BC RCMP say charges are pending against an RCMP officer allegedly caught on camera trying to meet up with an underage girl.
The charges have yet to be approved by Crown Counsel, therefore his name has not been released yet.
The officer in question has been removed from duty and is currently in custody.
An internal Code of Conduct investigation under the RCMP Act has been initiated.
RCMP received the call on September 7 around 10 p.m. where Surrey “Creep Catchers” had recorded a video where an officer was allegedly meeting up with an underage girl.
“Within a few hours, we were able to identify the suspect officer and immediate steps were taken to locate him and any evidence to further the investigation,” said Assistant Commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr during the briefing.
The investigation is being led by the Surrey RCMP Professional Standards Unit, with support from the BC Integrated Child Exploitation Unit and Surrey RCMP Major Crimes.
RCMP say the officer is not Constable Dan Johnson, as speculated in social media.
They reitate their objectives are different from Creep Catchers, saying the group is focused on “public shaming,” while they are focused on investigating.
“We don’t condone this behaviour,” said BC RCMP during the briefing.
RCMP say Creep Catchers “increased risk to public safety.”
Police say about a dozen people from the group were involved in the sting.
BC RCMP made it clear that if the allegations were upheld, they would take immediate action.
“I want to be very clear that if the allegations are substantiated, we will be immediately taking steps to separate ourselves from this individual. These allegations are egregious and not in keeping with what we expect from our employees,” said Butterworth-Carr.
Social media – the consequences?
So, what about all the people on social media who were circulating the name of the wrong officer, publicly dragging his name through the social media mud?
Lawyer Paul Doroshenko spoke with Global News Friday afternoon.
“We tend to think that we’re on Facebook, or we’re on Twitter or something like that and we can just say anything.Well, we can’t.”
He says even comments on news articles can open people for a lawsuit for defamation.
“Irresponsibly sharing something on social media could open you up to a lawsuit at any time. So people have to be very careful.”
Doroshenko says the officer’s character was “clearly” defamed by people who published inaccurate material.
BC RCMP said during the briefing that it was a very difficult time for the officer incorrectly named by social media.
“The misinformation and unfair assumptions attached to Dan have been extremely difficult for him and his family, and is an example of why we ask for an investigation, due process and formal charges to be considered before any name is discussed publicly – including on social media.”
Doroshenko says there might even be the possibility of litigation from this case.
“It is vigilantism in the sense that they’re trying to go around the police to catch people who they think have committed an offence and their method of doing it is to publicize it and then the police get involved after the fact.”
But he says this can be dangerous territory.
Surrey RCMP have 24 hours to either arrest the officer or release him from custody.
Since this officer was arrested Thursday night, he could be charged soon, or released.
Delta’s former top cop, Chief Jim Cessford, says most likely Surrey RCMP will turn over the investigation to an independent, external police force.
“For minor things like maybe speeding, inappropriate driving and that we would conduct those ourselves obviously, but serious criminal we would likely turn it over.”
Cessford speaking to Steele & Drex show on CKNW.
He says when it comes to serious cases, the department involved usually does not investigate itself.
“It’s a very serious allegation, most police departments will ask for an independent external investigation, so often times the RCMP when they have a serious allegation against, say one of their members, they would come to Delta or Vancouver, and ask us to conduct the investigation.”
Doug King with the Pivot Legal Society agrees.
He says the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. should step in and investigate the incident.
“We need that outside organization to give it a truly independent look and determine whether or not charges are warranted here.”
He says there’s going to be some bias, or a perception of bias.
“If we’re talking about criminal behavior by a police officer, the IIO is best situated to be the one doing the investigation.”
King adds he doubts the RCMP can handle the investigation internally because officers have a culture of protecting each other.