British Columbia

No charges laid against Abbotsford police officer accused of theft

The B.C. Prosecution Service has decided not to lay any charges against an Abbotsford police office who allegedly stole money from a suspect's home while conducting a search — even though an investigation recommended theft charges.
An Abbotsford police officer is shown on camera allegedly stealing money during a search of Brian MacDonald`s residence in Nov. 2017. (Supplied footage)

The B.C. Prosecution Service has decided not to lay any charges against an Abbotsford police office who allegedly stole money from a suspect's home while conducting a search — even though an investigation recommended theft charges.

The service determined that insufficient and missing evidence would endanger the likelihood of a solid case and a substantial likelihood of conviction.

The allegations surfaced last April during the trial of Brian MacDonald, 53, whose home was searched in November 2017 leading to charges on eight counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking. Last September, MacDonald was acquitted of seven of the eight drug charges. He was found guilty of the eighth count, a lesser charge of possession of a controlled substance.

During the trial, clips from surveillance video in the home showed images of the police officer which raised concerns about theft.

A hidden camera captured the moment an Abbotsford police officer says he took money from a suspect’s home and placed it in his sock as part of a joke, while carrying out a search warrant. 0:45

MacDonald accused the officer of stealing cash, and his lawyer requested the trafficking charges be dropped. They weren't.

In court, the officer denied the allegations, testifying he had placed the money in his sock as part of a practical joke, then put the money back. Following the alleged theft, the officer was placed on administrative duty. 

The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit investigated the allegations against the officer, and recommended charges of theft under $5,000.

Missing evidence

In a written statement explaining its decision, the B.C. Prosecution Service said video evidence showed the officer counting $1 and $2 U.S. bills that were not accounted for in the list of seized items.

Another video clip showed the same officer handling cash, then bending over and standing back up with nothing in his hands. 

"When the subject officer was confronted with this evidence by the accused's counsel in court, he explained that his actions were a joke," the statement said.

"However, there is nothing in the video that would indicate that his actions were done in a funny or light-hearted way."

The B.C. Prosecution Service reviewed the investigation and decided the case had too many issues to proceed. The main problem was that investigators weren't able to find the complete video recordings — only the clips that were shown in court. 

"This exclusion was not related to the actions of the police, but rather to the manner and possible motivations of the persons who produced the video to CFSEU," the prosecution service said. 

The decision also notes that other people had access to the home that day and could have taken the cash.

Even though it didn't proceed with charges, the prosecution service cites concerns about the officer's actions during the search and about the search itself. 

"The search was conducted in a fashion that was less than ideal, with incomplete documentation of items located and seized and a lack of photographic evidence that would confirm specifically what was located and seized."