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UPDATED: Nelson police officers face discipline over WhatsApp messages

Six current and former members of the Nelson Police Department are facing disciplinary hearings for comments in a social media chat.

The Vancouver Police Department, along with the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner, have found claims of discreditable conduct against the officers were  substantiated following an investigation ordered by Nelson police chief Donovan Fisher last year. 

The investigation was launched last year after complaints about eight current and former officers sharing inappropriate content and messages including alleged racist comments between 2018 and 2020.

According to a media release from the City of Nelson, two of the officers have been cleared of any wrongdoing while one has had an additional neglect of duty allegation substantiated against them. 

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The officers are now facing disciplinary proceedings in the coming weeks, where they can present arguments that the discipline authority (in this case a senior officer with the Vancouver Police Department) will consider when deciding the necessary punishment. 

Fisher said in a media release the results of the investigation are disturbing but this is a learning opportunity for the department.

“Our force has been through a lot already,” he says. “Although these findings are troublesome, we are determined to learn from this and grow as an organization.”

According to the release, the officers have not had the chance to respond to the charges, and the police department will offer no further comment until the end of the disciplinary proceedings.

The breakdown between current and former officers has not been revealed.

Andrea Spindler, the deputy police complaint commissioner, said in an email that even retired members can be subject to discipline, and should misconduct be proven, their service record would be updated to reflect the penalty imposed.

Discipline proceedings are not open to the public.

Spindler said while the review concluded there is enough evidence to send the matter to a disciplinary hearing, it’s only the first step in the process, as it’s up to the discipline authority to determine whether misconduct actually occurred.

“At this early stage of the discipline process no final determinations have been made as to whether or not any officers committed misconduct,” she said.

Regarding the discipline authority’s decision not to substantiate allegations against two officers, Spindler said the matter is still under review by their office and has not been concluded. The Police Complaint Commissioner has the ability to send matters to a retired judge for independent review and decision.

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