Vancouver police department sued by family of officer who died by suicide

Written by Javed Iqbal

The family of a Vancouver police officer who died by suicide is suing the department, claiming she has endured sexual assault and exploitation made possible by an “insecure workplace culture and inadequate policies and procedures,” court documents show.

None of the allegations have been tested in court and no defense statements have been made.

The trial is brought by the mother and sister of Nicole Chan, who died in 2019. Nicole took her own life after struggling with mental health issues, which the trial claims were exacerbated by her relationship with two senior officers as well as the force’s handling of an investigation into those conditions.

Sgt. Greg McCullough and Sgt. David Van Patten, the two senior officers with whom Nicole had relations at various times during her 10-year tenure in the VPD, is also mentioned in the trial. Both of these officers have since left VPD – McCullough resigned while Van Patten was fired.


Legal documents say VPD became aware of Nicole’s mental health problems in 2012 after she was involved in a car accident that her employer “interpreted … as a suicide attempt.” Her gun was taken away and she spent about a week off from work.

It is the first of four “mental episodes” described in the court document that culminated in Nicole being put on paid leave in 2017 and diagnosed in 2018 with “unspecified trauma and stress-related disorder” as well as severe depressive disorder.

“The biggest contributor to the diagnosis was the impact of the sexual relationship with the sergeants, who were in a position of authority over Nicole,” claims the trial, which repeatedly says these episodes were evidence of “serious mental illness triggered by intimate relationships.”


The two relationships with her senior officers, the lawsuit alleges, constituted unlawful conduct for which the department and the two former officers are responsible.

These circumstances are alleged to have involved: “sexual harassment, including persistent communication of a sexual or romantic nature; sexual assault, sexual assault, sexual coercion and sexual exploitation; discrimination; acts intended to cause emotional and mental suffering; (and) intimidation by rank “, according to court documents.

Nicole’s relationship with McCullough began in 2015.

“McCullough did not disclose his relationship with Nicole to his employer, and he advised Nicole not to do so, insisting that the relationship remain secret,” the civil claim states.

About a year later, Van Patten began flirting with Nicole, the case states, claiming that “at Van Patten’s request, Nicole entered into an intimate relationship with him.”

The case alleges that Van Patten was engaged in a series of behaviors that had the effect of “intentionally inflicting mental illness on Nicole so that he could manipulate her into sexual acts and a power-balanced secret intimate relationship that served to benefit him.”

This relationship was also not revealed, according to the case, which claims that Nicole was similarly told to keep it a secret.

“The work culture was such that Nicole was more afraid of the negative consequences for her career of reporting the inappropriate conditions than she was afraid of the consequences these conditions had on her,” the documents state.

“The opportunities in politics created a dangerous and ultimately deadly working environment for Nicole.”


One of the key allegations made is that although VPD had a policy that required the disclosure of intimate relations between colleagues, it was not sufficient to protect “vulnerable employees such as Nicole” and that it “could not ensure that relationships were not abuses of power that are inherent in such an environment. “

Any policy that the department had, it is argued in the case, “was not implemented effectively to meet the priorities, goals and objectives set by the (police) board, and they caused or contributed significantly to Nicole’s death.”

Nicole’s sister Jennifer Chan – who works for CTV Vancouver in the operating room – and her mother Lai Ching Ho are seeking general, aggravated and punishable compensation. They are also seeking special damages and reparations to remedy what they claim was a violation of Nicole’s rights under the Charter.

Attorney General of BC, City of Vancouver, Vancouver Police Union and two unnamed VPD employees are also listed among the defendants.

CTV News has asked the city of Vancouver and the Vancouver Police Department for a comment.

A city spokesman said staff could not comment, “as this case is before the courts.”

The history will be updated if a response is received from VPD.

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Javed Iqbal

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