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BC police get off-duty comp

B.C. police may now be compensated for injuries incurred attending to an incident while off-duty, according to a news release issued yesterday.

A Workers Compensation Board Appeals Tribunal ruling overturned an original decision against compensating an officer injured while confronting a drunk driver in Chilliwack, according to a Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE) Local 378 press release.

The tribunal’s ruling will likely be precedent setting for officers involved in similar incidents in the future, according to the release.

In 2008, an off-duty South Coast of British Columbia Transit Authority Police Service (SCBCTAPS) constable was assaulted by the impaired driver after the officer attempted to take the driver’s keys.

The driver sped away, dragging the officer until the vehicle stopped and the officer could apprehend the driver with the help of a citizen.

The officer’s arm was driven over by the wheel of the truck during the incident.

The driver was discovered to have a blood alcohol level of .250, the legal limit being .08.

During the tribunal decision, COPE and the SCBCTAPC maintained that since police swear an oath to “prevent all offences against the persons and properties of her majesty’s services”, a police officer can come on duty to attend to a crime even when they aren’t on shift, according to the release.

It’s more common for officers to call 9-1-1 when witnessing a public incident, but physical intervention does happen from time to time, said Vancouver Police const. Lindsey Houghton.

“There are always situations that arise,” said Houghton.

Houghton told The Tyee that the ruling won’t motivate officers to intervene in public incidents, but may give officers some surety when they do.

Off-duty police have the same powers as citizens do in making a citizen's arrest, said David Eby, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

As long as they witness the event and only use reasonable force, their role in crime scenes is usually welcome, said Eby.

The tribunal ruling for off-duty officers could actually provide precedence for the compensation of citizens who perform citizen's arrests, Eby told The Tyee.

"It's certainly possible that a citizen could make an argument that, under the victim protection legislation in British Columbia, that they would be entitled to compensation for injuries sustained if they tried to arrest someone committing a crime," said Eby.

"I think that it would be appropriate. Really at the end of the day..., in terms of a citizen's arrest, they're performing the exact same duty as a police officer. They're protecting public safety."

Justin Langille reports on labour and work related issues for The Tyee.