Charges pending against RCMP officer after Creep Catchers sting
A Mountie who was targeted by the Surrey Creep Catchers this week has been arrested and charges against him are pending, the RCMP confirmed Friday.
Asst. Commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr, Acting Commanding Officer of the B.C. RCMP, held a press conference to announce allegations of child luring and sexual exploitation are being investigated against an officer following a sting that was live streamed by the online vigilante group Wednesday night.
“The suspect officer was arrested and taken into custody, where he remains today,” Butterworth-Carr told reporters.
The Mountie has been removed from active duty status and an internal Code of Conduct probe has been launched parallel to the RCMP’s criminal investigation, which is being conducted by the Major Crimes Section and Integrated Child Exploitation unit.
The suspect’s identity has not been released, but Mounties stressed that the officer is not Const. Dan Johnson, whose name has been shared on social media since Surrey Creep Catchers posted video of its members chasing the target and yelling “Officer Dan.”
“The police officer that we are dealing with is not – not – Const. Dan Johnson as reported by some individuals on social media. This information and unfair assumptions have been extremely stressful for Dan and his family and incredibly inappropriate,” Butterworth-Carr said.
“This is a prime example of why we ask for an investigation, due process and formal charges to be considered and approved by Crown counsel before a name is disseminated, especially on social media.”
Butterworth-Carr was joined by Insp. Tyler Svendson, Officer in Charge of the force’s Behavioural Sciences Group, who urged the public not to engage in vigilantism.
Svendson said the RCMP’s ICE unit already works “day and night” to catch sexual predators, and though it’s possible the officer would never have been arrested without Creep Catchers’ sting, Mounties do not condone the group’s efforts.
“Their objective is to public shame someone. Our objective is we want to conduct an investigation, make an arrest, and forward charges for a successful conviction,” Svendson said.
He said if Creep Catchers or any other group or individual has reason to believe someone is attempting to lure children, it’s imperative that they inform police immediately – not wait to conduct a sting they can share on social media.
“We want the public to notify us immediately, especially if [the suspect is] a person in authority,” Svendson said. “We want to save children. And we need people to call us immediately, not wait until public shaming is done.”
Though the RCMP and Creep Catchers may share some similar goals, Svendson said online vigilantes actually slow down the work of the Integrated Child Exploitation unit because all of the evidence they gather has to be subjected to forensic analysis.
“They actually take longer for us to investigate, so they make us less efficient. When we start investigations ourselves, we don’t have to conduct forensic analysis on our computers and so forth,” he said.
Video of Wednesday’s sting, which was viewed by 29,000 people, showed Creep Catchers members surrounding a bald man in glasses outside the Boston Pizza at Surrey Central Mall.
The target immediately ran away and was able to escape, despite being chased by the 12-person Creep Catchers team.
Earlier this month, Mounties spoke out against all online vigilante groups, warning that their set-ups potentially put members, their targets, and the public at risk. In one incident earlier this summer in Surrey, a target tried fleeing from Creep Catchers members in a car and allegedly crashed into a parked truck.