A Vancouver Police officer from Port Coquitlam has been slapped with a six-month driving ban and a $2,000 fine after crashing into a cyclist while responding to a 911 call.
The ruling, decided Dec. 9, 2020, but released Wednesday, revolved around the night of May 18, 2018, when Const. Luke Bokenfohr responded to a police dispatch broadcast reporting two women had heard footsteps in their basement just west of BC Children’s Hospital.
As Bokenfohr approached the intersection at Oak Street and West 46th, cyclist Melody Lam stopped her bicycle to press the crosswalk signal. The light turned red, and several vehicles came to a stop to let her cross — that is, save Bokenfohr’s police vehicle.
Lam saw Dodge Charger approaching, but with Bokenfohr’s police emergency lights dark and sirens silenced, the cyclist proceeded through the marked bicycle crossing believing it was safe, according to judge Peter La Prairie’s ruling.
Lam had crossed three lanes of traffic when “Bokenfohr flashed his vehicle’s emergency lights and immediately accelerated into the intersection, knocking her off her bicycle,” wrote La Prairie, adding, “He did not engage his vehicle’s emergency siren.”
The cyclist was left with a fractured right ankle that later required surgery, a seven-centimetre laceration on her lower leg, and multiple abrasions across her body, hands and face.
In her victim impact statement, Lam said the accident had taken cycling, “a way of life,” away from her, and left her to suffer with ongoing physical, mental and financial scars: “without exaggeration,” she said, “this offence has impacted every single part of my life.”
SENTENCE TEMPERED BY COVID, PORT COQUITLAM COMMUTE
At trial, Bokenfohr pled guilty to one count of driving without due care and attention, leading prosecutors to seek a $2,000 fine and a 12-month driving prohibition.
But in his ruling, the judge was careful to note the officer was not being sentenced for the consequences of the accident but for his lapse in attention and to “keep bad drivers off the roads.”
With a record of 14 driving infractions and one driving prohibition going back to 1998 — the latest for unlawfully driving in an HOV lane while before the court — the judge agreed the Crown’s 12-month driving prohibition was warranted.
At the same time, judge La Prairie recognized Bokenfohr’s job required him to commute from Port Coquitlam to Vancouver for work and that “during this time of COVID, he is concerned about travelling on public transportation for both himself and his children.”
In dropping the driving prohibition to six months from a year, the judge wrote Bokenfohr expressed remorse for the accident and didn’t see Lam due to the glare of oncoming headlights. Another factor mitigating the sentence: the constable will face disciplinary proceedings under the Police Act.
“I also have to take into consideration the current COVID pandemic,” wrote the judge. “…and the added potential exposure that a driving prohibition will have on the officer, a front line worker.”