PORT MOODY — Nearly a year after allegations surfaced that roadside breathalyzers used by the Port Moody Police Department were incorrectly calibrated, a police watchdog has agreed.
The Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner (OPCC) has determined that the force’s approved screening devices (ASD) had been incorrectly calibrated and the allegations of neglect of duty against the officer who used them were substantiated.
As a result, the officer involved received a verbal reprimand, a measure the OPCC found acceptable.
The issue of problems with the approved screening devices surfaced last October, after media outlets suggested there was a flaw in the department's "process for calibrating approved screening devices."
At the time, the department said it was treating the allegations seriously and called in the OPCC and an outside agency to conduct an investigation.
The OPCC’s final decision was rendered on Sept. 11.
The lawyer who brought the allegations forward questioned why it took so long for the department to admit to the problem, suggesting the police were trying to bury the issue.
Vancouver lawyer Paul Doroshenko argued the department knew about the problem for months, and should have moved quickly to acknowledge the issue, apologize and make the situation right.
“It’s one more thing that reveals this immediate roadside prohibition (IRP) scheme as being a completely unreliable way of deciding how to punish people,” he told The NOW.
The IRP process was introduced in 2010, as part of sweeping changes to the province’s drinking and driving laws.
Given the OPCC findings, Doroshenko expects his office to be flooded with calls from drivers looking for recourse, which he hinted could come in the form of a lawsuit against the department.
Since the allegations were brought to the attention of the Port Moody Police, the officer involved has been removed from his duties with the machine.
Port Moody Police spokesman Const. Luke Van Winkel said the department is working on policy to ensure no similar problems occur in the future.
“We’re aware of what our mistake was, and it’s not a mistake that we’ll be repeating,” he said.
Besides the OPCC investigation, the department launched its own probe to definitively tie the incorrectly calibrated devices to specific immediate IRPs that were issued during the affected time period.
There was no timeline given for the completion of the investigation.
The calibration issues stem from the department using a batch of testing solution more times than allowed.
There were more than 150 IRPs issued during the period in question.