A New Westminster police officer returned to work this week after being suspended with pay from his job for nearly four years.
Const. Sukhwinder "Vinnie" Dosanjh is back on duty after being disciplined for several incidents of police misconduct.
Dosanjh was suspended from active duty in July 2008 after he was charged with assault and being unlawfully in a dwelling house, stemming from an incident at the home of a fellow New Westminster officer.
After a lengthy investigation into Dosanjh's conduct as a police officer under the Police Act, Chief Const. Dave Jones reduced Dosanjh's rank to second-class constable for 15 months and ordered that he work under close supervision for that same period of time.
Dosanjh was also ordered to undergo retraining and psychological counselling.
"The case has been resolved," said Sgt. Diana McDaniel, media relations officer. "Vinnie Dosanjh pled guilty. The (Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner) has signed off on the matter. There were no criminal charges, and it was resolved in a pre-hearing conference."
Dosanjh returned to work last week, working in the road safety unit, Jones confirmed.
After several court appearances, Crown counsel dropped the original criminal charges against Dosanjh and the judge issued him a common law peace bond - a rarely used power a judge has to order someone who has not been found guilty of a crime to abide by court-ordered conditions. In this case, Dosanjh was ordered to report to a probation officer, have no contact with the woman he was accused of assaulting and possess no weapons, except through his work on the force.
The peace bond expired in November 2011, but a parallel investigation into Dosanjh's conduct as a police officer has been underway since shortly after the original incident. Once the Police Act investigation started, the investigator found other incidents of misconduct, according to a report from the police complaint commissioner, including Dosanjh possessing a police firearm while off-duty and without permission; doing an unauthorized search of his own vehicle's licence on the police record system, failing to notify the police about a change of address; and losing a knife that had been seized as evidence.
New Westminster police have not said how much Dosanjh collected during his suspension, however, according to the New Westminster Police Officers' Association's 2007-2010 collective bargaining agreement, the pay scale for first-class constables ranges from $72,444 to $79,080, per year, not including benefits. As a second-class constable, that scale is $65,196 to $71,172.
On Thursday, Jones said that he could not discuss the details of the case or disciplinary proceedings as they are confidential under provincial law, but he could speak about the process.
According to Jones, in order for Dosanjh to have been stripped of his pay and benefits, the New Westminster Municipal Police Board would have to vote on the issue. Police boards tend to wait until an officer has been convicted of a crime before revoking pay.
A common law peace bond, however, is not considered a criminal offence and does not appear as one on a criminal record.
Jones said officer pay is only revoked when there are serious allegations.
As for the length of the investigation, Jones said it was as frustrating for him as it is for anyone else.
"It took too long. I'll be the first to say it," he said. "It took almost two years to get through the court system before they ended up with a civil peace bond."
While the Police Act investigation was running parallel to the criminal one, Jones said it is easier to proceed once the criminal one is concluded because courts of law have a higher burden of proof than police disciplinary authorities.
"If he's found guilty in a criminal court, it almost slam-dunks your Police Act matter," he said.
In reaching his decisions in disciplinary cases, Jones said he must consider things like aggravating and mitigating circumstances, the officer's conduct and career performance. The police complaint commissioner must agree the punishment is not too harsh or too light before it can be implemented.
Jones said having an officer suspended and getting paid also puts more pressure on his resources to police the city.
"I don't get any special budget for it. I can't spend those dollars elsewhere," he said. "We have to find a way to still do our job, maintain everything, deliver the service and we have to do it with one less person."
Jones also stressed that, while frustrating for everyone involved, situations like this are not the norm in the New Westminster Police Service.
"This is an anomaly as opposed to something that we'll normally see," he said.
Rollie Woods, deputy police complaint commissioner, recently told The Record, that he has seen New Westminster Police Service become one of the better forces in the province when it comes to transparency, discipline and accountability.
"I believe the reason is because they're being very proactive in educating their members on what expectations are and holding them to a very high standard, working on ethics and integrity. I think that's having an impact on the number of complaints we're getting and the types of complaints we're getting too."
There is only one other officer on suspension currently - Const. Jeffrey Klassen who has been suspended since 2009 and had his pay and benefits stripped after being found guilty of assault in 2011.
That case is now headed to a disciplinary proceeding, Jones said.