Half of complaints against RCMP lead to discipline, data suggests
Analysis of 5 years of RCMP data finds 76 cases in which Mounties retired or left force to avoid discipline
Using RCMP aircraft to poach caribou, leaving a loaded gun at a gas station, sexual offences involving children and not responding to calls for help are among 700 cases over the last five years where the RCMP found its employees had broken its rules or the law.
Analysis of RCMP internal disciplinary data, obtained under Access to Information by CBC/Radio-Canada, reveals that more than half of complaints against members of the force were found to be justified, and also that there was wide latitude in the severity of punishments handed out.
For instance, one Mountie who "provided false information to his superior pertaining to his physical fitness test" was docked two weeks of annual leave. But another, accused of pepper-spraying an arrested individual who was tied to a chair "while in full restraints" in a jail cell, was ordered to undergo counselling and special training.
But the data also suggests the Mounties are making progress on at least one front: complaints of use of excessive force in carrying out their duties.
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CBC/Radio-Canada also found 76 cases where officers avoided RCMP discipline by retiring or resigning in the face of allegations as serious as violent assaults on family members, possessing child pornography and trafficking cocaine.
In some of those 76 cases, the RCMP recommended criminal investigations or charges, such as with former Const. Randi Love from Kamloops, B.C., who is now facing charges for dealing drugs.
But in others, no information was provided in the RCMP documents. CBC/Radio-Canada asked the force for more details but it told us to file another access to information request.
Majority of complaints substantiated
The data provided by the Mounties includes 1,253 summaries of allegations from B.C., Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec, as well as the outcomes of the disciplinary investigations.
The complaints were made between Jan. 1, 2010 and Oct. 9, 2015. They vary in seriousness from an officer cheating on a charity golf tournament scorecard, to another lying under oath, to a high-speed car chase that contributed to the death of a pedestrian.
CBC/Radio-Canada organized the incidents into 11 categories and entered the information into a database, noting where the RCMP made findings of guilt and how the force did or did not discipline the member.
The data reveals the RCMP's internal discipline process found the complaints were justified in 56 per cent of all cases.
The majority of complaints fall into three broad categories:
- Information leaks and lies, including lying during an investigation and wrongly searching police databases. Over the five-year period, the RCMP received 242 complaints and substantiated the allegations in 128 cases.
- Dereliction of duty, including failure to promptly respond to calls for help, with 215 complaints over the five years, of which 127 were substantiated.
- Mischief, including a variety of bad behaviours such as off-duty public drunkenness and abuses of authority. Over the period, 215 complaints were made with 120 findings of guilt.
Examples of complaints that fell into these categories range from invasions of privacy to sick pranks:
- In a February 2015 case, a male member of the force "inappropriately accessed RCMP electronic database, sent inappropriate pictures of a sexual nature to a youth and used his position as a member to pursue a relationship with the youth." The RCMP ultimately moved to fire the man.
- A member obtained information from the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), a centralized database of criminal records and incidents, for a member of the public and then tried to hide the action.
- In a 2013 complaint, a member failed to properly investigate a sexual assault complaint and then lied about it. It led to a reprimand, special training and increased supervision.
- In 2012, a Mountie received special training and a reprimand after a prank "that involved having [a] cadet inspect the genitals of a deceased male."
- A 2010 complaint says that a Mountie, who did not have a licence to hunt caribou, used RCMP aircraft "to locate and circle caribou herds" before landing in Lac Brochet, Man., hopping on a police snowmobile and driving back to the caribou to shoot and kill four of the animals. Parts of this incident summary are redacted and there is no indication about how this complaint was resolved.
- A unique case involved a member who "inappropriately obtained a football from a B.C. Lions player." While short on details, the RCMP took it seriously enough to dock him eight days' pay and order him to undergo special training.
Fewer complaints about use of force
The data also suggests fewer people are complaining about excessive use of force.
In 2010, the RCMP received 22 official complaints in that category. By 2015, the number had fallen to eight, of which only one was substantiated.
The decline corresponds with a 2010 change to the RCMP's rules on the use of Tasers.
Tasers may now be used only after a verbal warning and only when a suspect is causing bodily harm or could "imminently" hurt someone.
Retired chief superintendent Louise Morel, who used to be in charge of the RCMP's professional standards, also credits improvements in officer training.
"Over the years — and the RCMP has been good at this — if the public complaints commission or the RCMP identifies an issue, excessive use of force for instance, the RCMP will immediately look at their training program and make modifications at basic training," Morel told CBC/Radio-Canada.
Unclear what is being tracked
Given the RCMP was unable to provide data for five provinces and the information that CBC/Radio-Canada did receive came in four incompatible formats, it is unclear what exactly, the national police force is able to track in terms of discipline and conduct.
In an email received late last night, the RCMP said it has started using an interactive case management database containing information submitted from each division that is centrally monitored at national headquarters for inconsistencies.
A small but steady number of officers are losing their guns. The documents obtained by CBC/Radio-Canada summarize several incidents where Mounties left their service pistols at Tim Hortons or other restaurants and one in which a loaded gun was left at a gas station.
There are also a number of cases where people broke into police cruisers and stole unsecured weapons (sometimes loaded), ammunition and case log books. One Mountie had his pistol stolen from the back of his chair while eating at a restaurant.
For the most part, these officers were reprimanded and told to take some special training.
In addition, a spokesperson for the force says an early intervention system is now in place to allow "supervisors and/or senior management to proactively identify members at an early stage that may benefit from interventions."
Morel said the need for such a system has grown since the RCMP updated its disciplinary regime in 2014. These days, almost all corrective measures where the force doesn't want to fire someone are taken by local supervisors.
"It really becomes dependent on where you are, the tolerance of that division, the tolerance of the line officer, the personal relationships between the member who contravened the act and so on," said Morel.
When asked if she feels members are being disciplined consistently, Morel replied, "I doubt that they are, unless you're seeking dismissal."
Get out before the going gets tough
The data contains summaries in which the subject of a complaint resigned or retired in advance of formal discipline, especially when facing serious allegations.
Senator Vern White is familiar with the practice. The former senior Mountie was also chief of police for the City of Ottawa and Ontario's Durham Region.
"Certainly in both of those realms, both municipal policing and the RCMP, that people, when they see how the case is going to go, they will withdraw from the organization," White said.
In several instances, such as when a member in Ontario was found to have lied under oath, the documents indicate a superior officer "negotiated voluntary resignation."
White said he's participated in such negotiations on a few occasions where he felt it was necessary for an officer to leave the force.
Morel agreed and points out the same thing happens in just about every other workplace.
"They've done conduct that's egregious, and instead of facing a disciplinary hearing, they resign. Well, you've accomplished your goal, they're no longer a police officer," she said.
"If it is a criminal offence, then they will be facing criminal sanctions."
with files from Guillaume Dumont and analysis by Valérie Ouellet