RCMP officer Jeffrey Van Woerden says his career first started to go sideways nine years ago when he issued a violation ticket to the wife of a retired Mountie.
He claims that’s when his once successful career was sabotaged, first with improper pressure to cancel the ticket, which was followed by ongoing harassment and later a “malicious prosecution” followed by internal disciplinary proceedings.
Van Woerden filed a lawsuit against the RCMP in civil court in Vancouver on April 19 claiming a long list of damages, including post-traumatic stress disorder, loss of income, security costs, mental distress, and legal fees.
While Van Woerden points to the motor vehicle ticket as the start of his harassment within the RCMP, it was his arrest of known gang member and violent offender James Vidal in 2013 that really got him into hot water.
It was Nov. 17, 2013, when Van Woerden pulled over a taxi carrying Vidal and his girlfriend as part of an impaired driving check stop. What occurred next was the subject of dispute for six years, with Van Woerden claiming he was assaulted by Vidal, and Vidal claiming he was assaulted by Van Woerden.
“Vidal physically resisted being placed under arrest, verbally and physically assaulting the Plaintiff (Van Woerden) in the process,” according to Van Woerden’s civil claim, which is technically against the Attorney General of Canada and the B.C. Minister of Justice and Attorney General.
Vidal was charged with assault of a police officer and resisting arrest. But at trial, Van Woerden claims the RCMP dropped the ball regarding video evidence shot by Vidal’s girlfriend. Eventually, the were charges dropped. In dismissing the charges, the judge went so far as to say Van Woerden’s evidence was unreliable, non-credible and his actions “were not lawful.”
Van Woerden’s civil claim says the RCMP then had the video enhanced and the police force “maliciously and/or negligently” also concluded he acted illegally. Van Woerden was charged with assault with a weapon, assault causing bodily harm, and perjury.
“The allegations demonstrate conduct that is not in keeping of my expectations for our members,” RCMP Supt. Deanne Burleigh, officer in charge of the Upper Fraser Valley Regional Detachment said at that time. “Const. Van Woerden will now have an opportunity to answer to these allegations in court.”
In February 2019, Van Woerden was acquitted on all counts in BC Supreme Court.
In his civil claim, Van Woerden says the RCMP should have known that Vidal had been convicted of serious crimes and he had a reputation for violence, including resisting arrest and should have taken that into account. He said Vidal’s photo was posted on the prolific offender board at the detachment listing him as armed and dangerous, violent and an escape risk, and physically described as 5’11” and 345 pounds.
In an unrelated incident, Vidal was murdered in a hail of bullets just 18 days after Van Woerden’s acquittal. No one has been charged in that homicide.
A statement about the civil claim issued by Van Woerden’s lawyer Michelle Tribe said he now is “merely seeking to reinstate his life back to the point it would have been minus harassment and wrongful prosecution by the RCMP.”
The statement said the events of the last 7.5 years have had a significant impact on Van Woerden and his family, which has included threats made against him along with the allegations made by the RCMP.
“Ultimately, the Van Woerdens have lost their dream home, their community and Mr. Van Woerden’s career. They are in the process of trying to rebuild what they have lost.”
The RCMP has not yet filed a response.
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