Professional Standards Section
The Professional Standards Section (PSS) investigates
allegations of misconduct by members of the Vancouver Police Department.
Inspector Mike Purdy oversees a team of staff sergeants, sergeants, detective constables, and civilian support staff. The Professional Standards Section falls under the Deputy Chief Constable in charge of the Support Services Division.
The mandate of the Professional Standards Section is to
preserve the integrity of the Vancouver Police Department and the Chief
Constable’s Office by ensuring that the conduct of VPD members is
PSS members respond to public complaints and other concerns about the actions of individual VPD members. The PSS objective is to resolve complaints as fairly and inclusively as possible within the requirements of the Police Act.
Resolving a complaint may be achieved through one or more of the following ways:
- informal means -for example, a mutual letter between the complainant and the member each stating their concerns about an incident, or a face-to-face meeting between them to discuss it
- mediation - conducted by an approved Police Act Complaint Mediator chosen by the discipline authority from a list maintained by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner
- formal investigation, which is followed by a discipline authority who determines if there is evidence of misconduct and, if appropriate, what discipline or corrective measures should be imposed
- withdrawal of a complaint by the complainant
- the Police Complaint Commissioner decides not to proceed with the complaint
Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC)
The OPCC's website states its role as follows:
The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner provides impartial civilian oversight of complaints involving municipal police in British Columbia, Canada. We ensure thorough and competent investigations of police complaints and fair adjudication with respect to all parties.
The Vancouver Police Department fully supports the OPCC's role and oversight. The Police Complaint Commissioner himself has broad and independent authority regarding all aspects of the complaint process, including (but not limited to):
- deciding what is admissible and whether to continue with a complaint
- ordering of investigations whether a complaint is made or not
- directing certain investigative steps, where necessary
- replacing a discipline authority
- appointing a retired judge to conduct a review on the record or public hearing
Investigations relating to a VPD member's conduct take place if a complaint is deemed "admissible" by the OPCC, or if a police department or the OPCC are made aware of an incident and the Police Complaint Commissioner orders an investigation.
Generally, Professional Standards members are assigned investigations by the PSS Inspector. In some circumstances, a VPD PSS investigator will be assigned an investigation involving a member of another police department.
An OPCC analyst will monitor and liaise with the PSS investigator through the investigation until it is completed.
Mediation and Informal Resolution
If it's possible to resolve a complaint by mediation or other informal means, members of PSS will explore this option with both the complainant and the member(s) identified in the complaint.
For less serious and straight-forward matters, the complainant and subject member(s) may be able come up with their own resolution. If, on the other hand, a matter is more serious or complex, it may require the services of a professional and neutral mediator. The outcomes of either process must be agreed to by both the complainant and the member(s) named in the complaint.
If an informal resolution occurs, it must receive the approval of the OPCC. If a matter is resolved through the efforts of a professional mediator, it is not subject to OPCC approval.
When a complaint is not resolved through mediation or other informal means, the investigation will usually result in a final investigation report by the assigned investigator.
- The report, along with accompanying evidence, is reviewed by a senior VPD officer who determines whether the matter will go to a formal discipline process.
- If they decide against this, the Police Complaint Commissioner may decide to appoint a retired judge to review the report and the evidence, to make their own decision on the matter.
- If the retired judge agrees with the senior VPD officer, the process is concluded. If they do not agree, the judge takes over the matter and becomes the discipline authority.
The discipline process will resolve in one of these ways:
- If a misconduct allegation is less serious, a pre-hearing conference may be held to determine whether the officer will admit the misconduct and agree to the proposed consequence(s). This must be approved by the Police Complaint Commissioner.
- If the allegation is more serious, or the pre-hearing conference is not successful, a formal discipline proceeding will take place to determine if the allegation is proven or not proven. This will include testimony from the investigating officer, and possibly the subject officer and other witnesses. If proven, the discipline authority will propose disciplinary or corrective measures for the officer.
- Regardless of the outcome of a discipline proceeding, the Police Complaint Commissioner may appoint a retired judge to conduct either a public hearing or a review on the record. The judge’s decision, and any imposed disciplinary or corrective measures, are generally final.
Transparency and Complainant Participation
The VPD Professional Standards Section makes every reasonable attempt to facilitate complaints involving the conduct of VPD members.
Our staff are specifically trained to provide information regarding all aspects of the complaint process and to assist with the completion of complaint forms.
We encourage all complainants to be involved in the investigations, as this helps people understand the process, its expectations and outcomes. It also assists our investigators with the cooperation necessary to ensure a thorough investigation.
PSS members receive specialized training at the Justice Institute of British Columbia to ensure professionalism in all aspects of complaint-based and ordered investigations relating to the conduct of members under Part 11 of the Police Act.
PSS members also offer education and training on Police Act misconduct investigations, resolutions and the discipline process to:
- recruits at the police academy
- operational police officers
- representatives of various civic, ethnic and religious groups, businesses and agencies, in the VPD Citizens' Police Academy, held twice each year
If You Have a Concern
If you have witnessed or been affected by an incident relating to the conduct of a VPD member or any of the operations of the VPD in general, and about which you have concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact the Professional Standards Section or a VPD Public Service Counter. You may also contact the OPCC.