Six current and former police officers in British Columbia have filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against 13 municipalities, alleging sexual assault, harassment, discrimination, and bullying on the job. The officers, including Ann Piper, a Central Saanich police officer on medical leave with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), claim they experienced unwanted sexual touching, graphic and misogynistic photographs, and routine “jokes” about oral sex. They also allege being called derogatory names and being subjected to demeaning behavior that limited their careers.
Piper, who has been on medical leave for the past three and a half years, reported the harassment to the mayor of Central Saanich, the police board, and the deputy chief at the time. However, when no action was taken, her mental health started to deteriorate. The other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include former Victoria police officer Lauren Phillips, former Delta police officer Helen Irvine, former West Vancouver police officer Cary Ryan, and Vancouver police officer Anja Bergler. The identity of the sixth officer, who also worked for the Vancouver Police Department, is protected by a publication ban due to a trial involving a fellow officer who was convicted of sexually assaulting her.
The officers claim that they faced retaliation and ostracization from fellow officers after speaking up about the harassment, which put their safety at risk. The proposed class-action lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for loss of income, career opportunities, early retirement, and pension amounts, as well as special, aggravated, and punitive damages.
The municipalities named as defendants in the lawsuit include Saanich, Esquimalt, Oak Bay, Abbotsford, Nelson, Port Moody, and Surrey. The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, as well as B.C.’s attorney general and solicitor general, are also named as defendants. The Central Saanich Police Service, Saanich police, and the District of Saanich have issued statements condemning harassment, violence, and discrimination, and expressing their commitment to fostering respectful workplaces.