SURREY — A Surrey Mountie is facing charges related to a sting conducted this week by Surrey Creep Catcher, a citizen group that aims to weed out “potential predators” and “blast” them in social media.
The accused officer’s name has not yet been released as formal charges haven’t yet been sworn. He was arrested Thursday night following allegations of child luring and sexual exploitation that arose out of a video sting done by what some consider to be a vigilante group.
The accused has been suspended from duty.
“I want to be very clear that if the allegations are substantiated, we will be immediately taking steps to separate ourselves from this individual,” Assistant Commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr, acting commander of the RCMP in B.C., said at a press conference Friday.
“These allegations are egregious and not in keeping with what we expect of our employees. There is no room in the RCMP for this kind of behaviour or individual.
“I would also like to take this time to ensure there is absolute clarity that the police officer that we are dealing with is not — not — Constable Dan Johnson as being reported by some individuals in social media. This misinformation and unfair assumptions have been extremely stressful for Dan and his family.”
Butterworth-Carr (pictured) said that police are also conducting an internal code of conduct investigation led by Surrey RCMP Professional Standards Unit with help from the BC Integrated Child Exploitation Unit and Surrey RCMP major crimes unit.
Whalley resident Ryan LaForge, 33, is the president of Creep Catcher Surrey, a local chapter of a Canada-wide online movement that, according to its Facebook page, “focuses on the apprehension and media publication of predators spreading awareness about an ongoing epidemic, pedophilia.”
While defamation lawyers warn that some of Creep Catcher’s activities could well invite defamation lawsuits from those they target, chapters are nonetheless popping up and collaborating with one another in Canadian cities from coast to coast.
LaForge could not be reached for comment Friday.
STORY CONTINUES BELOW
A screen grab from a Surrey Creep Catcher video shot Wednesday night in Surrey. The suspect, allegedly a Mountie, is seen running away.
Inspector Tyler Svendson, officer in charge of the Behavioural Sciences Group, declined to provide details on the accused, which section he worked in or if he had been working with children.
On Creep Catchers’ role, he said, “I want to make it clear that police are the ones that were called that night after the public shaming.
“Police officers are the ones that get the evidence,” he said. “We’re the only ones that are authorized under the Criminal Code to execute a search warrant, for example. These groups cannot do that type of work. So they may initiate the complaint, but it’s the police officers, the trained police officers, that get the evidence that leads to the charge.”
If the officer is convicted of a crime, would that legitimize Creep Catchers as a legitimate investigation tool”
“Good question — the answer is no,” Svendson replied. “We only have one common goal, and that is to catch predators, child predators, online. Our objectives are clearly different. Their objective is they want to publicly shame someone. Our objective is we want to conduct an investigation, make an arrest and forward charges for a successful conviction.”
Asked what’s different in this particular case involving a police officer, where a swift arrest has been made, and other cases where people have been targeted by Surrey Creep Catchers, Svendson replied, “Sorry, I can’t comment on ongoing investigations.”
While police have consistently warned of the dangers of what they call a “vigilante phenomenon,” LaForge told the Now in a recent exclusive interview that he wishes police would work with him.
“The police, I want them to step their mandate up and have a change so they’re allowed to contact us and say, ‘Hey, we want your evidence.’ Not just because someone’s complaining,” said LaForge, who claims police don’t contact him until one of the targets contacts them claiming harassment. “What kind of crazy world do we live in?
“As far as the courts go, I want them to stop looking at it like it’s just like a job. I want them to see that it’s life. We’re talking about children. I don’t know if it’s the justice system, I mean it all boils down to our government, what’s wrong with our government? What’s wrong with our government that they can see this is happening, that the justice system is releasing these guys?”