British Columbia

Inquest into Mountie's death calls for more mental health services in RCMP

A coroner's jury tasked with reviewing the suicide of a former RCMP spokesman is recommending increased mental health resources for Mounties.

Pierre Lemaitre killed himself in 2013 after struggling with post traumatic stress and depression

A coroner's jury has recommended increased mental health services to prevent future deaths of officers like former RCMP spokesperson Pierre Lemaitre, who killed himself in 2013. (CBC)

A coroner's jury tasked with reviewing the suicide of a former RCMP spokesman is recommending increased mental health resources for Mounties.

The jury delivered five recommendations Thursday after spending three days reviewing the circumstances surrounding the July 2013 death of Pierre Lemaitre.

Among the recommendations is the implementation of a plan to include mental health assessments as part of a three-year mandatory physical assessment for police officers.

The jury also wants classes for family members at the time that new recruits are initially hired in order to "provide an overview of potential mental health issues that can arise over the years."

'Hung out to dry' 

Lemaitre's friends and family testified that he developed post traumatic stress disorder as a front-line police officer dealing with events that included the brutal slayings of young women who reminded him of his own daughters.

But he also felt betrayed by the RCMP in relation to the force's handling of the death of Robert Dziekanski, who was tasered by officers at YVR in 2007 on the day he arrived in Canada to live with his mother.

The 2007 death of Robert Dziekanski after he was tasered by RCMP turned out to be a turning point for Pierre Lemaitre who wanted to correct the public record about misinformation in relation to the incident. (Paul Pritchard/Canadian Press)

Lemaitre wanted to correct misinformation that he gave to the public, but was forbidden to do so by his supervisors. He was then transferred to traffic services, in a move that his friends said made him feel "hung out to dry."

His wife said he became depressed as he saw himself portrayed as a liar and a spin doctor in repeated coverage in the following years.

He then overheard a supervisor in the traffic unit call him "redundant" and went on medical leave.

The coroner's jury called on the RCMP to "offer a variety of learning methods for mental health education for all members of the RCMP" and to make funding available for their recommendations.

Crucially, they also called for the development of "measures to evaluate the effectiveness of the RCMP mental health strategy."

'Not a normal job'

The RCMP's chief psychologist testified at the inquest about the measures that the force has taken to cut through the stigma of mental illness and to encourage members to seek help when they need it.

Roxane Marois claimed the force has helped to develop a series of peer-to-peer programs and tried to make it easier for members to obtain external psychological counselling without having to go through their supervisors.

But in her testimony, Marois admitted they haven't implemented any "performance indicators" to see how many members are actually making use of mental health services.

A psychologist who counselled Lemaitre called for more services during her testimony.

Georgia Nemetz told the jury that the inherent dangers of policing mean that officers are constantly exposed to events that have the possibility of causing trauma.

"It is not a normal job, and recruits going in should not expect to have a normal life," she told the jury.

"They should not expect that their usual coping skills will be sufficient to protect them."

About the Author

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.

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