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Lack of communication: Review of 1997 complaint against Sean Chu shows policies not followed

Policies were not followed in the review of a 1997 complaint against former CPS officer, and current Ward 4 city councillor Sean Chu, according to a complaint file review by the Calgary Police Commission.

The review was initiated by the Calgary Police Commission after municipal-election-eve stories were broken by both the CBC and CTV Calgary around a sexual assault complaint against Chu.

Chu went through some of the details from his perspective during a press conference Oct. 21, shortly after his election win over DJ Kelly.  At that time, Chu said he wouldn’t be resigning his seat.

The review, done by Public Complaint Director Deborah Petriuk, showed a complaint was made after an incident Aug. 12, 1997. That complaint involved two teens, one of whom said she was sexually assaulted by Chu who was a Calgary police officer at the time. The youth reported the incident to a school resource officer on Aug. 19, 1997.

A sex crimes investigation was initiated at the time, according to the review, and it was later forwarded to the Crown Prosecutors’ Office. In January 1998, the Crown said criminal charges weren’t supported, the review states. 

“The Service told the youth that they would initiate an internal disciplinary investigation, but that did not occur,” Petriuk wrote in the report.

The youth was provided details on how to file a police conduct complaint against Chu. The review said she decided to file complaints in 1998 against the officers that investigated the criminal case. Those were dismissed in July 1998.

The girl appealed that decision, and it was upheld. The Law Enforcement Review Board did say the CPS should investigate Chu for internal discipline on the original incident.

In 1999, Chu appealed that decision. In 2002 it was successfully overturned.

A formal complaint of the 1997 incident was filed in 2002. In 2003, there was one finding of discreditable conduct against Chu. A five-year reprimand was issued, and Chu was ordered to work with an ethics body on a course on ethical decision making.

The findings

Petriuk found that the initial complaint was not handled as a public complaint. Instead, it was handled as an internal one with different reporting requirements.  The youth didn’t get an update every 45 days as is required under the Police Act for public complaints.

“The materials reviewed do not indicate that any explanation was given to her as to the difference between an internal investigation and a public complaint,” Petriuk wrote in the review.

“It is believed that this lack of communication at certain key points were the cause of future issues.”

Petriuk found that better communication could have prevented the issues from escalating.

“The issues in this matter arose because policies were not followed, not because of gaps in the process,” she wrote.

Today, a similar matter would likely be handled differently, Petriuk said. There’s robust information on how to file a complaint and the CPS professional standards section works with complainants.

Petriuk did recommend that CPS develop a clear file management process to ensure follow up. She also said criminal allegations against an officer should automatically prompt an investigation, and that it be overseen by an independent body.

Improved access to public complaint forms was also mentioned.

The commission review could only look at the process and procedures. It could not evaluate if criminal charges were warranted.  It also did not have the power to lay new charges.

2022-08-18 – Complaint File… by Darren Krause