Nicole Chan was ‘frustrated’ by handling of sex assault case before suicide: officer
January 23, 2023 By The Canadian Press
Jan. 23, 2023, Burnaby, B.C. – One of the last members of the Vancouver Police Department to see Const. Nicole Chan before her suicide said Chan was angry about the treatment of her complaint that a co-worker was extorting her for sex.
Supt. Shelley Horne told a coroner’s inquest Monday that she spoke to Chan at Vancouver General Hospital the day before she died.
“She was frustrated because she felt that it was unfair that she wasn’t able to work and Sgt. Dave Van Patten was able to keep his job,” Horne said. “She (thought that) if it was a member of the public that he had done this to that he would have lost his job.”
The inquest heard that Chan was arrested and brought to the hospital under the Mental Health Act.
Jennifer Chan told the inquest earlier Monday that her sister’s mental health problems stemmed from sexual assault and extortion by her co-worker, Sgt. David Van Patten, culminating in her suicide.
“I might be paraphrasing but in my mind, I thought an officer was blackmailing her to have sex with her basically, and I knew that the officer was in HR,” she said.
Chan said her sister Nicole struggled with anxiety and depression after she complained to the police chief in 2017 about inappropriate relationships that she had with two senior officers.
“She really wanted to get back to work and get healthy again, into a mental state where she could go back to work,” Chan told the inquest Monday.
Horne said in her testimony that she met Nicole Chan in October 2017, when she worked in the sex crimes unit. She said she interviewed Chan about the complaints she had made against Van Patten.
Horne said Chan raised concerns about being “manipulated or coerced” into having sex with him and about how her file was being handled by the department’s human resources section, where Van Patten worked.
She said Chan told her that Van Patten had taken a screen recording of another member’s phone and threatened to send the video to Chan’s husband. Horne did not explain the contents of the video at the inquest.
Chan was distressed about the recording and went to Van Patten’s apartment in New Westminster to talk to him about it, Horne testified.
“When she got there, she said Dave told her that he needed to feel close to her and that they needed to have sex,” Horne told the inquest. “So, Nicole told me that she had sex with him, but that she really felt disgusted by it, but felt that she had no real option but to do that.”
Horne said Chan told her that she was worried about Van Patten’s ability to harm her career, so they continued the sexual relationship.
“She was motivated to get into the emergency response section and she felt that Dave was helping her with that and that it would affect her career negatively if that relationship broke down.”
Chan told the coroner’s jury that her sister was “very ambitious.” She said Nicole had joined the Vancouver Police Department to “speak up for victims,” but that she felt other officers may no longer want to work with her after she made the complaint.
She said her sister felt aimless about where her life was headed before her death, that her career had stalled and she had no other job prospects. She added that her sister was hired by the department when she was “just 19 years old.”
“She felt that she couldn’t do anything else because she stopped schooling as soon as she got hired by the VPD,” Chan said.
Nicole Chan was on stress leave from the Vancouver Police Department when she died.
A civil lawsuit filed on behalf of Chan’s family last year claims she died during a severe mental health crisis after being “extorted” by an officer to continue a sexual relationship.
The action was filed against the B.C. government, the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Police Board, the police department, its union and four officers. However, a notice of discontinuance was filed in the case in September relating to one of the officers.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
The statement of claim says B.C.’s police complaints commissioner asked the New Westminster Police Department to investigate the claims and it recommended charges against Van Patten.
The lawsuit says the Crown prosecution service later said it wouldn’t pursue a charge.
The lawsuit, filed last January, says Chan provided an impact statement to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner just three weeks before she died.
“She’s really just kind of pleading for justice,” Jennifer Chan told the inquest, summarizing the statement.
“It outlines that she was suffering from mental health challenges, and (it) basically changed her as a person,” Chan said. “She believes it stems from sexual assault inside David (Van Patten’s) apartment, and she’s unable to develop and maintain personal relationships because of that.”
She said her sister was “very disappointed with the whole process” and had been actively seeking mental health treatment.
“The conclusion wasn’t what she had hoped for, so she was feeling very defeated and did not have much to look forward to in the future,” she said.
When the coroner announced an inquest would be held, it said the jury would make recommendations and ensure public confidence that the circumstances in the death won’t be overlooked, concealed or ignored.
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