New Westminster police officer accused of making unwanted sexual advances

·3 min read
A New Westminster Police Department officer has been found guilty of misconduct. Sgt. Felipe Correa was accused of making unwanted advances against female employees. (CBC - image credit)
A New Westminster Police Department officer has been found guilty of misconduct. Sgt. Felipe Correa was accused of making unwanted advances against female employees. (CBC - image credit)

A New Westminster police officer accused of making unwanted advances against female employees is suing the department's chief constable for what he claims is an "illegal investigation" into an allegation he tried to contact witnesses.

According to a petition filed in B.C. Supreme Court, Sgt. Felipe Correa claims an external investigation by Vancouver Police Deputy Chief Const. Fiona Wilson found he had committed the misconduct — which was alleged to have occurred when he was off duty.

That means the disciplinary process was set to move to its next stage: a penalty hearing.

But Correa — who has been suspended since May 4, 2019 — claims when he began sending letters to potential character witnesses, New Westminster Chief Const. David Jansen launched a new investigation to determine if the terms of his suspension forbade him from initiating contact with any female employees.

Correa claims his boss has placed him in an "unfair dilemma."

"On one hand, if [Correa] continues his efforts to approach female witnesses, he is at risk that Chief Jansen will impose serious punishment, up to and including dismissal from his employment and career," the lawsuit reads.

"On the other hand, if [he] refrains from exercising his right to approach witnesses for fear that Chief Jansen will punish him, he will not have a fair hearing and, should it become necessary, a fair appeal."

'Inappropriate behaviour with female employees'

Correa has filed a petition seeking to quash his suspension and Jansen's investigation. He also wants the court to stop the penalty hearing from moving forward before the lawsuit is settled.

The petition does not expand on the details of the original allegations against Correa, beyond stating that the NWPD and the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner received complaints in May 2019 that Correa "had made unwanted sexual advances toward female employees of the New Westminster Police Department while off duty."

In an email to the CBC, Deputy Police Complaint Commissioner Andrea Spindler confirmed the allegations of "inappropriate behaviour with female employees" along with Wilson's finding July 30 that Correa had committed misconduct.

"This matter remains ongoing to determine what disciplinary or corrective measures are appropriate," Spindler wrote.

"The discipline authority may impose a range of disciplinary or corrective measures up to and including dismissal."

According to the lawsuit, in the wake of Wilson's decision that Correa had committed misconduct, the officer's former lawyer drew up a letter asking whether his former colleagues would be willing to give him a reference.

The letter included a copy of Wilson's decision, which Correa claims was not redacted to remove sensitive personal information.

He claims he sent it to both male and female colleagues.

Correa claims Jansen launched an investigation into the letters based on a notice of suspension that read: "You are not to initiate any contact of any form with any female employee or volunteer of the New Westminster Police Department."

But Correa says his suspension was intended to cover the "guilt or innocence" phase of the proceedings — not the penalty phase.

'The hearing will be unfair'

Correa claims he was left with no choice but to sue after trying unsuccessfully to get Jansen to "clarify or justify" his order.

In 2018, Correa was one of six New Westminster Police Department officers to receive a Meritorious Service Award for their work in helping to solve a 20-year-old sexual assault case.

"In this case, [Correa] is facing disciplinary or corrective measures up to and including reduction in rank," the petition states.

"If Deputy Wilson imposes disciplinary or corrective measures notwithstanding Chief Jansen's unlawful threat of serious repercussions should [Correa] contact female witnesses, the hearing will be unfair."

Correa's lawyer did not respond to an email requesting comment.

The New Westminster Police Department referred all queries to the police complaints commissioner.

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