A North Delta resident launched a lawsuit this week against the Delta Police Department, a former officer, the police chief and the Corporation of Delta alleging sexual misconduct by the officer after a domestic dispute call.
In court documents, Tori Jones says she called 911 on July 26, 2010 after having marital problems and arguments with her common-law husband, Josh Van Polanen Petel.
Former constable Robert Wesley Johnston was one of three officers to respond to the call.
While the investigation into the domestic dispute did not lead to an arrest or any charges, at the time officers removed Petel from the residence and told him to stay away for the night. Jones alleges Johnston gave her his name, personal cell phone number and Delta police email address. She says he told her that if she had any more problems with Petel she should call him and he would personally deal with him.
The lawsuit alleges that after Johnston left Jones' residence he used the computer in his police cruiser to access records on the couple.
The next day, at Johnson's urging, Jones went to Surrey provincial court to secure interim custody of her and Petel's son and to get a temporary 10-day restraining order against Petel, which barred him from seeing Jones and their son during that time.
Two days later, Jones and Johnston began communicating by phone and text. According to court documents, Jones wanted to thank the officer for his assistance and advice but at Johnston's behest the communications became sexual in nature.
On July 31, while Johnston was on-duty and in uniform, he met Jones in the underground parking lot at the Superstore on Scott Road at 82nd Avenue.
"Johnston committed a sexual assault and battery on Tori, the particulars of which will be provided upon request," the suit states. "Tori then left for work. About one hour later, Johnston again searched Tori's name on the [police] databases on his Delta police cruiser."
The lawsuit outlines several other alleged instances of Johnston committing sexual assault and battery on Jones, including one on Aug. 1, 2010 at the Delta Police K9 office on Annacis Island where he arranged to have another officer stand guard across the street to alert him if anyone approached the office.
The lawsuit alleges the officer let Jones read confidential files and "played a game in which he asked Tori to try to remove his service pistol from his holster while he was wearing it."
Johnston is accused of committing sexual assault and battery on Jones on several occasions over the course of 17 days that summer.
According to the notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court this week, Johnston went on vacation late that summer. While he was away, Jones texted him to say she did not want to see him anymore; he did not respond and she never heard from him again.
Once Petel returned to the couple's home, Jones told him what happened. A complaint against Johnston was filed on Oct. 13, 2010.
Five days later he was suspended with pay while the allegations were investigated.
On March 23, 2011, Johnston was suspended without pay.
An outside police agency investigation found that three allegations of corrupt practice, two allegations of discreditable conduct and one allegation of neglect of duty against Johnston had been proven.
"Mr. Johnston no longer works for the Delta Police Department," said spokesperson Const. Ciaran Feenan. "He was dismissed as of March 5, 2012 after a long and lengthy Police Act investigation."
According to court documents, on March 30 of this year, Johnston sought a review of his dismissal but took the position that he did not want a public hearing. However, when the commissioner decided a public hearing would be necessary, the discipline proceedings were concluded and he remained dismissed.
Feenan said the department cannot speak to the investigation or any allegations against it. As of Thursday morning, Chief Jim Cessford and the department had not been legally notified of the lawsuit.
The suit claims Johnston caused intentional and malicious infliction of mental and bodily harm. It also alleges neglect of duty and breach of trust on the part of the Delta Police Department, Cessford, the Corporation of Delta and the minister of justice and attorney general of B.C.
Jones and Petel are seeking general, aggravated, exemplary and punitive damages.
No response to the claim has been filed and the allegations in the suit have not been proven in court.
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