Buttocks-smacking Vancouver officer abruptly resigns ahead of suspension

Buttocks-smacking Vancouver officer abruptly resigns ahead of suspension

John de Haas, who rose to the rank of inspector with the Vancouver Police Department over the course of his 40-year career, abruptly resigned on Tuesday, a day before receiving two concurrent, 30-day suspensions revolving around a physical incident with a subordinate officer in 2017.

Office of Police Complaint Commissioner adjudicator Carol Baird Ellan handed down her decision Wednesday morning.

De Haas had disputed the earlier decision of a disciplinary proceeding, which proposed a five-day suspension without pay and refresher training course on respectful conduct in the workplace.

The issue goes back to an incident in April, 2017, when, as Baird Ellan found after a public hearing in August, de Haas approached a subordinate female officer from behind after a public event.

"Someone came up from behind her and pulled her hands out of her pockets and said something like, 'don't put your hands in your pockets,'" Baird Ellan wrote in August.

"He then 'smacked' her right buttocks cheek, which shocked and upset her."

De Haas has characterized the physical contact as a tap, rather than a slap or smack.

Baird Ellan, a retired provincial court judge, found that an email about the incident de Haas sent to VPD inspectors compounded his problems. "[De Haas] committed discreditable conduct by disseminating an email within the department in which he identified and contradicted the complainant when he knew there was a Police Act investigation pertaining to her complaint," wrote Baird Ellan.

A public hearing counsel argued that de Haas ought to have faced a lengthy suspension for the allegation of unwanted physical contact, and a permanent reduction in rank for the email.

Commission counsel argued that a permanent demotion in rank would be appropriate.

De Haas' counsel pointed to the former inspector's unblemished 40-year service record and argued that the physical incident was brief, disciplinary and not sexual. He suggested a suspension of up to 30 days would suffice.

Baird Ellan wrote in her decision that de Haas's "continued failure to acknowledge or at least recognize the discreditable nature of his misconduct raises concerns about his ability to accept responsibility."

De Haas declined a taped interview with CBC News, but said he was pretty upset with the decision. 

He said he resigned before learning the penalty because the adjudicator, Baird Ellan, had called his credibility into question with her decision, and he no longer thought his position with the VPD was tenable.

De Haas says the suspension won't affect his pension.

Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker