A Surrey Mountie has been arrested and released after allegedly getting ensnared by a vigilante group who asserts the off-duty officer was looking for the company a 14-year-old girl.
A group called Creep Catchers, who pose as kids online to lure men who potentially want their company, has video taped several people in the last number of weeks.
On Wednesday (Sept. 7), Creep Catchers said on social media it had ensnared an RCMP officer who the group had allegedly matched up with someone posing as a 14 year-old.
Police attended Central City Mall at 10 p.m. Wednesday when they saw on social media allegations of child luring and child exploitation.
The subject of the allegations turned out to be a Surrey RCMP officer.
"Last night (Thursday), as the investigation progressed, the suspect officer was arrested and he was taken into custody, where he currently remains," RCMP Asst. Comm. Brenda Butterworth-Carr said Friday. "A series of charges are pending."
Police issued a clarification that some on social media are naming the wrong police officer, who is completely unrelated to the current investigation.
"The misinformation and unfair assumptions attached to [the mis-identified officer] have been extremely difficult for him and his family and is an example of why we ask for an investigation, due process and formal charges to be considered before any name is discussed publicly – including on social media," Butterworth-Carr said. "These are serious allegations that are subject to judicial process and it should not be about shaming."
Head of Surrey Creep Catchers, Ryan Laforge, said on Facebook it was unfortunate that an innocent man had been named as the alleged perpetrator.
"I'd like to apologize to him and his family and hope that he will understand that we are trying to do a public service and that sometimes the public gets carried away," reads a Facebook post.
LaForge told CBC he never identified the person in the sting publicly.
"I never said his name ... and I have nowhere posted anywhere [his name] and I have nowhere condoned people posting that name," he said.
Police say they are taking the allegations against the officer extremely seriously.
Butterworth-Carr said if the allegations are substantiated against the officer who has been arrested, the RCMP will be "taking steps to separate ourselves from this individual."
The RCMP has also launched a code of conduct investigation.
The Mounties reiterated its criticism of Creep Catchers and its methods.
"These are serious allegations that are subject to judicial process and it should not be about shaming," Butterworth-Carr said.
Mounties have previously said the group may impede ongoing investigations or sully evidence, causing the guilty to go free.
Surrey RCMP are not naming the officer arrested as charges have not yet been laid.
Minister of Public Safety Mike Morris wouldn't speak about the cop, when asked before the arrest on Thursday.
However, he did say the work of Creep Catchers can be very counterproductive.
"It's a form of vigilanteism, it's putting themselves in some significant danger," Morris said Thursday. "But at the same time, they don't know what kinds of undercover operations, what kinds of investigations are already under way by the police."
Morris said their intervention could sully an investigation, and a guilty party could walk free.
The officer who faced the allegations was arrested on Friday, and was released on Saturday with a number of conditions after a judicial bail hearing.