Surrey Police Board member Harley Chappell said Monday that it wasn’t a “smart” decision to pose for photographs in 2018 with two full-patch Hells Angels at a memorial service.
“Hindsight is 2020. In this situation, was it a smart decision? No,” Chappell said in an interview with Postmedia on the Semiahmoo First Nation.
“But it is a friend of mine saying, ‘I want to take pictures of my mother’s memorial.’”
Postmedia revealed two weeks ago that the recently appointed police board member had posed with White Rock Hells Angels Brent Milne and Douglas “Doc” Riddoch at the service for Carla Newman — widow of the late Hells Angel David “Clapp” Newman.
Chappell issued a statement at the time saying the bikers were old friends of his father Phillip Chappell, a former Hells Angel who left the club in 1992.
Postmedia also reported that Harley Chappell posted a photo of his father wearing his Hells Angels colours in a November 2019 birthday tribute.
The younger Chappell said Monday he posted the old photo because he has very few pictures of his father, “and I love my dad.”
He reiterated that he has no connection to the Hells Angels — he has no friends that are in the biker club’s program, and has never been inside a clubhouse as an adult, Chappell said.
He also said he had never seen the memorial service photos until Postmedia sent them to him earlier this month. Nor did he notice that another Hells Angel from the West Point chapter had commented on one of Chappell’s Facebook posts last summer.
“I knew him when he was a teenager. And I haven’t seen him since,” Chappell said, suggesting the West Point biker may have accessed his post as “a friend of a friend.”
The elected chief of the Semiahmoo First Nation said he went through all the appropriate vetting for his position on the police board, which is overseeing the transition from the Surrey RCMP to a new municipal police force.
Chappell said the application form he completed for the board was only about his own history and did not have questions about the connections or history of family members.
While the Semiahmoo community knows his father’s one-time link to the Hells Angels, Chappell said he now understands that others may not have known.
“Obviously, my family, my community knows who my dad is and knows who I am, and they’ve chosen me, not my father,” Chappell said. “I made an assumption that (the information) would have been brought forward. … If I were to apologize, it would be for making the assumption.”
Chappell said Semiahmoo leaders reached out to the B.C. government before the police board was created, given that the First Nation would be impacted by the policing transition in Surrey.
“And then once the board was beginning, I was approached by the province to submit an application,” he said.
He sees his role on the board as representing not only the Semiahmoo First Nation, but also other Indigenous people in Surrey.
And he said his upbringing as an Indigenous person and even as the son of a Hells Angel, “has given me a very open worldview as to people. And you know, as we move forward with policing transition, as a police board member I think it’s very important to have that very open view to human beings, not affiliations, not race. It’s important that we as a board are inclusive.”
Asked if he agreed with law enforcement agencies and some Canadian courts that the Hells Angels is a criminal organization, Chappell said: “I can’t speak to what they are now. I don’t know.”
“I have no opinion on what the Hells Angels are now.”
Chappell spoke of his own early life challenges. He said his father “was a lifelong biker” when he married Chappell’s late mother.
“The early ’90s were very pivotal in my life. My mother passed from alcoholism,” he said. “My dad left the club. And I was initiated in ’94 into our very spiritual, very cultural Coast Salish ceremonies.”
He moved away from Semiahmoo “to learn, to grow, to have different experiences and a different life.”
“There were a lot of issues here in Semiahmoo growing up. There was poverty, there was addiction, suicides — it’s changed a lot. And I think that’s given me strength to be able to come back into leadership and really have that perspective that I want something different for future generations.”