Vancouver police officer to face public hearing in abuse of power allegations over home entry

Vancouver Police Department.
Vancouver Police Department. VPD

The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) has appointed a retired provincial court judge to oversee a public hearing over a complaint that alleged abuse of authority against Vancouver police Const. Brian Hobbs, it was announced Tuesday.

Complainant Andrew Fraser alleged that an officer entered his home unlawfully and handcuffed him, according to a public hearing notice that was issued on June 5.

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Fraser claimed that on Nov. 18, 2015, he heard a ring at his back door and that he found a man in his laundry room when he went to investigate.

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His complaint said that this man then showed a badge and that, when Fraser asked him why he was in his home, he began interrogating him and didn’t explain why he was in the residence.

Fraser was then told that he was being arrested, according to the complaint. He also alleged that he was handcuffed and left in the laundry room as officers searched a downstairs living room, before they eventually left.

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Fraser filed his complaint on Nov. 23, 2015; it was forwarded to the Vancouver Police Department’s Professional Standards Section, where an investigator recommended that allegations of abuse of authority be considered substantiated.

Const. Hobbs was subsequently notified that there would be a disciplinary proceeding with regard to allegations of abuse of authority under the Police Act; it would cover allegations that he entered Fraser’s laundry room and searched his living room, and that Fraser was detained with handcuffs.

Supt. Mike Porteous oversaw the proceeding and determined that Hobbs didn’t commit abuse of authority in relation to either of those allegations.

Fraser then requested a public hearing with the Police Complaint Commissioner (PCC).

Vancouver Police outside the Broadway City SkyTrain Station. Ryan Stelting

In reviewing the complaint and the disciplinary proceeding, Commissioner Stan Lowe said that, “in my respectful view,” Porteous’ was “incorrect” in his interpretation of the Police Act, and his assessment of the “constituent elements” for the allegation of abuse of authority.

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Porteous had said that, in order for a matter to be an abuse of authority, “it required the conduct to be, ‘intentionally oppressive’ or have a ‘serious blameworthy element…,'” according to Lowe.

“It is my view that Supt. Porteous has elevated the test for abuse of authority beyond the elements set out in the Police Act,” Lowe wrote.

Lowe also said it was his “respectful view” that Porteous’ findings “placed too great an emphasis upon the member’s subjective view and did not maintain the relevant context that speaks to whether or not the actions of the member were objectively reasonable in the circumstances.”

Lowe also took issue with the disciplinary process. He noted that Hobbs was the only witness who provided any testimony, and that it didn’t hear from other material witnesses, such as Fraser.

The commissioner ultimately decided that a public hearing was “necessary in the public interest,” to determine whether Hobbs committed abuse of authority in entering Fraser’s laundry room, and whether he committed it “when in the performance, or purported performance, of duties, intentionally or recklessly detained Mr. Fraser in handcuffs.”

Retired Provincial Court Judge Brian Neal will oversee the proceedings at a hearing that will take place on Aug. 10 at 11:30 a.m., at the Vancouver Robson Square Courthouse.

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