during an incident that took place on Sept. 17, 2011.
Pecaskie filed a complaint with the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, the civilian oversight body for municipal police in B.C., claiming Hill tackled him off of his bike and repeatedly smashed his face into the ground, while McRae kicked Pecaskie in the ribs. Pecaskie also alleges his iPod and bicycle were damaged in the incident.
Pecaskie’s complaint was investigated by the Professional Standards Section of the Delta Police Department for investigation. Insp. Ian MacWilliams found Pecaskie’s allegations of abuse of authority, damage to property, and deceit to be without merit, while the allegation of neglect of duty appeared to be substantiated by the evidence.
However, in December of last year, the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner tasked retired provincial court judge Jakob S. De Villiers with reviewing the matter after determining there was a reasonable basis to believe the DPD’s decision was incorrect.
In June, De Villiers released his findings, agreeing with the DPD’s assessment that Pecaskie’s allegations of abuse of authority, damage to property, and deceit had not been proven. However, in his decision to call a public hearing, B.C. Police Complaint Commissioner Stan T. Lowe stated, there is a reasonable basis to believe De Villiers’ findings are incorrect.
Specifically, Lowe states that De Villiers erred in his findings by not cross examining the officers involved, and the fact Pecaskie and potential witnesses didn’t participate in the proceeding, because there was no request for their attendance by the officers.
“In my respectful view, [De Villiers] was procedurally mistaken in his view that he could not question the members in his role as Discipline Authority,” Lowe stated. “[T]he accountability of the proceedings has been significantly diminished, and the search for truth substantially compromised.”
Given the seriousness of the allegations, Lowe stated a public hearing “is required to preserve or restore public confidence in the investigation of misconduct and the administration of police discipline.”
Delta Police spokesperson Ciaran Feenan said the officers are still on active duty as patrol members, and any disciplinary action taken against them will depend on the outcome of the public hearing.
“The Police Act defines how these proceedings are investigated and both members have participated in the investigation from the onset, and have done so freely,” said Feenan. “The Delta Police Department is very supportive of civilian oversight. We’re held to a higher standard of accountability, not only through the Police Act, but with our own professional standards and core values, our civilian police board, and ultimately the public.”
Retired provincial court judge Alan Filmer has been appointed to preside over the proceedings. A date for the public hearing has not yet been set.
Hill was honoured by Delta Police Department’s annual awards ceremony last year for saving the life of a choking toddler while off duty.