When former Nelson police constable Drew Turner was on trial in 2015 for assault and under an investigation by the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner for abuse of power, the Nelson Police Board paid his legal fees.
After the court found Turner guilty, and the complaints commissioner recommended his firing when they ruled that he indeed abused his power, the board decided last week that it wants Turner to reimburse them.
The police board and police operations are funded by the City of Nelson, so police expenses are ultimately the city’s.
The assault charges stemmed from an incident in 2014 when Turner punched a drunk woman unconscious while coming to the aid of colleagues who were trying to subdue her. Three fellow officers testified against him. Turner was sentenced to 30 days house arrest and one year of probation. In January he resigned from his job.
Mayor Deb Kozak, who is the chair of the police board, said the board will not divulge the amount of the fees because that money will not ultimately be a city expense. Because it will be paid by Turner, the dollar amount is confidential, she said.
“The board had a lengthy discussion and there was much thought given to the decision to recover the fees,” Kozak told the Star. “The board wants to make it clear to the public and the our officers that this in no way reflects on the board’s opinion of the police force. We have confidence in them.”
Kozak said an important factor in the decision was the seriousness of the incident.
“We understand how difficult it has been for the family of the victim and the victim herself, and also Mr. Turner’s family. It has not been an easy process. Encompassed in all of that is the community. This has been hard on the community. All of those factors were taken into consideration and the decision was made to ask for recovery of the fees.”
The Nelson Police Association, which is the police union local, does not agree with the police board’s decision.
“Drew Turner was charged, convicted, sentenced, carried out his sentence, and now has a criminal record,” said association president Cst. Brian Weber. “He quit his job, has retrained, has moved on with his life, and is anxious to continue raising his family and step away from what took place. We think that had the judge wanted him to pay money back, that could had been in the judgement. No judge in this province has ruled that Drew Turner should be held liable for the legal fees that the City of Nelson has paid. He is already paying more for what took place than a civilian would have done in a similar instance. He made an error, paid his debt to society, and now it is time to move on. Why the police board want his wife and two young children to pay for his error is difficult to understand.”
The members of the police board are Deb Kozak, Bill Reid, Hilda Turner, Barb Henry, and Am Naqvi. A new member, Liz Edwards, has yet to be sworn in.