‘I did not slap her on the butt at any time,’ inspector says
Senior VPD officer tells hearing he tapped female constable lightly on hip, challenging finding his conduct was discreditable
A senior Vancouver police officer denied an allegation Monday that he slapped a female special constable on the buttocks during a police ceremony.
Insp. John de Haas told a public hearing that he did touch the special constable on the right hip during the April 2017 incident, but that it was a “tap” and not a slap, or a spanking, as alleged.
He testified that he approached the complainant, who cannot be named due to a publication ban, at a graduation ceremony for special constables when he saw that she had her hands in her pockets at the public event, conduct which he said was unprofessional.
De Haas, 68, told retired judge Carol Baird Ellan that as he was leaning in toward her, he tapped her on the hip and then realized it was inappropriate to have done so and apologized.
“From the very beginning, I say it was a tap, it was a light tap,” he said.
His lawyer asked de Haas about the complainant’s earlier testimony that he had slapped her on the butt. “That’s absolutely incorrect,” said de Haas. “I did not slap her on the butt at any time. I find that very disturbing.”
De Haas, who said he believes he is currently the longest-serving officer in the department and will have 40 years on the job as of today, added that if he had slapped her, he would have held himself accountable for his actions.
“There isn’t any other option,” he told Baird.
The officer said that he did not consider his actions amounted to misconduct and asserted that the complainant had been “untruthful” in her account.
He was asked about an allegation from the complainant, who was assigned to the Vancouver jail where de Haas was the commanding officer, that he had flirted with female guards at the jail.
“No, I did not flirt with any of the staff. I was quite offended when I heard that evidence today,” he said.
The complainant, who is now a regular member of the Vancouver Police Department, testified earlier Monday that before the incident she had volunteered to help set up tables and chairs at the event.
She said that while she was chatting with several other special constables, someone came up from behind her and grabbed her arms and removed them from her pockets. A voice she recognized as being that of de Haas told her that officers don’t put their hands in their pockets, then she was smacked on the right butt cheek, she said.
“I froze and I was shocked, turned around and saw Insp. de Haas. He said, ‘I probably shouldn’t have done that.’ I said, ‘No, probably not.’ He said, ‘Sorry.’ It was a very quick interaction.”
She said that de Haas later approached her and said words to the effect of “we almost had a sexual-harassment issue.”
The complainant testified that she didn’t at first know how to react to the incident and admitted that she exchanged a number of texts with another special constable in which she adopted a light and joking manner.
But she added that, at the same time, she was upset about the incident. Eventually after conferring with a number of people, including the Vancouver Police Union, she decided to file a complaint.
“That behaviour is not acceptable on the police force. I felt like this incident happened because I was a female,” she said.
She said that, at the time, she was hoping to get hired as a regular member of the department and was worried that a complaint might affect her chances of getting the job.
In June 2017, after reviewing the complaint, Police Complaint Commissioner Stan Lowe ordered that another police force — the New Westminster police — investigate the matter.
In February, the police discipline authority determined that de Haas had committed discreditable conduct and proposed a discipline of five days’ suspension without pay. The officer was told that if he wanted to challenge the finding he could ask for a public hearing or a review on the record. He asked for a review on the record, but Lowe ordered a public hearing.
Insp. John de Haas says he tapped a female colleague’s hip, thinking she was being unprofessional with her hands in her pockets.