The family of former Vancouver cop Nicole Chan, the officer who killed herself after being blackmailed into an inappropriate intimate relationship with her superiors, has filed a lawsuit against the city and its police department.
The lawsuit, which was filed by Chan’s sister, Jennifer Chan, and mother, Lai Ching Ho, in January but only recently came to light, claims Chan was coerced into having a intimate relationship with his superior, Sgt. David Van Patten.
Van Patten reportedly made contact with Chan when the latter was applying for a new position within the Vancouver Police Department in early 2016. The officer allegedly began flirting with Chan via text after rejecting his application. He reportedly urged the female officer to have an intimate relationship with him while on a work trip and urged her to keep it a secret.
Van Patten was also accused of threatening Chan with evidence of his prior relationship with another officer named in the lawsuit, Sgt. Greg McCullough.
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McCullough started a relationship with Chan in 2015 when he knew they were both already married. Similar to what happened with Van Patten, McCullough also did not disclose her relationship with Chan to her superiors and had urged the female officer to do the same, according to the lawsuit.
Vancouver Police Department policy requires its officers disclose intimate relationships with their colleagues to their superiors. The lawsuit said the policy was insufficient “to protect” vulnerable employees such as Nicole” and that it “did not ensure that relationships did not abuse the power relationship inherent in such an environment”.
Van Patten allegedly threatened to expose Chan’s relationship with McCullough to her husband and McCullough’s wife, blackmailing her into continuing their relationship with the evidence.
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“sergeant. Van Patten reached Sgt. McCullough’s cell phone and scrolls through the media, where he discovered evidence of Nicole’s intimate relationship with Sgt. McCullough”, the legal claimsadding that the officer “took video of himself scrolling the phone in an attempt to threaten to leak the matter.”
As the human resources officer responsible for Chan’s employee file, Van Patten “should have known” about the police officer’s mental health issues.
“Van Patten knew, or should have known, that Nicole was (a) vulnerable person with a recent history of mental distress related to intimate relationships among other triggers,” the lawsuit said.
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The police department reportedly became aware of Chan’s mental health issues in 2012 after she was involved in a car accident that her employer interpreted as “a suicide attempt” years before her relationship with Van Patten. and McCullough.
The lawsuit claims the 2012 incident was followed by three more “mental health episodes”, culminating in 2017 when Chan was placed on paid leave. In 2018, she was diagnosed with “unspecified trauma and stressor-related disorder” and “major depressive disorder”.
While suffering from her bouts of mental health, Van Patten allegedly told Chan not to see the police department psychologist because it would expose their relationship.
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“Van Patten deliberately inflicted mental distress on Nicole so that he could manipulate her into sexual acts and an imbalanced secret intimate relationship that served him well,” the document claims.
Chan walked towards file a complaint with the Vancouver Police Board against Van Patten and McCullough in 2017 and another complaint in 2018 with WorkSafeBC against his employer.
Chan’s complaint to the Vancouver Police Commission led to an investigation against Van Patten. The Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner has suggested four counts of dishonorable misconduct against the officer.
On January 27, 2019, three weeks after providing an impact statement as part of the investigation, Chan was found dead.
Both officers involved in the lawsuit have since left the police department. Van Patten was reportedly suspended before being fired, and McCullough received two brief suspensions before resigning.
Other defendants named in the lawsuit include the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Police Board, the Vancouver Police Department, the police department’s chief constable, two unnamed police department employees, the police union of Vancouver, BC Attorney General David Eby and BC Solicitor General Mike Farnworth. .
Chan’s family seeks general, aggravated and punitive damages. They are also seeking special damages to remedy a violation of Chan’s rights under the Charter.
Featured image via Vancouver Police Department