EDITORIAL: Disgraced cop must go

Cst. Drew Turner is a disgrace to the Nelson Police Department and should be fired forthwith.

Cst. Drew Turner is a disgrace to the Nelson Police Department and should be fired forthwith. Or he can do us all a favour and resign.

It’s bad enough that he found it necessary to punch a woman twice — at least once in the face — and showed no remorse, but after his astonishing testimony at trial, the community can no longer trust him. And trust is a police officer’s greatest and most important asset.

Turner would have us believe a handcuffed woman who weighs barely more than 100 pounds was about to attack him — he could “see it in her eyes” — and but for his actions, four male officers would have been at risk of bodily harm.

He claimed a fellow officer who touched his shoulder to calm him down “was not there.”

He explained that after knocking the woman unconscious, his comment “That will shut her up” was an attempt at gallows humour. (Guess you had to be there.)

All preposterous.

In convicting him of a single count of assault, Judge Richard Hewson rejected Turner’s testimony and accepted instead the word of three fellow officers, whom we applaud for their forthrightness.

It could not have been easy for Sgt. Jarrett Slomba, Cst. Bill Andreaschuk, and Det.-Cst. David Laing to testify against their colleague, but we’re grateful they did — and so is the woman Turner hit. She told 103.5 Juice FM that the case ultimately enhanced her respect for the system, rather than diminishing it.

Police officers have a hard, thankless job at the best of times. Sometimes force is necessary in making an arrest. But Turner’s actions and subsequent outrageous explanations are the sort of things that makes the public cynical about the profession.

The judge has yet to mete out Turner’s punishment — that will happen Oct. 27 — but we believe he no longer has any business holding a badge in this city. Police officers are held to a higher standard of conduct than the general public and for good reason. No one’s perfect, but Turner’s behaviour falls dramatically short of what citizens expect of their police force.

The other disturbing part of this case is that the police department kept it secret.

They neither announced an investigation into the conduct of one of their own was underway, nor that a charge had been laid. The police board should adopt a policy where the public is immediately advised when an officer is under investigation — and certainly if a criminal charge is approved.

It’s not the first time an officer’s conduct has been in question and the public has not been told. The following cases involving members of the Nelson Police Department appear in annual reports on the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner’s website, without any names:

• On Feb. 23, 2008 an officer was investigated for discreditable conduct after failing to provide a man with access to a lawyer after being arrested for being drunk in public. The officer was required to participate in a “specified program or activity” and given advice on avoiding making the mistake again.

• In June 2010, an officer disclosed someone’s criminal record to a third party without lawful authority. The officer was verbally reprimanded.

• On March 22, 2011, an officer was accused of neglect of duty after arresting a man for drug possession but failing to read him his rights. The officer was reprimanded verbally, told about the absolute necessity of informing someone of their Charter rights, and advised of the necessity of keeping notes.

• On April 30, 2011, two officers used unnecessary force while booking a man into jail. This case was reviewed first by a sergeant from the Delta Police Department and then by a retired judge. Both concluded the pair was guilty of excessive force.

The suspect stole a bottle from the liquor store and was arrested soon after outside the youth centre. His takedown provoked the complaint, but it was what happened at the police station, recorded on a cell block video, that drew the greatest scrutiny.

One constable grabbed the suspect’s head and neck from behind with both hands, forcing him to look forward. The other then grabbed the man’s head and slammed it onto the booking desk.

The officers were both given verbal reprimands, ordered to review police manuals on arrest procedures and use of force, and complete courses in tactical communications and critical incident de-escalation.

We aren’t suggesting these are anything more than isolated incidents — and compared to larger municipal departments, they are very few and far between — but until now the public hasn’t been aware of them and ought to have been. The Star will accept its share of the blame for neglecting to check those reports.

The Nelson Police Department and its board’s apparent hope that Turner’s case would be dealt with outside the public eye shakes our faith in them — which is unfortunate, because Turner’s poor example notwithstanding, we still have a high regard for the men and women who protect this community.

(CORRECTION: Cst. Bill Andreaschuk’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this editorial.)

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