North Okanagan RCMP officer cleared in 170 km/h pursuit before fleeing driver crashed

Cops cleared in crash

A North Okanagan police officer who drove at speeds of up to 170 km/h in a failed traffic stop may have to explain his actions, but won't face any charges following the crash of the vehicle he was pursuing.

B.C.'s independent police watchdog found no link between the officer's actions and the loss of control that led to a crash in Armstrong on Dec. 1, 2021.

In a report released Monday, the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. said the officer attempted to pull over a southbound vehicle that had just passed him at high speed on Highway 97A, north of Armstrong.

The officer activated his lights and siren and drove at speeds of up to 170 km/h in an attempt to catch up to the vehicle, which was being driven erratically.

As the car neared downtown Armstrong, the driver lost control on a bend and crashed into a field, seriously injuring the two occupants.

The IIO report states the driver was prohibited and a blood test was positive for cocaine.

"The evidence does not give grounds to conclude (the officer) drove in a manner that was dangerous to the public in the circumstances," the IIO found.

The highway was "broad and flat" with "long straights" and "very limited traffic."

"The crash appears to have been the result of (the driver) swerving hard to the left as he approached the town, when (a second officer's) parked police vehicle, its lights flashing, would have been clearly visible ahead."

The IIO noted police officers are officer excused from liability for speeding under the Motor Vehicle Act and Emergency Vehicle Driving Regulation. However, that immunity "does not permit an officer to continue into a pursuit if the traffic stop is not successful."

In this case, the officer "failed to adhere to RCMP policy," the IIO found, but won't face charges. His driving will be the subject of internal review, however.

"Continuing a high-speed pursuit has the potential to to create a greater risk of harm than it prevents," the decision states.

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