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Business relationship between 'disgraced' VicPD officer and former police union president under scrutiny

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Victoria’s police chief is standing behind his decision to allow one of his officers to have a business relationship with a constable plagued by corruption allegations.

The allegations against now-retired VicPD Const. Robb Ferris came to light on Wednesday.

The “disgraced” officer was arrested and suspended from the department in June of 2020, after the RCMP’s anti-corruption unit revealed he was believed to be involved in 19 instances of misconduct, “including associating with suspects of police investigations in southern Vancouver Island, divulging details of police investigations to family members, improperly accessing police databases, lying to investigators and divulging sensitive information to civilians,” according to a B.C. Supreme Court decision.

He was never criminally charged.

After the arrest, VicPD Sgt. Len Hollingsworth maintained a business relationship with Ferris. A company summary from BC Registry Services says they co-own a business called Victoria PlayCo, which specializes in sport court construction.

“That’s not hidden to the department — that they’ve been in business for a long time,” said a former VicPD officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to concerns about future reprisal.

“Two police board members stated that in an in-camera meeting, the chief assured them that he didn’t believe it to be a conflict of interest.”

When Victoria mayor Marianne Alto was elected in October of 2022, she became co-chair of the Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board. “I am not aware of the board’s knowledge of, or any action taken by the board on this matter,” Alto said in an email to CTV News.

Hollingsworth recently retired, according to a social media post from Victoria police Chief Del Manak.

Hollingsworth used to be president of the Victoria City Police Union. He was also a supervisor of VicPD’s intelligence and analysis section, which handles sources, informants and informant handlers, according to the police source.

“I’ve got no reason to believe that the continued relationship that this officer would have had with Const. Ferris jeopardized public trust or any investigation,” Manak said, noting officers need approval from senior leadership before getting a second job.

“It was pretty clear that Const. Ferris was acting on his own.”

Cases that Ferris worked on are unravelling. Charges were stayed in one of those investigations, which had resulted in a $30-million seizure of drugs, guns and cash. A drug dealer from a separate case is currently appealing his conviction on the basis that testimony Ferris provided at trial was unreliable.

“Police legitimacy is the first layer of officer safety,” the police source said. “When police are perceived as illegitimate, trust is eroded and officers get hurt.”

Hollingsworth declined to comment on this story. Ferris has not responded to CTV News interview requests. This story will be updated if a response is received.

Former Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Chris Lewis said there are rules when it comes to secondary employment for police officers.

“There has to be a judgement call on the part of senior management,” Lewis said.

“If someone isn’t convicted, you know, it’s just an investigation, how far can you control that officer’s activities?”

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