Police, community looks to pick up pieces after sentencing of NPD Constable
It must have been a somber day inside the offices of 606 Stanley Street as the Nelson Police Department dealt with the news that one of their own had been sentenced to 30 days house arrest and a one-year probation for an assault charge on a woman.
NPD Const. Drew Turner was in BC Provincial Court Tuesday to hear his sentence after being convicted of assault last month.
“On September 1st, 2015 I respectfully accepted Judge Richard Hewson’s finding of guilt against this officer and today, I acknowledge the sentence imposed,” Nelson Police Chief Wayne Holland said in a prepared statement to the media.
“I’ve sat in on a number of Judge Hewson’s decisions and I do respect him as a judge a great deal . . . he shows a great deal of insight into the whole proceedings,” said NPD Sergeant Nate Holt Tuesday.
Holt is also the president of the Nelson Police Association.
“I wouldn’t say I’m absolutely shocked about it — it’s always disappointing being a police officer myself, the last thing you want to be is commonly convicted — so it’s disappointing in that regard but I do respect the decision of Judge Hewson.”
The incident in question occurred on May 1, 2014 near the Nelson Big Orange Bridge.
A female was being arrested for being intoxicated in a public place and breach of a previously court-ordered condition that she refrains from drinking alcohol.
The arresting officer, needing assistance, had called Nelson dispatch requesting backup.
Const. Turner, off duty at the time, happened to be in the area and quickly came to the assistance of the arresting officer.
At the trial evidence was given that while the arrest was in progress, Const. Turner punched a woman in the face while she was handcuffed in the back of a police vehicle.
Holland, who could not comment further about the sentence until he has received and reviewed all of the available material pertaining to this file, said the court proceedings been an extremely stressful for the entire community.
“I am mindful of the public’s interest and desire for this enquiry to come to a timely conclusion and for me to ensure that a fair and appropriate outcome is achieved,” he said.
Chief Holland said now that the judge has rendered his decision the matter enters the next phase to determine the fate of Const. Turner.
“I look forward to the renewal of the police act investigation by the Vancouver Police Professional Standards personnel and to eventually receiving their final investigation report,” Chief Holland said.
Sgt. Holt would also not speculate when asked about the next stage of the process.
Instead he hoped the Office of the Police Complaints Commission studies all the facts before deciding the fate of his fellow officer.
“That’s the big question in the room,” Holt said.
“I could sit here and make some educated guesses as to the possibility of what that could be but from this point it’s been turned over to the office of the police complaints commission and they have the final say as to what the future of his existence of the police officer, any discipline that might come forward.”
“But out of respect for that process, the amount of intellect and involvement needed to make the decision, I can’t begin to guess what the outcome would be,” Holt added.
The trial of Const. Turner was held for three days during August.
Judge Hewson reserved his decision until September, when he passed down his verdict of Const. Turner.
During the time between Judge Hewson’s decision and Tuesday’s sentencing some media outlets took shots at the NPD for their handling of the incident.
Holt did not agree with some of those accusations.
“I can understand why the community would see it as a bit of a shock and why the media would allege there was a cover up of some sort but really the core of it, the management here and the members do have a duty not to influence the process at all,” Holt explained.
“They have a duty ensure that the investigation is done as transparent as possible and fortunately whatever the case may be as we choose to look at it we have to refrain from having an opinion or letting too much information out there be known before a decision is reached.”
Holt said there are a number of very effective and very fair civilian oversight bodies in place that are there to make that decision and really at the end of the day to make it easier for us as police officers to not have a vested interest in it or become emotionally involved in it.
“We get the luxury of being detached and allow somebody else to make that decision,” Holt added.
According to Justice BC, a conditional sentence is a sentence served in the community, instead of in jail.
Judges choose to use conditional sentences only if they are satisfied the person is not a danger to the community and does not have a history of failing to obey court orders.
There are some situations when a judge cannot give a conditional sentence.
For example, if the sentence is longer than two years or the penalty for the offence requires a minimum jail term a a conditional sentence cannot be given.
A conditional sentence usually has strict conditions, including a curfew.
If the person disobeys the conditions, the judge can order serving a portion or the remainder of the sentence in jail.
The trial has been a strain on staff inside 606 Stanley Street.
Some members came forward to give evidence in court against Const. Turner.
While Holt didn’t say there are divisions in NPD, he did admit to the strain this ordeal has had on officers and management.
“That really is the big picture and it goes back to how I think people feel in the community is probably very similar to how people feel in this office,” he said.
“We’ve undergone a great deal of stress here. It’s never fun to have give evidence against a fellow officer. Luckily I’ve never had to do it but I know from speaking to the members here nobody’s really seeing that there’s a clear winner in this.”
“Just as that stress is felt in this office, it’s also felt in the community too because essentially the community are the police and the police are the community,” he added.
While the Police Complaints Commission continues its investigation, Const. Turner will begin serving his sentence and NPD will begin to move forward.
“(This) has put a great deal of strain on us (as a police force),” Holt said.
“That being said too, we shouldn’t forget at the core of this there’s a individual whose also a family man, who has two kids and a wife and a great deal of strain has been put on family and out of respect for him and his wife and kids we ask that people continue to respect the Police Complaints Commission process going forward and ensure that we have a transparent outcome to this.”