COS not a police force: ex-conservation officer

Agencies declining to review his complaints about actions during Coquitlam bear incident 'proves it'

Two provincial oversight agencies have declined to investigate complaints by a former conservation officer over the handling of a July 30 incident in Coquitlam in which three residents were arrested.

The rejections, claims Bryce Casavant, proves the BC Conservation Officer Service is not a police force as many have claimed in social media interactions with him.

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Casavant sent his complaint to the BC Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) and the BC Independent Investigations Office (IIO). He claimed the conservation officer service and Coquitlam RCMP overstepped their authority when they detained the three for interfering with the COS in tracking and killing a family of bears in the Chineside neighbourhood. 

Casavant said he interviewed many of the witnesses and concluded the COS should be investigated for tracking down a 68-year-old man to his home and then dragging him across his lawn.

OPCC deputy police complaints commissioner Andrea Spindler told The Tri-City News due to privacy reasons it could not confirm if it had received the complaint. But, she added, the provincial agency only investigates complaints against municipal police forces such as the Vancouver and Port Moody police departments. It has no jurisdiction over either RCMP or COS. Casavant said the IIO also declined to investigate.

He said he made the complaints to get written proof the COS is not a police agency because most law enforcement authorities in North America have an independent body to objectively review their actions.

“[There is] absolutely no independent oversight of the agency because they’re not a police force,” said Casavant.

At the end of the day, said Casavant, no one is overseeing the actions of the COS. “So as long as the conservation officer doesn’t kill somebody or break a bone, he can do whatever he wants,” he said.

In an email to The Tri-City News, Tyler Hooper, a spokesperson for the ministry which oversees the COS, declined to comment on whether the agency itself is reviewing the conduct of its officers or if the confiscated phones were still in the service’s possession because “the matter is still under investigation.”

Casavant also claimed the RCMP didn’t have the jurisdictional authorization to turn over the cellphones to the conservation service after releasing the the three residents. He said he has filed complaints about the RCMP’s actions in two of those cases to the federal RCMP Civilian Review and Complaints Commission.

Although the RCMP released the trio, the COS issued October court appearance dates to them for obstruction under the Wildlife Act and appointments with the RCMP to be fingerprinted later this month.

Casavant was suspended by the conservation service in 2015 for refusing to put down two black bear cubs. He is currently doing doctoral studies at Royal Roads University in Victoria.

ggranger@tricitynews,ciom

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