B.C.’s police complaint commissioner will decide by Feb. 15 whether Victoria Police Chief Const. Jamie Graham’s handling of a jail supervisor’s assault on a prisoner deserves a closer look.
Commissioner Stan Lowe will consider several factors in deciding if the case warrants a public hearing or a review by a retired judge.
Chief among those is the chief’s decision not to find Sgt. George Chong guilty of using excessive force on Frank Blair. It conflicts with Chong’s criminal assault conviction last November for the same incident, said Rollie Woods, deputy police complaint commissioner.
“How do you come up with two different outcomes?” Woods said. “It doesn’t attract confidence from the public in either the complaint process or the criminal justice system.”
In January 2010, Chong put Blair in a chokehold that caused him to lose consciousness, fall to the floor and suffer injuries. Chong was found guilty of assault in a Victoria court and was given a suspended sentence and 12 months probation.
Graham found his sergeant guilty of neglect of duty, but not guilty of using excessive force on Blair.
The chief penalized Chong with a five-day unpaid suspension, Woods said. Chong, who was suspended with pay in February 2010, never returned to the job. He retired on Wednesday.
In making his decision, Lowe will factor in whether a public hearing would be like trying a person twice on the same set of facts.
“When you’re found guilty under one piece of legislation, you shouldn’t be found guilty under another piece of legislation,” Woods said of recent case law the commissioner is consulting. “This will affect his decision.”
Other factors will include Chong’s retirement, the officer’s criminal conviction, the cost of a hearing and the public nature of the case, he said.
Lowe could publicly disagree with the police chief’s findings, but not order a review.
“Is there a need to go through this public hearing? Again, what would be the purpose?” Woods asked. “These are the questions (Lowe has) got to consider when he makes his decision. This is different than anything else we’ve dealt with.”