Sexual coercion by VPD supervisor alleged in claim made by Const. Nicole Chan before she died

VPD Const. Nicole Chan took her own life in January 2019. (Submitted by VPD - image credit)
VPD Const. Nicole Chan took her own life in January 2019. (Submitted by VPD - image credit)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

In a WorkSafeBC claim filed in the months before she died by suicide, Vancouver Police Const. Nicole Chan alleged her supervising officer Sgt. David Van Patten coerced her into sex and then used his position of power to protect himself and obstruct her medical treatment.

Details of the claim were read into the record by counsel representing Chan's family on day three of the British Columbia Coroner's Inquest into her death.

Chan, 30, was taken to Vancouver General Hospital under the Mental Health Act on Jan. 26, 2019. She was released the same night and died the next morning.

In the WorkSafeBC claim, Chan alleged that Van Patten told her on numerous occasions he needed to have sex with her to relieve his stress "...  and that if I helped him, he knew many powerful people at VPD and could help me get ahead."

"On some occasions, I told Van Patten I was not interested in sex. He would undress and put his penis near my face," she wrote.

Chan's WorkSafeBC claim goes on to allege that Van Patten told her he had access to her human resources files, including her medical information. When she was removed from active duty for mental health concerns, Chan said Van Patten warned her against telling police psychologist Dr. Randy Mackoff about him.

"Van Patten and I were still having sex at that time. He told me not to tell Dr. Mackoff of our relationship or how poorly I was feeling, as it would impact my future career at VPD. Dr. Mackoff was reporting out to Van Patten about me," Chan stated.

In the claim, Chan said while she was still off active duty, Van Patten obtained the phone of a fellow VPD officer under false pretenses and then used his own phone to make a video of messages and nude photos of Chan that were on the other member's phone.

"Van Patten threatened to expose me and the other member to our spouses with the video. Van Patten asked me to come to his home to discuss the video, and then told me he would feel better about the video if we had sex ... I felt coerced into having sex and continuing the relationship with Van Patten," wrote Chan in the claim.

Chan said once she returned to work, Van Patten asked her to his offices on both the second and the sixth floor of the VPD building where they had sex several times.

"I asked Van Patten on a number of occasions to delete the video on his phone. I felt I had to continue our sexual relationship until he deleted it," she wrote.

Chan said when Van Patten deleted the video in 2017, their relationship ended.

In the WorkSafeBC claim, Chan also described the circumstances of a second sexual relationship between her and another VPD superior, Sgt. Greg McCullough, who she had confided in about her mental health struggles.

"I was of the belief that McCullough was the one person who understood what I was going through as he had experienced dealing with depression, had experienced suicidal thoughts, and I believed he had significant military training dealing with PTSD and depression. I thought I could trust him because of this and because he was my supervisor," she wrote.

Chan attached an email McCullough sent her to the WorkSafeBC claim. In it, he states: "Nicole, I only wanted to help you get better. We became emotionally and then physically involved. I should have known better than to let this happen when what you needed most of all was a true friend."

Van Patten was eventually dismissed from the VPD, and McCullough retired from the force.

Chan brought her complaints of sexual assault and extortion to the VPD, and an investigation was conducted by the New Westminster Police Department. A report was forwarded to Crown prosecutors, but charges were not approved, the inquest heard.

Chan's family filed a civil suit last year naming a list of defendants, including the VPD, its union, the Vancouver Police Board, McCullough and Van Patten. The family has since applied to the court to remove McCullough as a defendant.

The coroner's inquest is scheduled to resume Thursday and continue into next week.

If you or someone you know is struggling, here's where to get help:

This guide from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health outlines how to talk about suicide with someone you're worried about.