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Police complaint commissioner closes file on Victoria jailhouse assault

Despite disagreement, no review on record will be ordered

A retired Victoria police officer’s assault conviction, his reprimand by his police chief and his recent retirement factored into the B.C. police complaint commissioner’s decision to not order a review of a 2010 jail-block assault.

Despite this, Stan Lowe said Tuesday he disagrees with Victoria Police Chief Const. Jamie Graham’s findings last fall that retired sergeant George Chong did not abuse his authority when he put prisoner Frank Blair in a chokehold. At the time, Blair was being fingerprinted in the department’s jail on Jan. 15, 2010.

Blair lost consciousness and was allowed to fall unguided to the floor where he received facial injuries that needed to be treated in hospital.

Chong, police jail supervisor and a 29-year police veteran, was criminally convicted of assault last November, and received a suspended sentence and 12 months probation.

A few months prior, Graham held an internal disciplinary hearing.

He cleared Chong of abuse of authority, but found him guilty of neglecting his duty when he failed to care for Blair’s injuries. Graham suspended Chong without pay for five days.

Lowe agreed with the chief’s ruling that Chong failed to provide prompt and diligent care to the injured prisoner. But the commissioner said he has “a reasonable basis” to believe that Graham was incorrect when he cleared Chong of abuse of authority.

Despite this, Lowe said the case does not require further review since it has already received extensive public attention through the criminal process “... and the interests of transparency and accountability (have) been met.”

“The public interest would not be served with the expense associated with this process, where the officer will no longer be engaged in policing,” Lowe said of Chong who  retired Feb. 1.

In response, Graham issued a statement saying, “VicPD respects the findings of the OPCC in this matter.”

The commissioner also noted he should never have allowed Graham to proceed with Chong’s internal hearing ahead of the criminal trial.

It is rare for an incident to result in criminal and Police Act proceedings, Lowe said, noting the two very different outcomes of the proceedings.

If the hearing had been held after the conviction, “... the Police Act process would have had the benefit of the factual findings of the court ...,” the commissioner said.