Family of Vancouver police officer who committed suicide after alleged blackmail by her superiors sues city

The family of former Vancouver police officer Nicole Chan, the cop who committed suicide after being blackmailed into an inappropriate intimate relationship with her superiors, has filed a lawsuit against the city and the police.

The lawsuit, filed in January by Chan’s sister Jennifer Chan and mother Lai Ching Ho, but only recently came to light, alleges that Chan was forced to intimate relationship with her superior, Sgt. David Van Patten.

Van Patten is said to have contacted Chan while the latter was applying for a new position within the… Vancouver Police Department in early 2016. The officer reportedly began flirting with Chan via text messages after she declined her application. He is said to have induced the female agent during a business trip to enter into an intimate relationship with him and he urged her to keep it a secret.

Van Patten was also charged with threatening Chan with evidence of her previous relationship with another officer named in the lawsuit, Sgt. Greg McCullough.

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McCullough started dating Chan in 2015, despite knowing they were both already married. Like what happened to Van Patten, McCullough also did not disclose his relationship with Chan to his superiors and had urged the female officer to do the same, according to the lawsuit.

It is the policy of the Vancouver Police Department that its officers: reveal intimate relationships with their colleagues to their superiors. The lawsuit said the policy was insufficient “to protect “vulnerable employees like Nicole” and that it “failed to ensure that relationships did not abuse the power relationship inherent in such an environment.”

Van Patten reportedly threatened to expose Chan’s relationship with McCullough to her husband and McCullough’s wife, and blackmailed her into continuing their relationship with the evidence.

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Sergeant Van Patten obtained Sgt. McCullough’s cell phone and scrolled through the media, discovering evidence of the intimate relationship between Nicole and Sgt. McCullough,” the lawsuit claimsadding that the officer “took a video of himself scrolling through the phone for the purpose of publicizing the affair.”

As a personnel officer in charge of Chan’s personnel file, Van Patten “should have known” about the female officer’s struggles with mental health.

Van Patten knew, or should have known, that Nicole was (a) vulnerable person with a recent history of mental health issues related to intimate relationships and other triggers,” the lawsuit said.

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Police were reportedly notified 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 alleges that the incident was followed by three more “mental health episodes” in 2012, 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 mental health issues, Van Patten reportedly told Chan not to consult the police psychologist as it would reveal their relationship.

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Van Patten deliberately inflicted mental harm on Nicole so that he could manipulate her into sexual acts and a power imbalanced secret intimate relationship that benefited him,” the document states.

Chan came forward to file a complaint with the Vancouver Police Board against Van Patten and McCullough in 2017 and another complaint in 2018 with WorkSafeBC against her employer.

Chan’s complaint to the Vancouver Police Department led to an investigation against Van Patten. The Police Complaints Commissioner’s Office suggested four counts of outrageous misconduct against the officer.

On January 27, 2019, three weeks after providing an impact statement as part of the investigation, Chan was found dead.

The two officers involved in the lawsuit have since left the police station. Van Patten was reportedly suspended before being fired, and McCullough was given two short suspensions before stepping down.

Other defendants named in the lawsuit include the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Police Board, the Vancouver Police Department, the Chief of Police, two unnamed police department employees, the Vancouver Police Union, BC Attorney General David Eby and BC Solicitor General Mike Farnworth.

Chan’s family is demanding general, aggravating and punitive damages. They are also demanding special damages and damages to remedy a violation of Chan’s rights under the Charter.

Featured image via Vancouver Police Department

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