Does ‘institutional knowledge’
refer to the OPCC as well as
Vancouver police?

A lawyer says Vancouver cop Jim Fisher got away with
sexual misconduct towards vulnerable women and girls
despite “institutional knowledge”

May 8, 2019

Attorney general-minister of justice Suzanne Anton celebrates Vancouver police creep Jim Fisher

Then-attorney general/solicitor general Suzanne Anton presents
an award to then-Vancouver police detective constable
Jim Fisher in 2014.

 

Update: In lawsuits launched June 17, 2019, two more women accuse Jim Fisher of sexual exploitation. They’re also suing the VPD and province, stating: “Members of the VPD… and employees of the province knew or ought to have known that Fisher repeatedly breached and violated policies and standard practices that were intended to protect [the plaintiff] and other persons in [the plaintiff’s] position … [but] took no steps or inadequate steps to enforce or implement those policies, which allowed and facilitated Fisher’s exploitation of [the plaintiff].”

 

When cops face allegations like these, we can’t rely on cops to investigate them properly—or at all. Nor can we rely on any ethical supervision from B.C.’s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, the people who supposedly oversee municipal cop-on-cop investigations.

Former Vancouver detective Jim Fisher used his position to have sex with at least six vulnerable complainants and witnesses in a pimping case he was investigating, the pimp’s counsel alleges. Sure, lawyer Tom Arbogast speaks on behalf of Reza Moazami, a scumbag who’s been convicted of scumbag offences on a monumentally scumbag scale. But, need it be said, that would hardly excuse the allegations against Fisher.

Arbogast also raises disturbing questions about how much the VPD knew and how little it did about Fisher’s actions. As Postmedia columnist Ian Mulgrew reports, “Arbogast told the court the indications of institutional knowledge of Fisher’s misconduct needed to be more fully explored to determine what was done about it — if anything.”

Fisher was originally charged in December 2016 with committing sexual exploitation and breach of trust between August and December 2015, sexual assault in December 2015, and obstruction of justice in November 2016.

In March 2018 he pled guilty to breach of trust and sexual exploitation for kissing a teenage girl, and breach of trust for kissing a young woman. Last August he got 20 months in prison and two years’ probation. The following January a court dismissed his appeal for a reduced term.

Now Arbogast says there’s much more to Fisher’s actions.

Mulgrew quotes Arbogast telling a courtroom: “It’s quite outrageous what he engaged in. To go through all of the misconduct would take days.”

Mulgrew’s account continues:

[Arbogast] also alleged Fisher had sex with several and perhaps most of the 11 complainants and key witnesses in the Moazami case.

Arbogast said Fisher was reputed to regularly give some of them small sums of cash at various times, which added up to a significant amount — more than a police officer’s salary would support.

His central role in the investigation gave him control and contact with key witnesses, and he counselled them to lie, cheat and misdirect police, Arbogast alleged at the court hearing.

If Arbogast’s allegations in court are to be believed, they not only condemn the shame-faced ex-detective, they indict the Vancouver Police Department.

Yes, and maybe the OPCC too. Among the allegations reported by Mulgrew, Arbogast said the VPD ignored formal complaints from a support group called Rain City (Sister Watch) about Fisher’s conduct before the end of Moazami’s trial.

It certainly wouldn’t be the first time Vancouver police covered up a formal complaint. That alone would be very serious but there’s an additional matter that consistently gets swept under the rug. B.C.’s Police Act requires municipal cops to divulge complaints to the OPCC. Failure to do so would constitute another serious breach of the Police Act, but a breach that the OPCC routinely condoned under former police complaint commissioner Stan Lowe. Two examples are the cases of VPD officer Taylor Robinson and District of Saanich officer Brent Wray. (I’ve requested newly appointed commissioner Clayton Pecknold to call investigations into the VPD and Saanich cops who withheld those incidents.)

Of course the OPCC has a history of taking part in cover-ups too. Again, that’s evident in the Robinson and Wray cases, as well as those of New Westminster cop Sukhwinder “Vinnie” Singh Dosanjh and now-disgraced former Victoria chief Frank Elsner.

So maybe the OPCC knew about Rain City’s complaints but, once again, colluded in a VPD cover-up. Quite possibly Rain City filed the complaints with both the VPD and OPCC.

The question arises of who, if anyone, will investigate Arbogast’s allegations. B.C. and Quebec remain the only two provinces that allow cops to investigate cops for sexual misconduct. These cases were excluded from the jurisdiction of B.C.’s Independent Investigations Office.

In the case of municipal cops investigated under the Police Act, those cop-on-cop investigations get “oversight” from the OPCC.

This procedure is dreadfully wrong for two reasons. Cops are the wrong people to investigate cops, especially for such serious offences. And OPCC staff have proven themselves the wrong people to oversee anything—at least anything requiring even a modicum of ethics.

Read more about B.C.’s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner
Read more about B.C.’s inadequate Independent Investigations Office
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