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Vancouver police officer lied about high-speed chase, judge rules

Vancouver Police officer investigate a crime scene June 8, 2014. A Vancouver officer could face dismissal after an adjudicator concluded he was lying about a high-speed chase.

Ben Nelms/The Globe and Mail

A Vancouver police officer could face dismissal after an adjudicator concluded he used his vehicle to ram a stolen SUV during a high-speed chase while lying about what was happening over his radio.

Retired B.C. Court of Appeal judge Bill Smart delivered a ruling Wednesday that upheld allegations of deceit and neglect of duty against Const. Christopher Charters, who is currently suspended without pay. His punishment, which could include dismissal from the force, will be decided in the fall.

Charters appeared before a public hearing ordered by the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner earlier this year.

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The allegations stem from an incident in the early morning of Dec. 26, 2011, when a stolen Jeep Cherokee was spotted speeding through Vancouver's east side.

A supervisor broadcast an order over the police radio that the suspect should not be pursued, the adjudicator's decision says.

Minutes later, Charters, a member of the police dog unit who was driving an unmarked Chevrolet Tahoe SUV, began following the Cherokee and broadcasting updates over the radio. His emergency lights weren't activated and he said over the radio that he wasn't engaged in a "pursuit."

At one point, Charters hit the Cherokee as the officer was attempting to use his Tahoe to box in the stolen SUV, the decision says.

The chase resumed, and shortly after Charters said over his radio: "He's trying to get close to me, he's trying to ram me, so I'm trying to stay away from him." He also repeated his insistence that he wasn't engaged in a formal pursuit.

The person who was driving the stolen vehicle, David Davidson, alleged the officer used his SUV's push bars to ram the back of the Cherokee.

Charters later denied ramming the Cherokee, and instead insisted he was more than a block behind the suspect and that Davidson repeatedly slammed on the brakes in an apparent attempt to cause the officer to back off.

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In a written ruling, Smart concluded that Charters acted reasonably until the chase resumed after the first collision.

But Smart's decision says Charters did ram the back of the Cherokee and then falsely claimed over his radio that the Cherokee was attempting to ram him.

"Whatever the reason, I find he intentionally struck the rear bumper of the Cherokee, once or twice, with the push bar attached to the front of the Tahoe in an unsuccessful effort to stop the Cherokee and apprehend the driver," wrote Smart.

"I find he then broadcast a false or misleading statement about what had occurred."

Smart also concluded that after the first collision, Charters was "knowingly and deliberately engaged in a pursuit," despite what the officer said over the radio.

Smart said there was enough evidence to prove allegations of deceit and of neglect of duty for what Charters said over his radio during the chase. Another allegation of deceit for what Charters wrote in subsequent reports wasn't proved, Smart said.

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An internal Vancouver Police Department review proposed firing Charters, though it will be up to Smart to decide what will ultimately happen to the officer.

A hearing is scheduled for late September to determine his punishment.

Charters' lawyer declined to comment following Wednesday's ruling.

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