Const. Nicole Chan feared career was 'essentially over' after hospital visit, VPD sergeant says
Chan was concerned about rumours within VPD, Sgt. Corey Bech says
WARNING: This story contains distressing details.
A Vancouver police sergeant told a coroner's inquest on Monday that Const. Nicole Chan believed she would never return to work after human resource officers went to the hospital where she was taken under the Mental Health Act on Jan. 26, 2019.
Chan subsequently died by suicide the following day.
Sgt. Corey Bech said he and Chan were close friends, and he was a mentor to Chan and helped her get into policing.
On Monday, he told the inquest into Chan's death that he spoke to her the night before she died. He said she felt the presence of HR staff when she went into the hospital meant that her career "was essentially over."
She was also "very upset" that a fellow officer with whom she had a relationship was able to keep his job, something she felt would make it impossible for her to return to the force, Bech said.
The inquest has heard that Chan accused Sgt. David Van Patten of extorting her to continue a sexual relationship.
Chan's allegations of sexual assault and extortion against Van Patten were investigated by the New Westminster Police, but the B.C. Prosecution Service decided not to approve charges, the jury was told last week.
Van Patten was eventually dismissed from the VPD.
Bech's comments about Chan's worry over losing her job are consistent with what Supt. Shelley Horne told the inquest last week.
"She felt it was unfair that she was unable to work, and Dave Van Patten kept his job," Horne said.
Chan was also anxious about workplace rumours, Bech told the coroner's jury. A concern, he said, that was founded.
"People were talking about her and were talking about her complaint," he said, adding that the situation had become so severe that she didn't want to be around other VPD members at all near the end of her life.
"She had zero contact with anybody from the VPD, other than myself, at the end.''
He said Chan still remains a topic of the department's "rumour mill.''
"That part of our work culture is not healthy but very difficult to control,'' he said.
Bech told the inquest that he believes the biggest systemic change the department could make would be mandatory mental health check-ins for all first responders.
B.C.'s coroner says the point of the inquest is to determine the facts related to Chan's death, make recommendations and ensure public confidence that the circumstances of the death won't be overlooked, concealed or ignored.
Tuesday is the last scheduled day of the inquest. The jury's verdict is usually posted at the end of the last day of an inquest, including the jury's findings and recommendations.
If you or someone you know is struggling, here's where to get help:
- Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 (phone) | 45645 (text).
- Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 (phone), live chat counselling on the website.
- Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: Find a 24-hour crisis centre.
This guide from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health outlines how to talk about suicide with someone you're worried about.
If you're worried someone you know may be at risk of suicide, you should talk to them about it, says the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. Here are some warning signs:
- Suicidal thoughts.
- Substance abuse.
- Feeling trapped.
- Hopelessness and helplessness.
- Mood changes.
With files from The Canadian Press and Karin Larsen