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June 2022: Cop committed ‘discreditable conduct’ in Westervelt death investigation

Top story for Lake Country
Arlene Susan Westervelt, 56, drowned in Okanagan Lake in June 2016 (Black Press file photo)

Kelowna RCMP Sgt. Brian Gateley, with the Organized Crime Agency of B.C., was suspended without pay for just one day after communicating with a witness in a Lake Country homicide investigation in contravention of direct orders.

Gateley was advised in December 2020 not to have contact with any witnesses from an investigation into the death of Arlene Westervelt.

She drowned while canoeing with her husband Bert on Okanagan Lake in June 2016.

Arlene’s sister Debbie Hennig confirmed Gateley sent her a letter in February 2021 despite having been directed not to.

In April 2021, Hennig and others from Westervelt’s family filed a lawsuit against two Kelowna officers, one being Gateley, alleging their actions interfered with the investigation of Arlene’s death.

The notice of review from the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner dated June 30, 2022, reads: “The Discipline Authority found that Sergeant Gateley’s conduct was ‘significant’ and that he knowingly disobeyed directions from his supervisors and senior officers.”

Former RCMP officer Don Matheson has been helping the group Justice for Arlene by filing information to the courts in hopes of reviving the case.

Matheson called the one day suspension against Gateley a joke.

“The code of conduct inside the Mounted Police is a joke, but it’s a dangerous joke,” Matheson said.

“What he’s charged with should be under the Criminal Code of Canada, not under a code of conduct.”

Matheson said the problem lies deeper than just one cop. According to Matheson, discreditable conduct and tampering of evidence are commonplace in the modern force.

“As soon as they get this code of conduct buried and start policing police officers the way they have to be disciplined we might find some change in the Mounted Police force.”

Despite all the bad cops, Matheson said there are officers trying to do a good job.

Arlene’s husband Bert was charged with second-degree murder in April 2019, after an extensive investigation into Arlene’s death.

The Crown stayed that charge in July 2020 and it expired the following year.

The investigation into Arlene’s death was reopened by the BC Coroners Service in April 2022.

The chief coroner determined it to be in the public’s best interest for another coroner to investigate.

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