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VPD officer dies by suicide after filing complaint against two senior members

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Michelle Morton Jun 19, 2019 12:15 pm 111

Loving, down-to-earth with a killer sense of humour, ambitious, active, and crafty when it came to making collars for dogs and cats — that’s how Jenn Chan describes her sister, Constable Nicole Chan.

Nicole, a member of the Vancouver Police Department for more than 9 years, took her own life in January amid an internal investigation into two senior VPD members that was launched after she filed a complaint against them.

Now her family is speaking out.

In an interview with Daily Hive Vancouver, Jenn said the investigation is looking into the relationships between two senior VPD members and her sister after Nicole filed an official complaint with the Chief of Police back in 2017.

Jenn said there were two separate incidents mentioned in the one complaint: one where Nicole was “in a relationship” with a superior, adding that he was aware that Nicole was in a “vulnerable state” because she was dealing with stresses from the job, including PTSD, and a second incident, allegedly involving another officer who was assigned to Nicole’s stress leave.

Nicole Chan (left) and Jenn Chan (right) / All images courtesy Jenn Chan

Shortly after filing the complaint, Nicole went on stress leave, “the longer she [Nicole] was on stress leave and off work, the more she felt like she couldn’t go back. She started to lose her sense of self and her purpose in life, since she has always wanted to be in the VPD and practically worked her life to become an officer. She told me on multiple occasions she didn’t know what she will do other than being an officer if it came to that in the end,” Jenn said.

In an email to Jenn from the Office Of The Police Complaint Commissioner and shown to Daily Hive, it said regarding the investigation into one officer, proceedings are still ongoing and no “determination” has been made yet surrounding the allegations.

Regarding the other officer, the OPCC said he had resigned from the VPD and, “also received discipline that will still be entered on his service record of discipline. This was a 5 day suspension from duty for discreditable conduct for failing to disclose to his managers a relationship with Nicole and a 10 day suspension from duty for discreditable conduct for entering into a relationship with Nicole knowing that she was in a vulnerable state mentally and emotionally.”

Surrounding the investigation, Jenn said Nicole was feeling anxious, but was proactive in seeking help for her mental health through speaking with therapists, psychologists, and reading self-help books to figure out how to “deal with her new reality” and find solutions.

Nicole Chan / All images courtesy Jenn Chan

“I think the officers’ conduct played a huge role in contributing to Nicole’s deteriorating mental state, sense of self and self worth, which ultimately led her to take her own life,” Jenn said.

In response to Daily Hive’s request for an interview, OPCC Spokesperson Andrea Spindler said it couldn’t release any information due to privacy laws, but said in an email it  “acknowledges the seriousness of this matter and considered it in the public interest to order an investigation under the Police Act into the conduct of two members of the VPD.”

Jenn said she believes the VPD tried to help Nicole with her mental health, “in recommending seeing therapists, psychologists. What I feel is lacking is the lack of consequence to some of the members’ unacceptable actions. [Nicole] mentioned a few times to me that she felt as though you can do anything and get away with it sometimes, and it’s unfair to people who end up being strong enough to submit a complaint.”

While Nicole was on stress leave, Jenn said that she noticed her sister “distancing herself” from some of her coworkers and friends at work, worried about who she could trust.

Nicole Chan / All images courtesy Jenn Chan

“Her view towards the VPD and returning back to work was looking more and more grim. One of the journal entries I found later on states that she didn’t know how to return back to work since she felt no boss would want to work with her after coming forward with the complaint,” Jenn said.

When asked for comment, VPD Sergeant Jason Robillard said the department can’t confirm if there is an investigation underway due to privacy reasons, but said when the OPCC orders an investigation, the department participates fully and openly through the Professional Standards Section.

“Regarding Constable Chan, we continue to maintain contact with her family and provide support as best we can. Our entire organization felt the impact of her untimely death and we are continuing to offer support to our members,” Robillard said.

Jenn said the VPD has been “very supportive from the day I found out the news,” adding, “I am in no way saying the whole department is bad, but there are a few bad apples. I would say that most members have been nothing but supportive in helping me find the truth and hoping justice would be served.”

As for what’s next in the investigation, Jenn said it’s not clear yet — only that it’s still ongoing, “and for the most part the investigation is relatively over, but now they are going back and forth on what the discipline/punishment will be,” adding that there may be a hearing soon, but that is still not confirmed.

All images courtesy Jenn Chan

“The investigation is making me feel anxious, as it did my sister for many months. It’s the anticipation of the recommendation that’s quite stressful, and not knowing if it will end up being a reasonable one,” Jenn said, adding that she wants “justice” for her sister and “the officers responsible should be held accountable.”

“I hope that I can help speak for her when she can no longer fight for herself. I hope to now be able to help set a precedent for anyone else who might also be going through this to be able to speak up and not just suffer in silence,” said Jenn.

Jenn said she will miss traveling with her sister and grabbing a quick coffee.

“I find myself empty now that my sister has been gone for a few months. I find myself wanting to send her a message, pictures, and just hang out with her, then realizing she can’t be reached and the last phone call I had with her would be the last time I hear her voice.”

Jenn said if she could speak with her sister one last time, she would say “I miss her a lot, and I hope that she is able to find some happiness now,” adding “I love you Nicole, and there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that I don’t think of you.”

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