Cover story published in 24 Hours Vancouver | August 22, 2013 | Circulation: 251,700
Vancouver Police Department’s alleged refusal to issue a criminal record check for a prominent youth leader – because he wouldn’t submit a DNA sample – has forced him to abandon an organization he’s volunteered at for 13 years.
Herb Varley resigned from the Urban Native Youth Association board after he said police rejected his request for the records search required by the agency, which is VPD-supported and even chaired by a police officer.
The 29-year-old claimed police justified the DNA request as he was one of 300 “persons of interest” in a sex crime investigation based only on his appearance. With no warrant, he refused.
“I was basically forced to resign,” Varley told 24 hours. “It would be different if they said I was one out of only five people.
“But they’re really grasping at straws. I won’t allow them to use my connection to that program to bully me into something that’s illegal — giving my DNA without a warrant. As difficult as it was to walk away from a program that I really grew up in — and have respect for — I was willing to walk away.”
As an elected UNYA board member he voted to require the records check last year from volunteers. Despite having a record for a probation breach, he said it was unrelated to working with youth.
Varley, a former president of the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council, alleged the police’s refusal is “100% politically motivated.”
“I have nothing to hide,” he said. “They gotta do their due diligence.
“They need a warrant to get DNA. People shouldn’t be expected to be giving their DNA out willy-nilly.”
Lawyer Cameron Ward called the warrantless DNA request “unusual.”
“Someone’s entitled to get the results of their record check without complying with a police demand,” he said. “That requires proper authorization.
“If they have valid grounds to request a DNA sample from him, then they ought to invoke those. It’s an invasion of his privacy and his bodily integrity.”
VPD spokesman Sgt. Randy Fincham agreed that DNA is only required of criminal suspects.
“I’ve never heard of it happening for an application process,” he said. “If a person was suspected of a crime, and there’s evidence to support that, we’d apply to a justice to order that person to provide a DNA sample. But it wouldn’t have anything to do with employment … It’s either voluntary or by order of a judge.”