Ex-cop challenges VPD

Publish Date: 12-Jan-2006

Georgia Straight
By charlie smith

A former Vancouver police constable with several awards has filed a human-rights complaint against the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver police department, and the Vancouver Police Union. Dave Dickson, a 24-year veteran who retired in 2003, told the Straight he has alleged that all three organizations discriminated against him on the basis of age. Dickson, 56, spent much of his career working with marginalized youth and women on the Downtown Eastside.

Dickson said he discovered that he could reapply to the VPD after being retired for a year. However, he claimed an inspector told him that the VPD prefers to hire people who will work for another 30 years. In addition, Dickson claimed, the same inspector and a deputy chief both told him that the union would challenge his hiring.

"We have 45-year-old police officers from Great Britain that they’re hiring on a regular basis," Dickson said. "And nobody can seem to explain the difference to me."

VPD officials were unavailable for comment by deadline. Tom Stamatakis, president of the Vancouver Police Union, told the Straight that Dickson chose to retire. Stamatakis said he doesn’t understand how the union could be accused of discrimination when it would have been happy if Dickson had remained with the force. In 2003, approximately 150 officers retired after changes were made to their pension plan, which would have resulted in lower payouts had they chosen to remain on the job.

"Ultimately, there are a number of factors the VPD would probably consider when hiring any person who is older to be a police officer," Stamatakis said. "And I’m sure they made their decision on the basis of some of those considerations."

Last year, B.C. Solicitor General John Les announced that Dickson was one of two winners of the Kenneth M. Lemckert Community Policing Award. Dickson said he was named police officer of the year in 2004, and won a chief’s commendation for his role in the arrest of a major sex offender. Dickson mentioned that he has also received awards and commendations from the federal Justice Department and the City of Vancouver for helping young people. He added that he won an international award for promoting the safety of women.

"I would think the department could step up to the plate for the kids and the women down here," Dickson said.

Stamatakis, however, questioned if it was necessary to assign a sworn police constable to perform Dickson’s duties on the Downtown Eastside. "A lot of the work that he was doing, arguably, wasn’t what you would normally or traditionally consider police work," Stamatakis alleged.

Dickson said the commander of District 2, Insp. Bob Rolls, arranged for him to work for six months on a contract. "It has expired, and basically, I’m out of a job," Dickson said.

He added that he can easily find another job, but wants to remain working in the Downtown Eastside. Several aboriginal leaders as well as the area’s provincial and federal representatives, Jenny Kwan and Libby Davies, have written letters asking the VPD to keep him in the neighbourhood.

"Last year, I played Santa Claus down here for about six different organizations," Dickson said. "The mothers that are bringing their kids up now are the same kids that sat on my lap 20 years ago."

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