RCMP in Surrey, B.C., have arrested a Mountie following claims made by a vigilante pedophile-hunting group that an officer showed up for a meeting with one of the group's decoys, who was posing as a 14-year-old girl.
"Last night as the investigation progressed, the suspected officer was arrested and taken into custody where he remains today," acting RCMP commanding officer Brenda Butterworth-Carr said at a news conference Friday afternoon.
Butterworth-Carr said the Crown has yet to approve the charges and the officer's name and detachment have not been released.
She said that the criminal investigation is ongoing, as well as an internal code of conduct investigation. She said the officer has been removed from duty and suspended.
"If these allegations are substantiated, we will be taking immediate steps to separate ourselves from this individual," she said.
"These allegations are egregious and not in keeping with what we expect from our employees."
She confirmed the allegations included child luring and sexual exploitation.
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Police don't endorse group
Butterworth-Carr also emphasized the suspended officer was not one who had been named on social media.
"This misinformation and unfair assumptions have been extremely stressful [for the officer named and his family] and incredibly inappropriate," she said.
"This is a prime example of why we ask for an investigation, due process and formal charges to be considered and approved by Crown counsel before a name is disseminated, especially on social media."
Insp. Tyler Svendson said he couldn't speak on the case because it's still active, but he said investigations involving groups like Creep Catchers are "very difficult."
"Their objective is to publicly shame people. Our objective is to arrest, charge and successfully prosecute and obtain convictions on all of these files," he said.
When offenders have gone through the criminal justice system, Svendson added, they're eligible for rehabilitation and police monitoring after they have been released from custody.
"Not just one instance of public shaming. Our goal is to stop this from happening for the long-term," he said.
Svendson added that RCMP have officers trained to find child-luring suspects online, and groups like Creep Catchers only serve to set back their investigations.
"We do not condone this behaviour, it increases the risk to public safety," he said.
Surrey mall incident
Creep Catcher's members pose as underage girls online with the aim of trapping men who are trying to hook up with the girls for sex. After sharing some messages, they arrange to meet, often in public locations like parking lots.
Video recordings of the ensuing confrontations, along with the prior text messages, are then posted online in order to shame the men.
The meeting that resulted in the officer's arrest was staged by the Surrey chapter of Creep Catchers and occurred outside a Surrey shopping mall on Sept. 7. It was captured on video and shared widely on social media.
Just days earlier, RCMP had issued a warning to the public to stop trying to flush out child predators.