The Kamloops RCMP is getting some pointed criticism from the Commission For Public Complaints Against the RCMP for their handling of an alleged jailhouse sex scandal in their detachment.
A report released Wednesday by Ian McPhail, the interim chairman of the commission, details the August 2010 incident in the cells of the detachment, noting that it was a female officer who alerted superiors after overhearing a co-worker talking about the explicit sexual activity that took place between two female suspects earlier in the shift.
Four officers and three civilian guards are alleged to have watched on closed-circuit monitoring as two women in custody engaged in explicit sexual activity.
Rather than intervene, the guards and officers allegedly called their colleagues to the room to watch, some of them laughing and making crude comments about the activity they were observing in the cell.
An internal investigation conducted by a member of the Kamloops RCMP detachment led to breach of trust charges against Cpl. Kenneth Brown, Const. Evan Elgee, Const. Stephen Zaharia and civilian guard David Tompkins.
The RCMP officers remain suspended pending the outcome of their trial.
The commission's investigation, launched Sept. 28, 2010, responded to a complaint by the Elizabeth Fry Society of Greater Vancouver, which alleged that "senior staff at the detachment failed to manage personnel responsibly, and were complacent in the care and custody of inmates."
The report concluded that detachment commander Insp. Yves Lacasse acted in "a timely and appropriate manner to the allegations."
However, the report said he failed to acknowledge the bias arising from an internal investigation conducted by local officers, including one stating up front he had a close personal friendship with one of the officers allegedly involved.
"The success of any investigation cannot be determined solely on the basis of whether or not criminal charges were laid and convictions obtained; public confidence risks being undermined regardless of a well-done and timely investigation and its criminal outcome, if the public does not trust the process itself," said the commission report.
In February 2010, the force introduced its External Investigation or Review Policy governing investigations of its own members. But despite at least a dozen recommendations that the investigation into this incident be handed over to an external agency, it was conducted by an officer in the Kamloops detachment and one that stated up front that he had a close personal friendship with one of the officers eventually charged.
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson agreed with the commission's conclusion.
"I agree that (Lacasse) had sufficient information to identify the potential for a bias to be perceived and that he failed to do so," states Paulson's written response to the commission. "I support the recommendation that Inspector Lacasse receive operational guidance regarding the proper identification of issues involving the impartiality of RCMP member-involved investigations."
Lacasse said Wednesday he has read the report and recommendations but declined to comment.
"At this point I think it would be highly inappropriate for me to comment any further given the fact that the case is still before the courts," he said.
He also hesitated to say if any changes were implemented at the detachment or with his own leadership since the event took place.
"There's always lessons learned with everything that we do," he said. "I think there are a lot of people that learned different things."
The commission also detailed other failings, most notably that the members' behaviour "demonstrated a lack of professionalism and respect."
"Further, we found that the senior member present demonstrated a marked lack of leadership by failing to intervene," it stated. "These lapses were not merely personal failures but had the potential of damaging the reputation of the RCMP both locally and nationally."
The female officer who first alerted superiors in August 2010 didn't immediately respond to the stories of explicit sexual behaviour in the cell, the report said. She was off for four days, during which it appears the incident continued to be the talk of the detachment but nothing more.
When she returned to work, other members were still talking about it and she sent an email to her supervisor expressing concern and suggesting it needed further investigation.
McPhail noted that both women in the cell "were obviously intoxicated," and one of the women told arresting officers she was HIV positive.
During a telephone conversation later in the day, the supervisor, Brown, "asked Const. Butler if she was joking, and he explained to her that he had been involved and there would likely be an internal investigation."
The next day, Brown went to a senior officer in the detachment as a friend to talk about the incident, which led to an investigation.
The report noted the RCMP's E Division in B.C. co-operated completely in the commission investigation, providing all materials in their own investigative file and any other requested by the commission.
However, several of the officers involved and one of the civilian guards refused to speak with commission investigators.
The commission made four recommendations, including that the RCMP consider amending its policy to provide guidance as to when circumstances are "serious or sensitive" and, consequently, where investigation by an external agency is appropriate.
Paulson agreed with the commission's findings, but rejected the commission's call for greater guidance as to what constitutes a "serious or sensitive" matter.
"The purpose of the broad wording of the policy is to provide the necessary flexibility to decision-makers in exercising their discretion in different circumstances," stated Paulson.
THE DAILY NEWS/THE CANADIAN PRESS