3 VPD officers have been fired during investigations into disgraced detectives who withheld information, Crown says
Crown prosecutors have released a detailed statement explaining their decision not to charge three Vancouver specialist police officers accused of interfering in an investigation to protect their since-disgraced former colleague, and first Mal has provided details of the allegations since the case began about half a decade ago.
BC prosecutors said Thursday officers were under scrutiny for their responses during interviews about their colleague, former detective James Fisher, while he was being investigated for sexually exploiting female sex crime victims.
A special prosecutor noted that officers could have been more helpful to investigators, but that there was no evidence that any of their behavior amounted to a crime.
“While officers may have … had a moral or social duty to be more accommodating in the investigation, there was no legal duty that would support a criminal conviction,” the 10-page statement said.
The details of the allegations come 2½ years after the Crown refused to authorize the charges. The statement said the report was withheld from the public until Thursday while other investigations were ongoing.
CBC contacted the Vancouver Police Department about the report but received no response by the deadline.
Officials weren’t legally bound by voluntary information: Crown
Fisher, once a celebrated unit detective, was sentenced to 20 months in prison in 2018 on sexual exploitation and breach of trust charges after kissing two female victims.
All three officers worked with Fisher prior to his arrest in the high-profile Counter Exploitation Unit, which led extensive investigations into prostitution and human trafficking.
The officers were not named because they were not charged.
After Fisher was charged, on January 13, 2017, the trio were called in for separate interviews about their peers.
The statement said one of the officers omitted information on at least four occasions during the interviews. The other two colleagues answered questions but didn’t provide much more information than what they were asked.
“The officers concerned did not lie or misrepresent anything. They just didn’t give any voluntary information. Since there was no legal or general obligation to provide the information to the … investigators, there was no legal obligation for them to provide the omitted information.”
According to the Crown statement, the first officer did not mention that Fisher was alone with a victim in a police car on his day off or that the couple were in a minor accident. He also didn’t tell investigators about another allegation of sexual misconduct against Fisher or that Fisher had told his colleague he knew the RCMP was “snooping around him.”
The second officer told investigators she doesn’t believe a victim’s allegations against Fisher were true, but believes the victim was “just trying to annoy the detective.”
“After the interview [the officer] bragged … that during the interview she was an ‘absolute slut’ who didn’t look at investigators and answered questions with one word,” Crown’s statement said.
The third officer admitted to investigators that Fisher met with victims alone, but didn’t have much else to say.
Alberta RCMP called to handle the case
In July 2017 – seven months after the interviews – the police Complaints Officer wrote a letter calling for an investigation into “the allegations of serious misconduct” against the officers.
Alberta RCMP handled the case. They recommended obstruction and breach of trust charges on Aug. 7, 2019 — the latter involving officers’ paperwork.
The officers were accused of breaching their duties as professional investigators by failing to keep proper records. The special prosecutor agreed that their paperwork was substandard, but it conformed to “sloppy” and “minimal” note-taking habits across the unit.
There was no evidence notes were badly made for an “improper purpose”, the Crown said.
The special prosecutor declined to bring charges in May 2020.
Union officials also investigated
The Alberta-based investigation also looked at whether the officers’ union representative had advised them to undermine the investigation into Fisher.
One official said the representative gave him the advice before his interview with investigators: “If they don’t ask you, don’t tell.” Another said the union worker told him not to “say too much” or be the one to “tip the scales” for Fisher.
The union representative later denied the allegations. He told Alberta RCMP he said officers should answer all questions honestly but not feel pressured to fill in the silence with “false information.”
The special prosecutor said there was insufficient evidence to prove the representative advised officers to lie and that his denial raised reasonable doubts.
In the months following his 2018 conviction, Fisher was repeatedly accused of sexually abusing several other young women in the course of his investigations into Vancouver pimps.
There are also allegations that he gave the young women drugs and encouraged them to lie in court, and that the VPD knew about problems with the detective five years before his suspension in 2016.
At least three men arrested as a result of investigations by Fisher and other Counter Exploitation Unit officers have appealed their prostitution and human trafficking convictions.