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Victoria police lost another notebook – and it ended up in a suspect’s hands

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For the second time in about 14 months, the Victoria Police Department says one of its officers has lost a notebook containing people’s names and private information.


A retired VicPD member said the notebook belongs to a member of the Strike Force unit, which focuses on guns and drugs.


“Your notebook is basically an extension of yourself,” said the officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to concerns about future reprisal.


“It’s sacred, and to misplace it and not be aware of it is very unprofessional.”


The notebook was lost on Feb. 14 and recovered eight days later.


“A notebook was misplaced at the scene of a search warrant and was temporarily in possession of a person who is known to police for suspected criminal activity,” said Cheryl Major, director of VicPD’s community engagement division.


Upon realizing it was missing, the officer told a supervisor, Major said.


“They returned to the scene of the search warrant, talked to the persons who’d been involved and recovered the notebook quite easily,” she said.


The department has notified B.C.’s privacy commissioner about the breach. It also put 26 letters in the mail, offering safety tips and an apology to people for violating their privacy.


For one woman, this marks the second time she’s received such a letter.


Another lost notebook linked to break-in


Criminal defence lawyer Donald McKay said the name of one of his clients was written in the notebook, along with her address, licence plate, and the make and model of her vehicle.


Her private information was also in a notebook VicPD lost over a five-day period in December of 2022.


“That information can be used to assist in a home invasion robbery, as she was subject to a year ago,” McKay said.


McKay said his client’s home was broken into after the contents of the first lost notebook were copied and circulated among criminals in Greater Victoria.


“She’s nervous,” he said. “She obviously doesn’t want this to happen again and she’s taking precautions.”


Based on the information contained in the second lost notebook, VicPD doesn’t believe anyone is at risk this time around. McKay isn’t so sure.


Police officers don’t just record information about criminals in their notebooks, he said, but about witnesses and people who’ve reported a crime.


“If somebody has a grudge against that individual then they know where to find them,” he said.


It may also endanger the innocent family members of drug traffickers, the retired police source said.


“Public safety is… obviously at risk, right, because you know these individuals will then go and target their competitors,” the source said.


‘It’s certainly disappointing’


Unlike the Strike Force member who reported his missing notebook, the other officer who lost his notebook in 2022 did not. A Police Act investigation ensued.


“The member was found guilty of misconduct and… disciplined with a verbal reprimand,” Major said.


“We also updated our policies at that time and re-educated officers about the importance of maintaining notebook security.”


The policy states members must report a lost, found or damaged notebook to a supervisor as soon as practicable.


To mitigate the issue, VicPD is also considering using digital notebooks.


“This is a human error and one that I think will make everybody else a little more cautious of their notebooks,” Major said. “It’s certainly disappointing when something like this happens.”


It joins a series of recent disappointments. In the past few months, the department has suspended an officer for sexual misconduct allegations, fumbled a major drug trafficking prosecution, and faced accusations it did not adequately investigate a teenager’s death.


Members are keeping their heads down, trying to avoid getting hit by shrapnel as the department’s public image implodes, the retired VicPD officer said.


“At the end of the day, you hope that it gets better,” the former member said.   

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