RCMP officer pleads guilty to groping co-worker in Whitehorse
Const. Stephen Knaack squeezed a woman's behind while giving her a hug
An RCMP officer has pleaded guilty to sexual assault, and been disciplined by the force, after groping a co-worker in Whitehorse earlier this year.
Const. Stephen Knaack — then a corporal — was on duty and in uniform when the incident happened on Jan. 4. According to an agreed statement of facts filed in Yukon Territorial Court, he had exchanged holiday greetings with a public service employee of the RCMP while visiting her workplace during the workday.
The document describes how Knaack reached down to the woman as she was seated at her desk, to give her a hug.
The woman instead stood up, saying, "let me stand so I can give you a real hug."
Knaack replied that she was only standing up so that he could "grab [her] ass."
The statement of facts says the officer then hugged the woman, and squeezed her behind with one hand. She reportedly told him there was "lots to grab," and Knaack replied, "I like big women."
The woman, who cannot be named because of a publication ban, says she never consented to sexual touching. She lodged a formal complaint to RCMP the next day.
Police began an internal code of conduct investigation, and a criminal investigation.
Knaack apologised, but was demoted and fined
Two days after the incident, on Jan. 6, Knaack wrote an email to his superior officer decribing the groping and calling it, "disreputable conduct for a member and supervisor."
A month later, he was suspended with pay, and in May was charged with sexual assault.
RCMP also took disciplinary action, demoting Knaack from corporal to constable, which amounts to an $8,000 salary cut per year.
He was also made to forfeit 160 hours' worth of pay taken from his leave bank which the court valued at about $8,000 before tax.
Knaack also had to offer a written apology to his co-worker, which will be placed in his long-term conduct file as a police officer.
He has now been transferred to an unspecified location outside Yukon, and cannot get a promotion for three years.
Seeking conditional discharge
The court noted Knaack has otherwise, "never received a complaint against him for harassment or assault of any kind by a fellow member or employee of the RCMP," in his 17 year career.
He is seeking a conditional discharge which would include probation and counselling, but would not lead to a criminal record.
A Crown prosecutor has been called in from Nunavut, to avoid conflicts of interest in the case.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 30.