A Victoria police officer could now face further discipline after he asked for a review of his ‘demotion’ for lying about his attendance at a conference in Vancouver.
Details released in a review by B.C. Police Complaint Commissioner Clayton Pecknold say the Victoria Police Department paid for Const. Marty Steen to attend a three-day Vancouver conference in February, 2018.
A few months later, rumours emerged that Steen had only attended the first day of the conference.
The report says when Steen was confronted by his supervisor about his attendance, he initially claimed to have attended all but two conference presentations.
After further investigations and questioning, the department learned that Steen did not attend the final day of the conference at all, and had submitted expense claims for lunch on two days of the conference despite lunch being provided.
Before the incident took place, Steen was up for a promotion to Sergeant, but the promotion was revoked by VicPD’s acting deputy chief Colin Watson, who was, according to the commissioner’s report, “of the view that a reasonable person would be troubled to learn that an officer would be promoted to a position of increased authority, responsibility and influence in this type of circumstance.”
Watson was also worried about a “high degree of general concern among police officers” if the promotion went through.
While the promotion never happened, both Steen and Watson viewed its retraction as a ‘demotion in rank’ – a perceived punishment that led Steen to request the commissioner’s review.
Steen argued that there was “zero chance of future misconduct” and that “lies fall on a broad spectrum, taking into account both what the lie is covering up, and the nature of the trust relationship that the lie undermines.”
But Pecknold’s report found that Steen had not faced a reduction in rank since he had not yet been promoted to Sergeant.
Instead, the commissioner found that Steen had not actually been disciplined, and arranged for a Review on the Record of appropriate discipline for Steen’s actions.
“Even though Constable Steen was set to be promoted to the rank of Sergeant, he was not promoted…” the review reads. “Constable Steen remained a First Class Constable throughout the investigative and disciplinary process.
I have concluded that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the Discipline Authority has incorrectly applied section 126 of the Police Act in proposing disciplinary measures.”
A review of the disciplinary decision applied to Steen’s case will be carried out by retired B.C. Supreme Court judge Ron McKinnon.