A public inquest into a Vancouver police officer’s death by suicide is scheduled to begin almost exactly four years after she took her own life.
Nicole Chan, a 30-year-old constable with nine years of experience, died by suicide in January 2019 after struggling with anxiety and depression. It was two years after she had filed two complaints to the chief of the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) about inappropriate relationships with two senior officers.
“I believe that she felt pressured into it and she was not in a good mental state to basically tell them no,” her sister, Jenn Chan, told Global News in 2019.
“She felt like she couldn’t say no to them.”
Chan’s death was reported to the BC Coroners Service by the VPD on Jan. 27, 2019.
The inquiry, scheduled for Jan. 23, 2023, aims to determine the facts surrounding her death, ensure the public that the circumstances around her death will not be overlooked or concealed, and if appropriate, make recommendations to prevent further deaths under similar circumstances.
“Nicole was a respected colleague and a valued member of the Vancouver Police Department,” said Sgt. Steve Addison in a Thursday statement.
“She dedicated her career to public safety and to serving the citizens of Vancouver. Her death has deeply impacted Nicole’s friends, her family and the police officers who served alongside her.”
The VPD declined an on-camera interview for this story, as it would be “inappropriate to discuss matters that could be given in evidence at Coroners’ Court.”
Global News has also reached out to the BC Coroners Service and the Chan family lawyer for comment.
Chan was put on stress leave in 2017 after coming forward with allegations against Sgt. Dave Van Patten and Sgt. Greg McCullough. Van Patten worked in human resources at the time.
According to VPD Chief Adam Palmer, the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) was called immediately after she came forward and an internal investigation was launched. That investigation wrapped up in December 2018, concluding three allegations of discreditable conduct against Van Patten were substantiated.
Van Patten declined a public hearing and was ordered dismissed in January, while Sgt. Greg McCullough was given a 15-day suspension and later resigned.
The OPCC also recommended the Vancouver Police Board hire an independent agency to help it review policies around workplace relationships involving power dynamics or vulnerable employees.
“She was just such a proud officer. She was proud of (herself) and she was proud of being able to basically speak out for the victims,” said Jenn in the months after her sister’s death.
Chan left behind a suicide note, but did not disclose why she took her own life. Her family launched a lawsuit against the VPD this year that named both Van Patten and McCullough. Action against McCullough was discontinued in September, Global News has confirmed.
The civil suit detailed troubling allegations involving the officers, both with whom she had sexual relationships. It alleged her suicide was a result of wrongful conduct and workplace culture at the department, which had ineffective guidelines and policies.
None of the allegations were proven in court.
Palmer has previously described Chan’s suicide as “a tragic set of circumstances.”
“And it’s something that has really rippled through the department and it’s heartbreaking for all of us and we really feel for the Chan family that have to go through the aftermath of this,” he told Global News in a 2019 interview.
– with files from Global News’ Catherine Urquhart, Sean Boynton and Simon Little
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