New allegations: Former VPD officer says she was sexually harassed by superiors
Published Wednesday, June 19, 2019 4:37PM PDT
Last Updated Thursday, June 20, 2019 8:17AM PDT
A former police officer is coming forward, claiming she was a victim of brutal sexual harassment by senior staff and direct supervisors at the Vancouver Police Department.
The woman decided to speak out after seeing a CTV News investigation into two senior officers whose inappropriate relationships with Const. Nicole Chan, a subordinate who was suffering from mental health issues, triggered an internal police probe. Chan took her own life in January.
"I think my initial reaction was just anger that she had been failed," said the former officer, who CTV News is not identifying because she fears repercussions for telling her story. "I related so much to the details in the story about the investigation that she went through and thought, how could it come to this?"
She says the harassment began immediately after she joined the force, and worsened over time. She claims it came at the hands of fellow constables but also senior staff and direct supervisors in a position of authority.
"It was definitely superiors, sergeants, people in charge, people who were supposed to be mentoring me," she said.
"They would come to you with the illusion of, 'I'm here to help you with your career,' or 'Here's my phone number, I'll support you. If you have any questions, let me know.' And then that quickly changes to texts like, 'Hey, I can't stop thinking about you,' sexual innuendo, jokes, straight out propositioning you for sex. And it was never about helping me with my career."
She says some staff members would call her after work hours to proposition her for sex. In other cases, she claims male officers would show her pornographic material.
"I’ve never in my life had any mental health challenges until this harassment started, and I found myself suffering anxiety attacks, panic attacks. It really affected my day to day life and who I was," she said.
As she was struggling to deal with the alleged sexual harassment, she said her colleagues would also make joking comments to her about killing herself – things like, "Why don't you just eat your gun?"
"For me, I thought this is just another way of them trying to make me quit and feel unwelcome in the department," she said. "But what if you said that to (someone) who was already thinking that?"
After a year on the force, she finally filed a complaint and was placed on stress leave as an internal investigation was triggered. But that's when she says the situation got worse. The investigation dragged on for upwards of a year, putting a further strain on her mental health.
"Every month that passed my mental health was suffering more and more," she said. "It really felt like they were trying to use the length as a way for me to give up. Let’s see how long we can make this go before she quits and she gives up."
Eventually, she did, quitting her job after only two years for the sake of her mental health, she says.
Asked about the allegations on Wednesday, Const. Steve Addison, a media relations officer with the VPD, said he couldn't comment on any individual complaints, but stressed that the force takes all reports of harassment seriously.
Since CTV News aired Const. Chan's story, half a dozen current members of the VPD – both men and women – have come forward claiming there is a systemic issue of harassment within the department, a charge Addison denied.
"We know historically within policing culture harassment has been an issue, and over the past couple decades there's been a dramatic shift within the policing world," Addison said. "We don't believe here at the VPD there are any systemic issues with regards to harassment."
When it comes to the length of internal investigations, Addison said investigators are held to a "rigorous timeline" that involves regular status reports. He said he could not comment on the length of the probes triggered by Const. Chan or the woman who came forward to CTV News.
CTV News Vancouver's Scott Roberts sat down with BTS with CTV Vancouver host Penny Daflos to discuss the investigation. You can listen here: