VANCOUVER - A police-complaint adjudicator has ruled against a former Vancouver constable accused of corrupt practice and improper disclosure of information, while condemning the officers who questioned him during a related investigation.
Adjudicator Wally Oppal said in a ruling released Friday that Stephen Todd of the Vancouver Police Department wrongfully accessed a database and then disclosed information to his cousin, who was the subject of a homicide investigation.
The allegations arose after the 2001 death in Oak Bay, B.C., of Owen Padmore.
Oppal dismissed allegations of deceit, discreditable conduct and neglect of duty against Todd.
Oppal also used his decision to lambaste officers who "flagrantly denied" the former constable's right to seek legal or union advice during questioning in March 2011. The officers were questioning Todd in an effort to obtain information about his cousin.
Kevin Woodall, legal counsel for Todd, said his client is elated to have been vindicated on the more serious accusations.
"This has been hell for him for four years," he said, noting his client was dismissed from the force over the deceit allegations that have now been overturned.
Woodall said the typical discipline for wrongfully accessing the database and disclosing information is a reprimand or a brief suspension, although it will now be up to Oppal in another hearing to decide upon any new sanction.
Sgt. Randy Fincham of the Vancouver police declined to comment because of "an ongoing process being handled by another agency."
Michael Tammen, the lawyer who presented the allegations against Todd during the public hearing, also declined to comment and referred questions to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner.
Oppal said in his ruling that Todd accessed the police databank July 18, 2010, during a family gathering at Kitsilano Beach in Vancouver and while his wife was involved in a swimming competition.
Todd had testified that his family members and friends were curious about the police car he was driving, so he ran several names on the computer, including his cousin's name.
When Todd ran his cousin's name on the computer database, he learned there was a "privatized" file and no information was available.
"As an experienced police officer, he clearly knew that his conduct in accessing the computer database was improper," wrote Oppal. "He has admitted to that default."
Oppal said Todd also told his cousin that the information was not accessible.
"The fact that he accessed a database on three different occasions confirms in my view that he wilfully disclosed the information to his cousin."
Yet, Oppal lambasted the homicide investigators who questioned Todd, noting their actions went "beyond the pale."
Oppal said the officers told Todd that charges were "ready to go against him," and they even prepared a report to Crown counsel.
"Fortunately, the Crown rejected it," he said.
"Perhaps the most egregious act was the fabricated letter under the letterhead of the deputy attorney general that purported to advise Todd that his private communications had been intercepted by the order of a judge."
Oppal said while Todd had a duty to co-operate with the officers, he had a right to advice from counsel or a union representative.
"This is a fundamental right based on the principles of fairness," he said. In fact, the (Police) Act allows an officer five days in which to seek advice. That right was flagrantly denied to Todd."
Rollie Woods, deputy police complaint commissioner, said lawyers must now submit their recommendations on discipline to Oppal.
"Once they do that, then he'll decide what he thinks the appropriate discipline should be," said Woods.
Oppal has also questioned what consequences should follow the breach of Todd's rights.