Sam Cooper (Vancouver Province) – In the desk drawer of B.C.’s top Mountie sits a signed resignation letter, part of a contract that is unprecedented in the history of the RCMP.
The letter is from a 45-year-old Saskatchewan Mountie who was appointed to the force’s sixth-highest rank of inspector, in 2006. Only a few years later, by his own admission, he hit rock bottom, committing crimes in connection to his alcoholism.
The Province has learned that this Mountie of 22 years’ experience was neither dismissed nor demoted by the RCMP in a discipline hearing following a drunk-driving conviction in February 2012. Instead, he was transferred to B.C.
We sought answers. Was this not similar to the case of Sgt. Don Ray, the disgraced Alberta Mountie who was shipped to B.C. RCMP head-quarters after being disciplined for sexual and alcohol-related misconduct?
In response to our questions, B.C. RCMP spokesman Supt. Ray Bernoties stressed that the Saskatchewan Mountie has never been accused of harassment. And in an interview, Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens explained his reasons for accepting the transfer of the Saskatchewan Mountie. And the officer himself provided a candid disclosure statement.
“A number of years ago, I made several wrong decisions,” the inspector told The Province. “I am an alcoholic and, unfortunately, like many, I had to reach rock bottom before I could accept that I had a problem.”
Based on information in the statement, The Province has decided not to name him. But because Commissioner Bob Paulson recently raised the issue of officer misconduct related to alcohol, and raised questions around how the RCMP should handle different types of misconduct, The Province judged the Saskatchewan Mountie’s case to be of public interest.
The record shows that in March 2009, at about 3 a.m. at a home in Regina, the Saskatchewan Mountie was arrested by city police and charged with assaulting a male RCMP sergeant. The Crown withdrew the charge after the inspector admitted to the offence, and completed mediation out of court, thus avoiding a criminal record.
In August 2010, again in Regina, he was arrested by city police for drunk driving. He pleaded not guilty.
In February 2012 he was found guilty at trial, and given a minimum sentence and a criminal record. He was suspended with pay pending an internal conduct review. In RCMP discipline hearings it was found his inappropriate conduct was due to alcoholism, and a dismissal wasn’t sought, said Callens.
In April, Callens decided to accept the Mountie’s transfer to B.C. RCMP headquarters in Vancouver, where he will work in the Operations Strategic Planning branch.
Before his transfer to Saskatchewan, the inspector, who has undergone treatment and been sober for 17 months, completed 15 years of “exemplary” service in difficult postings in B.C., which were all considerations in his chances of rehabilitation in the B.C. RCMP, Callens said.
Callens said the terms of the transfer include the inspector submitting to random alcohol tests for five years from an independent physician. He was also required to provide a signed resignation letter and discharge document to Callens.
“This transfer to B.C. is an opportunity for me to continue the work I have done since becoming sober,” the inspector told The Province. “In advance of my transfer, I signed my resignation, which now sits in the commanding officer’s desk drawer and requires only his signature to become effective. He advised me that one drop of alcohol in my body would result in him signing.”
Callens said the agreement is unique in the history of the RCMP.
“I have taken unprecedented steps to ensure the organization is protected and the public is protected,” Callens said. “If he shows any alcohol whatsoever in his system . . . he will be discharged.”
In a May 28 internal email that was obtained by this newspaper, Paulson wrote that the case of Ray “meets my definition of outrageous behaviour. It is a sad stain on our reputation and I understand the Province of British Columbia’s concerns about his transfer.”
Paulson indicated cases like Ray’s will be handled differently in the future, and the RCMP is trying to get tougher on problem officers, in order to improve public trust.
But he also wrote that “police work is challenging and difficult,” and misconduct sometimes is the “result of alcohol, stress or other dependencies.”
Some cases “require us to act in the interests of the employee, to get them help and give them a fair chance to right their behaviours,” Paulson wrote.
In an interview, Callens stressed that the cases of Sgt. Ray and the Saskatchewan Mountie are different.
“The distinction between the [Sgt. Ray case] and this member who has a medical condition, is just that,” Cal-lens said. “I think alcohol and behaviours that stem from it, are things that reasonable people can under-stand.”