‘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

The Province - - NEWS - KEITH FRASER kfraser@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/kei­thrfraser

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.

— KEITH FRASER

Insp. John de Haas says he tapped a fe­male col­league’s hip, think­ing she was be­ing un­pro­fes­sional with her hands in her pock­ets.

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