RCMP officer pleads guilty to drunk driving, gets $2,400 fine and 1-year driving ban
Work-related trauma, depression, PTSD contributed to offence, lawyers say
A veteran RCMP officer who pleaded guilty to driving impaired while off-duty received a $2,400 fine and a one-year driving suspension.
Cpl. Scott Hanson — a 45-year-old with 17 years on the force — apologized to his wife and the public during his sentencing on Wednesday, saying he is working to deal with mental health issues that led him to self-medicate with alcohol.
"I recognize that I'm a police officer, but I'm a human first. I've let myself down, I've let my agency down, but most importantly, I've let the public down," he said.
"I clearly made an error in judgment when I was at my weakest … I pride myself on being a problem solver, not a problem maker."
On Sept. 1, 2017, Hanson was driving back from a charity golf event when erratic driving — running over construction pylons, swerving across the road and into oncoming traffic — prompted concerned members of the public to phone police. Police clocked him driving 150 km/h in a 90 km/h zone.
When officers pulled Hanson over, his clothes were soaked in an unknown liquid that smelled of whiskey.
As officers led him over to the police cruiser, he had trouble walking straight and almost fell trying to get in the vehicle. When officers asked for a breath sample, he refused.
"No, I won't," officers heard him say.
That fact, along with Hanson's role as a police officer, are both aggravating factors in this case, Judge Tracey Lord said.
"Luck is all that stood between you and your vehicle and causing injury or worse to other motorists or pedestrians," she said.
Lawyers for the Crown and defence submitted a joint sentencing recommendation.
Although Hanson's driving on the night was "atrocious," prosecutor Deidre Badcock noted that Hanson immediately took steps to try to make amends, attending regular counselling sessions and abstaining from alcohol.
Badcock said the fine is slightly more than usual, while the driving ban is slightly lower. The shorter driving prohibition gives Hanson, who is currently on medical leave from the force, a better chance of one day returning to work.
"When a person such as Mr. Hanson has been chosen, privileged to uphold the law, and commits a crime like this, it has the potential to have the public lose faith in policing and the system," Badcock said.
However, she said the trauma police experience as a result of their work puts them at a higher risk for alcohol-related offences.
Hanson's lawyer, Josh Weinstein, said Hanson had already been seeing a psychologist through the RCMP health service to deal with issues related to his job.
"We put these individuals in harm's way and to some extent they become broken by what they do and then we expect them to sort of be heroes," Weinstein said. "I know that Mr. Hanson has been decorated for bravery previously. And then we should be mindful to sort of not to then throw the hammer at them when they sort of fall."
There's no guarantee that Hanson will return to work, Weinstein said. He has depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and has been assessed as a risk for alcohol dependency disorder, although the psychologist concluded he did not need curative treatment.
His medical leave from the RCMP has no end date, and he will have to go through a code of conduct hearing before being accepted back to the force, Weinstein said.
"They obviously take these things very seriously as well and there can be consequences. It is not as if they would simply have a discharge position for somebody suffering from what Mr. Hanson does."
Lord accepted the joint sentencing recommendation, saying saying she recognizes Hanson's job places a burden on him and acknowledging his efforts to deal with his issues.
"The community is entitled to have certain expectations of you that they don't have of other citizens and that's just the way it is," she said.