A BC police officer who was banned from communicating with a witness in a murder investigation, but who he allegedly wrote a letter to, has now been found guilty of discreditable conduct, according to the BC Police Complaint Commissioner’s office.
A retired judge has now been appointed to consider Brian Gateley’s case after the police complaints officer found that a one-day suspension without pay “was disproportionate to the seriousness of the misconduct”.
The matter stems from the case of Arlene Westervelt, who died in 2016 while canoeing with her husband Bert Westervelt on Okanagan Lake.
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Gateley, the officer in question, knew Bert and allegedly had Arlene’s cell phone hacked with RCMP resources at his request.
Bert was later charged with the second-degree murder of Arlene in 2019, although those charges were later overturned. He has always maintained his innocence.
Eventually, Gateley’s actions would be the subject of an internal RCMP investigation. Global News obtained a copy of the conduct letter, which claimed Gateley unlocked Arlene’s phone using a tool called “Cellebrite” for “personal or unauthorized reasons.”
He was also accused of giving investigators his personal opinion in a potential conflict of interest.
Gateley has previously denied any wrongdoing.
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In the letter he allegedly sent to Arlene’s sister, Debbie Hennig, Gateley admitted to hacking the phone but said he only did so after he was assured by investigators that Arlene’s death was being treated as an accident .
In response to a civil lawsuit brought by Arlene’s family, the government stated that on February 1, 2019, RCMP found Gateley guilty of involvement in a potential conflict of interest and misuse of RCMP IT equipment.
A month later, Gateley withdrew from the RCMP, according to his filings in civil court. He also noted that there was a “perception of a conflict of interest”; no actual or potential conflict of interest has been identified,” in its response to the civil complaint.
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The former Mountie then landed a job with the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU), aka BC’s anti-gang agency. He worked at the organization for organized crime.
According to the OPCC case file, Gateley’s superiors met with him in December 2020 and warned him not to contact witnesses in Arlene’s death investigation.
Gateley reportedly wrote the letter explaining his side of the story to Arlene’s sister two months later.
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The Vancouver Police Department was tasked with investigating Gateley’s actions.
It found that Gateley engaged in discreditable conduct when he “communicated with a witness in a homicide investigation in contravention of direct orders from supervisors and supervisors,” according to the OPCC report.
“The Disciplinary Board has determined that Sgt. Gateley was a 34-year-old police veteran, previously employed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who had ‘minimised’ his role in the alleged misconduct by repeatedly claiming he never disobeyed orders.” , says the OPCC report.
After the Vancouver Police Department proposed a one-day suspension, the Police Complaints Officer wrote: “The low level of disciplinary and corrective action proposed by the Disciplinary Board stands in all circumstances, including the planned and premeditated decision, the direction of his superiors.” in the context of his experience and the seriousness of the matter.”
The OPCC report also claimed that Gateley accepted the facts and findings of the Disciplinary Board.
Retired Provincial Court Judge James Threlfall was appointed as arbitrator in the next trial.
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Meanwhile, there are also questions about why Gateley was hired at CFSEU following his alleged misconduct with RCMP.
Gateley’s letter of conduct was signed by Asst. Come on. Kevin Hackett, who was also the Chief Officer of the Organized Crime Organization in BC at the time. It was there that Gateley landed his next job.
There was a subsequent complaint about the adequacy of their screening process, according to a report to the organized crime organization’s board of directors.
The report said that an in-depth review found that the selection committee followed the Organized Crime Agency’s guidelines.
“The selection committee consisted of a hiring manager, a supervisor and a human resources representative as specified in the policy, none of whom were members of the governing body,” the report said.
“Members of the selection committee were unaware that the officer had unresolved code of conduct allegations.”
The report also noted that the organized crime organization has since changed its hiring policies and now requires reference checks for both internal and external candidates. It was said that reference checks were not carried out at Gateley in this case.
“In response to the investigation of this complaint, the Organized Crime Organization of BC (OCABC) is also adopting the practice of requiring applicants for employment with OCABC to sign a waiver requesting the release of their personal information, including their records of the service discipline, agreeing to ongoing code of conduct or complaints or complaints about the police law,” the report said.
Gateley has not yet responded to a request for comment.
–With files by Brennan Leffler
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https://globalnews.ca/news/8960948/former-bc-mountie-discreditable-conduct-report/ Former BC Mountie committed discrediting conduct in homicide investigation: OPCC report