July 15th, 2009 5:33 pm | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Cops and Courts, Cops and Courts

Vancouver Police Department Faces More Heat: "Publicly Defecating on Request"

Navin Sharma

Nobody who read WW's coverage of the Vancouver Police Department's mismanagement of former VPD officer Navin Sharma (pictured above) will be too surprised that other officers are stepping forward with complaints about being harassed. Earlier this year, former officer Chris Kershaw, who spoke up on Sharma's behalf filed [PDF] a wrongful termination lawsuit against VPD.

And last month, as first reported in WW's print edition today, Tanis Conroy, a Washington Department of Corrections officer who supervises high-risk offenders and who was working with VPD in 2008 on a Neighborhood Response Team, filed a tort claim notice against the City of Vancouver based on alleged harassment by VPD Officer Jeff Wilken.

In the tort claim, Conroy alleges [PDF] Wilken repeatedly sexually harassed her in front of other officers; placed a woman's thong underwear of unknown cleanliness on her head during a drug search; handcuffed her to a chair, threw away the key and pushed the chair into a dark room. And here's the capper from the tort claim (or crapper):

"Since filing her complaint, Conroy has been advised that Wilken, well-known within VPD for publically defecating on request without any official repimand or discipline for his actions, defecated in a search warrant home and stuck a D.O.C. [Department of Corrections, Conroy's employer] business card in the feces."

Conroy says in most cases, officers witnessed the harassment but did nothing, nor did command staff officers to whom she reported the incidents.

In a statement, VPD says it is diligently investigating Conroy's claims:
The Department has been engaged in a thorough and extensive investigation of these allegations since September 2008. Through this process, more than twenty officers have been interviewed and the investigation has been subject to both internal and external reviews. Currently, the investigation findings and recommendations are in the final review process and a determination is
pending. The subject of these allegations, Officer Jeff Wilken, was placed on administrative leave in September and remains on leave pending the results of the investigation.

In a nod to Sharma's situation, in which fellow officers allegedly retaliated against him by not responding to his calls for backup, Conroy says in the tort claim that she fears punishment by VPD officers.

"Conroy is now fearful of retaliation by other officers because she still has city cases that she supervises and believes that when she is in the city of Vancouver, she will receive delayed or no back-up from Wilken's officer friends and supporters, and that the VPD command staff has taken little action to correct Wilken's behavior. Conroy is aware of how other officers have had delayed back-up in similar situations."

Ignoring repeated incidents of harassment has been expensive to Vancouver in the past. Last year, the City of Vancouver settled Sharma's lawsuit for a record $1.65 million. On July 20, the Vancouver City Council will present to the public a review of VPD that they commissioned in the wake of the Sharma settlement.
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