Saanich police officer cleared of deceit

OPCC hearing proves allegations of abuse of authority for improper arrest, dismisses deceit allegation against Const. David Smit

A Saanich police officer who effected an improper arrest in May 2011 will face a seven-day suspension, and not a demotion, following a public hearing this week by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner.

Adjudicator Jakob de Villiers, in his decision, said Const. David Smit abused his authority as a police officer, by persuading a man to exit his home in order to arrest him for being drunk in a public place.

Smit was also alleged to have committed deceit by providing false statements to his superiors about the circumstances surrounding the arrest.

On May 20, 2011, Smit attended a family home where an intoxicated father assaulted his son for refusing to cut the lawn.

Smit met the father at the front door, but “erroneously was of the opinion that he did not in the circumstances have the legal power to arrest the father for assault,” de Villiers wrote in his decision.

“Const. Smit proceeded to create the circumstances that would, in his opinion, make a lawful (state of intoxication in a public place) arrest” possible by getting the father out of his house and to a public space, de Villiers wrote.

“Whatever Const. Smit’s motive for the arrest was, it was unlawful and dishonest, and he ought to have known that.

“What is clear from the evidence, is that Const. Smit’s motive in effecting the arrest was not for any improper personal purpose … its ultimate purpose was to prevent further violence.”

De Villiers dismissed the allegation that Smit then purposefully deceived his superiors by telling them he “found” the man in a public place.

“His superiors were not misled. It is clear that (Smit), understandably, was very upset by the hostile allegations (of misconduct) made against him, and it is possible that in some respects he did not initially correctly relate the facts to his superior investigating officers, but he did promptly correct himself,” de Villiers wrote.

Once Smit explained to his superiors the circumstances surrounding the arrest, the man was released and driven back to his home within an hour of being arrested.

An internal Saanich police investigation in August 2012 proved – at the time – the abuse of authority and deceit allegations. Abuse of authority comes with a seven-day unpaid suspension, while deceit was to result in a demotion in rank and pay to third-class constable.

Smit requested an OPCC public hearing, which is allowed when a discipline decision results in a demotion.

“We take no issue with the decision and we look forward to moving forward with the process of reintegrating Const. Smit back into the organization,” Insp. Rob McColl said after the decision.

Smit, who’s been with the Saanich Police Department for five years, will serve his seven-day suspension before returning to his duties.

kslavin@saanichnews.com