The City of Nelson is paying the legal fees of Nelson Police Department Cst. Drew Turner, but is not prepared to disclose the amount, at least not yet.
In October, after a trial in provincial court, Turner was sentenced to one month of house arrest and a number of probation conditions after being convicted of assault for punching Tawny Campbell to unconsciousness while attempting to arrest her in May 2014.
Turner was represented in his trial by Victoria lawyer John Green. As a result of the incident that led to the criminal assault charge, Turner is also the subject of an internal investigation by the Police Complaint Commissioner, which may lead to a hearing, at which it is likely he will also have legal representation. So with the combination of the criminal trial and internal investigation, the legal fees could be significant.
Since completing his sentence, Turner has been on leave with pay, according to deputy chief Paul Burkart. In the interim of about a year between being charged and being sentenced, Turner was on desk duty at the police station.
The police department is city-funded and overseen by the Nelson Police Board. BC’s Police Act states that a municipal police board may pay the legal fees of an officer accused of an offence, which in this case it did. The Act also states the city may attempt to recoup the fees from an accused officer after legal proceedings are completed.
The Star recently filed a Freedom of Information request with the city, asking for the amount of the legal bill so far. The city declined to provide that information on the grounds that if the city eventually tries to recoup its costs from Turner, those costs would be a private matter because the city wouldn’t be out of pocket in the end.
The city’s FOI decision letter reads in part:
“Subsequent to the court ruling, the Nelson Police Board is yet to determine whether Drew Turner will be held responsible for the reimbursement of legal fees and expenses to the city. Should the police board decide the legal costs are to be reimbursed, these costs would become a personal matter to Drew Turner meaning we would be unable to release the information. However, should the city retain responsibility for paying the legal costs, the city will release costs in accordance with Section 21 of the Act …”
The internal investigation by the complaints commissioner isn’t complete. Disciplinary measures against Turner could range from anything from mild reprimand to dismissal. The person named to make that decision is New Westminster police chief David Jones, who is designated as the Discipline Authority. In some disciplinary cases, according to Nelson’s deputy chief Paul Burkart, the local police chief would have that role, but in serious cases the complaints commission designates someone at greater arm’s length, as in this case.
Jones will eventually receive a final report from investigators at the complaints commission, which Burkart says is expected this month. Jones will then make a provisional decision based on the report.
If the decision includes dismissal, a hearing will be held at which Turner and his lawyer can present his case. Then Jones will make a final decision.
If the decision doesn’t include dismissal, a pre-hearing conference is held between the Turner and a person designated by the discipline authority, and they will discuss what discipline or corrective measure is acceptable to Turner. If no agreement is reached, a discipline hearing occurs with the discipline authority making the ultimate decision on discipline.
Only the ultimate decision will be made public, not the investigator’s report nor details of the proceedings.
Related stories in the Nelson Star:
Nelson police officer on trial for assault, July 16, 2015
Nelson police officer found guilty of assault, September 1, 2015
EDITORIAL: Disgraced cop must go, September 13, 2015
Nelson police officer gets 30 days house arrest, October 27, 2015