Skip to main content

Family of officer who died by suicide suing Vancouver Police Department, former sergeants


December 2022 update: The family of Nicole Chan has amended their lawsuit to remove allegations against Greg McCullough.

The family of a Vancouver police officer who died by suicide is suing the department, alleging she endured sexual assault and exploitation enabled by an "unsafe workplace culture and insufficient policies and procedures," court documents show.

None of the allegations have been tested in court and no statements of defence have been filed.

The lawsuit is being brought by the mother and sister of Nicole Chan, who died in 2019. Nicole took her own life after struggling with mental health issues, which the lawsuit alleges were compounded by her relationships with two superior officers as well as the force's handling of an investigation into those relationships.

The lawsuit initially named as defendants Sgt. Greg McCullough and Sgt. David Van Patten, two senior officers with whom Nicole had relationships at different times during her 10-year tenure with the VPD, though the family's claims against McCullough have since been withdrawn.

Both of the officers have since left the Vancouver Police Department – McCullough retired while Van Patten was dismissed.

The lawsuit also references two other officers who had sexual relationships with Chan, including one who “held a superior rank,” though they are not named as defendants.


Court documents say the VPD became aware of Nicole's mental health issues in 2012 after she was involved in a car accident that her employer "interpreted … as a suicide attempt." Her gun was taken away and she spent roughly a week off of work.

That is the first of four "mental health episodes" described in the court document that culminated in Nicole being placed on paid leave in 2017 and diagnosed in 2018 with "unspecified trauma and stressor-related disorder," as well as major depressive disorder.

"The major contributor to the diagnosis was the impact of the sexual relationship with (individuals) who were in a position of authority over Nicole," the lawsuit claims, saying several times that these episodes were evidence of "severe mental distress triggered by intimate relationships."


The lawsuit alleges Chan's relationship with Van Patten constituted wrongful conduct, and that he and the department are liable.

Both on the job and outside of work, Chan was subjected to "sexual harassment including persistent communications of a sexual or romantic nature; sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual coercion and sexual exploitation; discrimination; acts intended to cause emotional and mental distress; (and) intimidation using rank," according to the court documents.

Van Patten began flirting with Nicole in 2016, the suit says, alleging that "at Van Patten's urging, Nicole entered into an intimate relationship with him."

The suit alleges Van Patten engaged in a number of behaviours that had the effect of "willfully inflicting mental distress upon Nicole so that he could manipulate her into sexual acts and a power-imbalanced secret intimate relationship that served to benefit him."

This relationship was also not disclosed, according to the suit, which claims Nicole was similarly told to keep it secret.

"The workplace culture was such that Nicole was more afraid of the negative consequences on her career from reporting the inappropriate relationships than she was afraid of the consequences those relationships were having on her," the documents say.

"The gaps in the policy created a dangerous and eventually deadly work environment for Nicole."

The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner found McCullough failed to disclose his relationship with Nicole as well, according to an email obtained by CTV News. The then-sergeant was given a 15-day suspension for "discreditable conduct," according to the OPCC, which said he had entered into a relationship with Chan "knowing that she was in a vulnerable state mentally and emotionally."


One of central claims being made is that although the VPD did have a policy requiring the disclosure of intimate relationships between colleagues, it was not sufficient to protect "vulnerable employees such as Nicole" and that it "failed to ensure relationships were not abusive of the power relationship inherent in such an environment."

Any policies the department did have, the suit alleges, "were not effectively implemented to meet the priorities, goals and objectives set out by the (police) board and effectively caused, or significantly contributed to, the death of Nicole."

Nicole's sister Jennifer Chan – who works for CTV News Vancouver in the operations department – and her mother Lai Ching Ho are seeking general, aggravated and punitive damages. They are also seeking special damages and damages to remedy what they allege were a breach of Nicole's rights under the Charter.

The Attorney General of B.C., the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Police Union and two unnamed VPD employees are also listed among the defendants.

CTV News has asked the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Police Department for comment.

A spokesperson for the city said staff can not comment "as this matter is before the courts."

The VPD provided a similar statement saying the department is aware of the suit.

As this matter is now before the courts, it would be inappropriate to comment further," a spokesperson wrote in an email. Top Stories

Stay Connected