Two Vancouver police officers seen filming themselves posing by a dead body have been reassigned to administrative duties.
The officers were spotted by a passerby who filmed the encounter at Third Beach on the morning of Wednesday, February 24.
“I’m here at the sea wall and there’s a deceased human being on the beach and these two police officers are just taking a picture …. Weird,” resident Zachary Ratcliffe said in a video he posted to Instagram. “The cop’s taking a picture and he’s joking around.”
“Is that a person?” Ratcliffe asks the officers. “That’s a deceased person?”
In the video, Ratcliffe initially begins to film the body lying on the sand before one of the officers walks down to the shoreline to pose next to the body while his accompanying officer takes a photo from further up the beach.
Vancouver police said officers had been called to the area around 8:30 a.m. after a body had been found on the beach. The death was later determined not to be suspicious and the officers were just there to hold down the scene until the coroner arrived.
Since the footage emerged, the conduct of the two officers involved was called into question and the video was referred to the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner (OPCC) for an investigation and review.
“There will be a Police Act investigation into the conduct of the officers in the video. The status of the officers is also under review,” Simi Heer, director of public affairs for the Vancouver Police Department, told Newsweek.
“The VPD does not condone, and strictly prohibits, officers taking photographs without an authorized purpose. We expect all of our officers and civilian professionals to act in line with the values of our organization, including integrity, compassion, accountability and respect,” Heer said.
On Monday, Vancouver police confirmed that under Section 110 of the Police Act, “the VPD has reassigned the two officers to non-deployable, administrative positions while the OPCC investigation is ongoing”.
The OPCC could change this status based on the findings of their investigation, police said.
The VPD told Newsweek it was not appropriate for the agency to comment on the specific actions of the officers prior to hearing the findings of the OPCC process.
Ratcliffe said he was upset by the officer’s actions, which prompted him to start filming.
“What if you were the mother of that person or the father?” he asked. “I just felt for the person on the beach and their family.”
In a separate video posted to Instagram days later, Ratcliffe said the encounter “definitely affected me more than I thought it would.”
“I can’t really explain why these officers were doing this, but to see them laughing and clearly not understanding the gravity of the situation, and not providing the dignity and respect a deceased person would deserve, it struck me as an insensitive act,” Ratcliffe told CBC.
Newsweek has contacted the Vancouver Police Department, the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner and Zachary Ratcliffe for comment.
File photo: A police officer tapes off a crime scene as two Vancouver police officers have been reassigned after they were seen filming themselves posing next to a dead body. Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images