Central Saanich’s top cop said one of his officers knows he made a mistake after his failure to thoroughly search an individual allowed that person to play with a knife inside a hospital.
“Again, it is our responsibility, and this was an error that was made, not intentional, and the officer was quite bothered by the fact that this happened and accepted full responsibility and apologized to everybody who was working that day for missing that,” said Les Sylven, chief constable of the Central Saanich Police Department. “We strive to be perfect every day, but at the same time, we are humans and when we make mistakes, we learn from them,” he said later.
The incident appears in the newest report of the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC), the provincial office investigating complaints against police officers.
It says the officer neglected his duty when he failed to conduct a sufficiently thorough search” of a person, whom police had apprehended prior to transport and admission to a secure psychiatric facility. “Two hours after being admitted to hospital, the apprehended person pulled out a knife and started playing with it,” it reads. “The apprehended person relinquished the knife to hospital staff upon request.”
Sylven described the knife found on the person as “little jack knife” that fit into one of the smaller pockets that are part of jeans.
“There is the main front pocket and then there is a little one [and] it fit completely inside that little pocket,” he said. “It still matters though, but it was very small.”
The officer received what the report described as an “advice to future conduct,” the first [and therefore lowest] level of available discipline.
“‘What you did here was not proper and you need to do a better job next time,’” said Sylven in describing the punishment. “That is ‘advice to future conduct’ and it goes all the way from that to dismissing somebody. It’s acknowledging that misconduct did occur [and] he knows that he needs to do a better job next time. This seemed like the most appropriate way to strike a balance … given the totality of everything.”
Sylven said this is the first time, that the officer, which he described as “excellent,” received such a punishment. “What can I say publicly is that under the Police Act the corrective measures imposed include consideration for the officer’s record,” he said.
The hearing also led to the recommendation that the department make a portable handheld metal detector available for officers in the field to assist them in clothing searches. Sylven said those devices are now available to officers.
The report also recommended that police department representatives meet with hospital staff to discuss enhancing mutual safety protocols. “This would include the potential use of the hospital’s fully-trained protective officers to search patients in a clinical setting before allowing them access to their secured wards,” it reads.
Looking at the bigger picture, OPCC opened 1,326 files involving 14 police agencies, a 15 per cent increases from the 2017/18 reporting period.
Substantiated misconduct allegations included officer’s improperly securing firearms to excessive use of force on civilians to inappropriate comments made in the workplace, according to the office’s annual report released this week to the provincial government.
“I know there is significant pressure to have discipline, but you probably agree with me that compared to everything else that is in there, this is a pretty minor matter,” Sylven said.
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