In the wake of Vancouver police officer Peter Hodson’s guilty plea to trafficking in marijuana, many descriptive phrases have been thrown around, particularly by the media, who like their colourful, if clichéd tags.
‘Rogue cop’ is one. ‘Fall from grace’ is another, more poetic, choice. Both have stuck.
But perhaps the most accurate – and telling – words for the White Rock resident’s crime were among the charges to which he pleaded guilty: “breach of trust.”
In weighing his sentence, Judge Gregory Rideout took into account Hodson’s early guilty plea, his in-court apology, the support of his family and his potential for rehabilitation.
But all of these did not dissuade him from his decision last week, handing Hodson three years in prison, less 21 days for time he has already spent behind bars.
If anything, this ‘rogue’ officer got off lightly.
It’s a case where an apology and a promise to do better in future are simply not enough.
Hodson was a police officer and should have known he was being held to a higher standard.
As an officer of the law committing, even counselling, a crime, Hodson abused his position of trust. He made a nonsense of his job, disgraced his VPD peers and betrayed taxpayers. Investigating his crime, as Rideout noted, diverted resources that would otherwise have been used for tackling such such issues on the Downtown Eastside as chronic drug trafficking, homelessness and mental illness.
As Rideout found, this was not a one-time lapse of judgment explained away by circumstance, passion or emotional breakdown. Hodson acted with premeditation and calculation, with money as his primary motive.
He used privileged information to persuade a drug addict to serve as his intermediary; set up the business, and provided the supplies.
He was merely ‘a dirty cop’ – to use a distasteful phrase – in a neighbourhood that has been chronically shortchanged. He was more than willing to flout laws for personal gain. He used his power and position, hypocritically, as a shield for his own shortage of ethics.
Most telling was a statement Hodson himself made to defense psychologist Dr. Michael Elterman, in which he said he had “got away with cheating, lying and stealing” all his life and thought he always would.
Such an assessment comes perilously close to definitions of sociopathic behaviour. If Hodson hadn’t had the whistle blown on him, one wonders where his career would have taken him – and the rest of us.