A Surrey Police Service officer could face more serious penalties after being caught driving impaired while off-duty and then trying to use his position to avoid the consequences.
The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner has asked a retired B.C. Supreme Court judge to review that case, saying the penalty imposed by the police force did not go far enough in addressing the seriousness of the officer’s offences.
“Impaired driving continues to be one of the leading causes of death and serious injuries and societal expectations, as reflected in the laws of Canada, demonstrate the seriousness of the conduct,” said the police complaint commissioner, Clayton Pecknold.
“Additionally, attempting to use one’s privileged position as a police officer to seek preferential treatment is a serious affront to the public trust.”
According to the review, Const. Rajbir Thaper was off duty in August 2022 when he was stopped by a member of the Delta Police Department, who noted an odour of liquor on Thaper’s breath and his glassy eyes.
After a breath sample for alcohol returned a “fail” reading, Thaper asked the Delta police officer to give him a warning “as this would ruin his life as he was on probation with the SPS and would lose his job.”
He was served with an immediate 90-day driving ban and his vehicle was impounded for 30 days.
The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner started investigating the case in September. That’s when the Surrey Police discovered that Thaper had also been driving with an expired driver’s license.
In June, the SPS’ discipline authority proposed that Thaper be given a five-day suspension without pay for driving while impaired, a three-day suspension without pay, to be served at the same time, for seeking favourable treatment, and get a written reprimand for driving with an expired driver’s licence.
The complaint commissioner can arrange a public hearing or review if it thinks the disciplinary authority’s findings are incorrect or not in the public interest.
Pecknold said Thaper repeatedly requested preferential treatment. He also said the evidence suggests Thaper provided misleading information when he told the Delta police that he had had “one beer an hour and a half ago.”
Vancouver criminal lawyer Kyla Lee, who specializes in handling complex drinking and driving cases across B.C., said she is seeing more of these cases involving police officers “where they say, ‘give me a break, I’m a police officer,’ so I can see why they want to have consequences that are more severe.”
She pointed out that a longer suspension is likely and that “three days is the bare minimum when there is a good defence.”
Lee said that in some cases there can be mitigating factors such as a long term of service where an officer is turning to alcohol to deal with trauma.
“But here, you have a brand new officer doing something wrong.”
The review has yet to be scheduled.
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