British Columbia

Officer arrested: A look back at James Fisher's 29-year police career

Fisher spent 29 years in policing, and in those years, he received awards, was tapped for national service in Ottawa and even appeared in a U.S. documentary series.

Fisher was considered an expert in Asian organized crime and the sex trade

Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton awards James Fisher a 2014 Community Safety and Crime Prevention award. Anton said at the time that Fisher was part of an "inspirational group of local heroes." Fisher has been charged with sexual exploitation, sexual assault, breach of trust and obstruction of justice. (Government of British Columbia)

Back in 1996, then-Const. James Fisher was pleading for more trust from the community he policed.

According to the Province newspaper, Fisher was working with an anti-gang unit focused on Asian organized crime. He wanted the community to trust the motives of the Vancouver Police Department and its officers.

"It's a cliche, but it's a true cliche, that we'll never defeat the problem without the community," he said in an interview for a June 29 article that year.

"That's our goal at all times, to get the community more involved and supportive of what we're doing."

Twenty years later, Fisher stands accused of breach of trust — along with three counts of sexual exploitation, one count of sexual assault and one count of attempt to obstruct justice.

It's a stunning downfall for an officer who has been lauded for exemplary service over 29 years of service.

During the course of his high-profile career, Fisher spoke out against the exploitation of young trafficking victims. And his work won praise from a B.C. cabinet minister.

Expert in organized crime

Fisher appeared in media reports during the mid-1990s when he was with the Vancouver Police Department's anti-gang unit.

He was a fixture in coverage of stories about gang-controlled karaoke bars and Vietnamese restaurants where drug-dealing occurred. He was critical of lax laws for gangsters, saying U.S.-style anti-racketeering laws were needed to fight Asian gangs in B.C.

The Vancouver Sun reported in 1998 that Fisher was seconded to the Criminal Intelligence Service of Canada, a national agency that assists local law enforcement with data collection and analysis. 

Vancouver Police Department Chief Const. Adam Palmer speaks at a news conference Thursday about six charges laid against fellow police officer James Fisher. (Jacy Schindel)

"As Canadians, we need to wake up to it. It's here. It's huge," he told the Ottawa Citizen that year.

"We've got to educate people to the scope of this. It's got to be brought home to them that it's coming out of their pocketbooks and it's making their houses and their communities less safe."

He also was a frequent speaker on issues of human smuggling at the end of the 20th century, including human smuggling related to the sex trade.

Grew in profile

By 2003, Fisher, now a detective constable, was back with the Vancouver Police Department in the Criminal Intelligence Unit. He continued to work on cases related to the sex trade and Asian organized crime.

In 2004, he took a CBC News television crew along with him to film a police investigation of local massage parlours that were operating as brothels.

James Fisher takes the CBC on a tour of massage parlours in Vancouver 3:39

"I've taken statements from girls that are as young as 14 … that it was always very accepted that the girl would shower with the customer," he said.

"These people are not normally willing to come forward to the police. They're here to stay in Canada or move on to the United States, so once the mistreatment starts and they do want to come forward to the police, then they're severely restricted by the people controlling them."

Fisher was called to testify in criminal matters as far away as Halifax on cases related to Asian organized crime. He also appeared in a 2010 documentary series about a U.S. fugitive who hid in Canada and worked for Vietnamese gang of counterfeiters.

The show was titled I (Almost) Got Away With It.

The case of Reza Moazami, seen here in a court sketch, earned Fisher acclaim. (CBC)

Awards from province, police force

In 2011, Fisher was involved in the high-profile case of Lai Tong Sang, a man who successfully immigrated to Canada from Macau, despite being flagged for possibly running a gang.

He testified about the Vancouver police's long-running suspicions about Lai which ultimately saw him deported in a precedent-setting immigration process.

But in 2014, his work in another case had him feted as an "inspirational" policeman by B.C. Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton, who awarded him a Community Safety and Crime Prevention Award.

That was the case of Reza Moazami, who was convicted of 30 counts related to prostitution and sex crimes. Moazami's victims were 11 girls, ranging in age from 14 to 19, who he forced into the sex trade.

In 2014, Reza Moazami was found guilty on 30 charges related to the sex trade. James Fisher was one of the officers who investigated him. 1:45

"This is not Pretty [Woman], this is not Taken. These are not movies, these are real stories from real people that have been hurt," Fisher said after the conviction.

Fisher also received a Chief Constable Unit Citation for "extraordinary dedication" for his part in the case.

Vancouver Police Chief Const. Adam Palmer said Thursday that Fisher was involved in numerous other cases. The department will now be reviewing those cases.

Fisher's next court appearance is Jan. 24 at Surrey Provincial Court.