NATIONAL

What's really killing the Mounties

Dangerous work. No backup. Nasty bosses. Vicious infighting. The RCMP is in ruins. BY JONATHON GATEHOUSE AND CHARLIE GILLIS

November 26 2007
NATIONAL

What's really killing the Mounties

Dangerous work. No backup. Nasty bosses. Vicious infighting. The RCMP is in ruins. BY JONATHON GATEHOUSE AND CHARLIE GILLIS

November 26 2007

What's really killing the Mounties

NATIONAL

Dangerous work. No backup. Nasty bosses. Vicious infighting. The RCMP is in ruins. BY JONATHON GATEHOUSE AND CHARLIE GILLIS

It was billed as a major drug bust, significant enough to put a crimp into southern Ontario’s cocaine trade. A seven-month undercover sting that culminated in the July 2005 seizure of two kilos of coke, $144,000 in cash, a silencerequipped .22-calibre pistol, and the arrest of four men alleged to have ties to the Hells Angels, Persian mob, and, as the press release put it, “traditional” organized crime.

But this past Sept. 27, the accused—Trifu Margan, David Lawrence, Randy Singh, and supposed kingpin Sharame (Sean) Sherzady—walked out of a Burlington courthouse scot-free, without ever having to answer the charges. After months of delays, the Crown withdrew the case on the day their preliminary hearings were scheduled to begin because the chief witnesses—five RCMP officers who

were at the centre of the investigation—were unavailable to testify. “Officers Claim Illness, Drug Charges Dropped,” said the headline in a local paper. The prosecutor and various police agencies—the bust was the work of the elite Golden Horseshoe Combined Special Forces Enforcement Unit (CSFEU)—expressed disappointment. But no one seemed willing to address the reasons a bunch of battle-tested cops have been off the job on stress leave for close to 20 months, or ask why the Mounties appeared willing to let four accused mobsters walk rather than fix the problem.

It’s been a long road for Const. Luis Cerritos and his RCMP colleagues from the CSFEU. Sitting in their lawyer’s Toronto offices, three of the five recently told their story to Maclean’s, saying they have been left with no choice but to speak out. In doing so, Cerritos

can’t hold back the tears. Wearing the red serge was a dream ever since he came to Canada as an 18-year-old in 1987. University educated, trilingual, his nine-year career had become a source of considerable pride for his family and others in the Latin American community. For Cerritos, the turning point came in May 2005, when Insp. Jym Grimshaw became his boss. The unit, once a happy and tight-knit group, changed overnight, he says, into a workplace rife with harassment, racist bullying and physical intimidation. “I was being called names that I had never heard before. I started being ashamed of not being white,” he says, stifling a sob. “My wife was pregnant at the time and my unborn baby was called a Mexican motherf—-er.”

As the abuse continued, the stress just got worse. At home, he was either withdrawn or

angry. When his newborn daughter cried, Cerritos had to flee the room. At the office, he buried himself in paperwork, finding excuses to avoid his colleagues. He began to “zone out” while behind the wheel, and started worrying that he might freeze or make the wrong decision in a life-or-death situation. “I didn’t have a broken leg or a bullet in my chest, yet I couldn’t function. I was falling apart and I couldn’t control it,” he says.

Corp. Gery Markie, a 14-year-veteran, was having similar difficulties. He couldn’t sleep. He spent his weekends dreading the Monday morning return to the office, and started each day on the internal RCMP job site looking for a new position. “We’ve all dealt with guns and knives and big guys who wanted to beat you up,” he says. “But to feel those feelings, to not want to even walk back into your own office, that’s something new.” Sgt. Peter Kidd, who has spent two decades in the RCMP, found himself experiencing nosebleeds, concentration problems and mood swings.

All of that, however, was nothing compared to what they experienced when they came forward to complain. Suddenly, they were on the defensive, fighting allegations of poor performance, and disciplinary infractions. Ostracized by their colleagues, and asked to continue working in the same office as the boss they feared, the officers all eventually ended up on sick leave—diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder and depression. Since then, they have been effectively cut off from all communication—the force even took away their laptops—and have spent more than a year and a half waiting in vain for someone at RCMP headquarters to address their concerns. The dropped drug case is just the latest in a long line of insults, many of which they refuse to discuss for fear of running afoul of regulations that prohibit them from openly criticizing the force. (Unbeknownst to them, the RCMP had been assuring the Crown and the courts since January that the officers’ return to work was imminent. Cerritos first found out about the preliminary hearing when he received a subpoena to testify in mid-September. Like his colleagues, it had been 18 months since he had any access to his notes or case materials.)

It’s the kind of workplace hazard that you don’t normally associate with the RCMP. Of late, the news has been about the grave dangers of patrol-style policing, such as the man who shot dead 20-year-old Const. Douglas Scott while he responded to a routine drunkdriving call in the hamlet of Kimmirut, Nunavut. Like Const. Chris Worden, killed in Hay River, N.W.T., in early October, Scott was

working alone, and the two fatalities have highlighted staffing pressures in Canada’s storied national police service that insiders say have been building for years. But the internal, cultural problems underlying those difficulties may prove even more intractable. While the RCMP remains hundreds of officers shy of proper staffing levels, unable to recruit enough young men and women to fill the seats of police cruisers across the country, the force’s senior command appears too paralyzed by scandal and too overwhelmed by the sheer scale of its task to properly manage, protect and discipline the members it has.

The effect of this disarray on individual Mounties has been devastating. Internal RCMP documents obtained by Maclean’s

A major drug bust fell apart because five officers couldn’t testify—they were on stress leave

show that one in eight members are now receiving a disability payment, in many cases in addition to their regular salaries. And it’s not simply the physical nature of the job. In 2006, 30 per cent of all new disability pensions were granted because of psychological injury. Many were from exposure to predictable traumas—violent crimes, car accidents, shootings. But a growing proportion, notes the document, are from “cumulative and prolonged stress” at work, exacerbated by ‘cultural factors, such as low supervisor and co-worker support.”

This past summer, David Brown, the Toronto lawyer charged with investigating the mishandling of the RCMP’s pension and insurance funds, lifted the lid on a much more serious problem, declaring the force’s culture,

governance and management structure “horribly broken.” (A new task force he is chairing will deliver recommendations on how to fix the problems to the Harper government next month.) As a constitutional challenge over legislation that denies RCMP officers the right to unionize looms, the divide between front-line members and their “white shirt” bosses seems wider than ever. According to the results of an internal 2007 survey, only 50 per cent of RCMP employees now believe they are treated fairly by the force; just 54 per cent feel “respected and trusted” by their superiors; and a feeble 26 per cent agree that the force develops capable and competent senior leaders. Much has been made of the recent appointment of William Elliott, a former bureaucrat and “new broom” commissioner who replaced Giuliano Zaccardelli, who resigned in disgrace over the Maher Arar affair. But even with a civilian at the helm, the force’s taste— or capacity—for the type of reforms needed to address such widespread concerns remains an open question.

THE CSFEU situation seems a case in point. The lawsuit Cerritos and his four colleagues filed against their old boss and his superiors in May, describes a work environment that was well beyond broken. (The two other officers, Corp. David Hoto and Const. Augie Chung, declined to discuss the case with Maclean’s.) Behind the office doors, and in public settings, Insp. Grimshaw is said to have used a vast array of slurs to describe Aboriginals, Asians, Hispanics, blacks, Arabs and East Indians, among other ethnic groups, as well as women and homosexuals. Cerritos was regularly called a “spic” or “f-ing Mexican.” Chung (who is of Korean extraction) was a “Chink” or ‘Chinaman.” Once, while giving visiting a police officer a tour of the unit, Grimshaw is reported to have remarked: “I have the United Nations here. I’m only missing a nigger, but I’m working on it.”

And the abuse, the suit alleges, was not limited to minorities. When his behaviour was questioned, Grimshaw launched into profane tirades against his underlings, and threatened them with poor performance reviews. An imposing man—the inspector is six foot five and 285 lb.—he is alleged to have boasted about using “unnecessary physical

force against suspects.” At one point, the environment in the office became so poisonous that Sgt. Kidd began wearing his gun inside the station.

None of the allegations have been proven in court, and the RCMP refuses to discuss the specifics of the complaint. For his part, Grimshaw says the claims are untrue, and that he is looking forward to a court hearing that will enable him to clear his name. “It’s going to be very, very odd that the only people who can substantiate what they said about me are the actual five people themselves, and that nobody else in the office heard the same stuff they did,” he told Maclean’s. “I don’t think I’ve ever used the word spic, to tell you the honest-to-God truth. And as far as the other language goes, I’m respectful of all people.” Grimshaw also denies the charges that he physically intimidated or threatened anyone. And if the workplace was dysfunctional, he says, it was due to his accusers’ poor performance. “I inherited a unit that was supposed to be elite, that was operating with those people

The widow of one slain officer issued a stinging indictment of the force for `not doing enough to keep members safe'

in it for three years without making an arrest,” says the inspector. “I think their tactic was to get rid of me before I was able to identify their inabilities.” Grimshaw does acknowledge that he faced a disciplinary hearing and was sanctioned as a result of his co-workers’ complaints.

The way that disciplinary process played out is also part of the officers’ lawsuit. For years the RCMP educated officers about the force’s harassment policies, and their duty to report any abuse that came to their attention. (In 2004, then-commissioner Zaccardelli had his close friend chief superintendent Ben Soave travel the country to deliver seminars on the policy. That same year, Soave himself was accused of sexual harassment, but retired in April 2005, just before a formal disciplinary process was to be launched.) However, when the CSFEU officers informed superiors of their intention to file a complaint about Grimshaw, his immediate boss, Supt. Don Panchuk, launched his own investigation, pre-empting the harassment process. The result, the lawsuit contends, was a whitewash. Before they went off sick, the officers say they were made

to feel the consequences of speaking out, suddenly encountering difficulties filing overtime, or applying for promotion. Sgt. Kidd found himself facing Code of Conduct allegations over the removal of documents from the office, and failing to report his former boss’s “wrongdoing” in a timely fashion. In sharp contrast, Grimshaw received a promotion in the fall of 2006, to assistant officer in charge of all CSFEUs in Ontario. He is to retire this January.

It is hard to imagine why the RCMP failed to resolve such a messy dispute before it reached the public domain. Ravaged by personnel shortages and bruised by the pension

scandal, the task of selling the force as a nice place to work is difficult enough. In September, personnel managers admitted they will fall 300 bodies short of their 2007 recruiting targets, despite an $800,000 advertising campaign to reach potential applicants. Fully 600 officers are expected to retire in each of the next four or five years, and untold numbers are leaving the force for private sector jobs or other police services. With so many officers disappearing on stress or long-term sick leave, allegations of this sort are the last thing the RCMP needs.

So too is the growing concern about how well it protects its officers. The deaths of eight members in 31 months have prompted usual statements of support from politicians and the police community. But not everybody’s repeating the party line. Last week, Const. Worden’s widow, Jodie, issued a stinging indictment of the force for “not doing enough to keep members safe.” Noting similarities between her husband’s death and that of Const. Scott in Kimmirut, who died less than a month later, Worden chided the force for allowing officers to patrol alone late at night— a practice most major police services phased out long ago. She also blasted them for allowing inexperienced officers like Const. Scott to work in two-member detachments. “[Senior officers] have no idea of the demands and the expectations that are put on regular mem-

bers up in the North,” Worden told the CBC. “They need to send two members to every call. That’s just an officer safety issue.”

The damage wrought by this cycle of bad news is becoming increasingly obvious: the more unpleasant the role of Mountie becomes, the harder it is to attract new officers; the more the force’s ranks are depleted, the more unpleasant being a Mountie becomes. Meanwhile, communities that used to voice unwavering support for their local Mounties are showing less patience for the force’s dysfunctions. In Nova Scotia, the municipality of Victoria County voted to withhold $100,000 of its contract fees because its five-member detachment in Baddeck had been down two officers—including its staff sergeant—for six months. In Hillsborough, N.B., council was reduced to hiring a private security firm to patrol the village on weekend nights, and is now looking into some form of municipal or regional police service. “It all comes down to the lack of RCMP officers and the size of the geographic area they’re supposed to patrol,” says Mayor Donna Bennett. “The situation we’ve got just does not make sense. I actually feel sorry for officers trying to do the job.” In B.C., where nearly a third of RCMP officers are posted—and where critics say criminal networks have gained the upper hand on understaffed Mounties—the stakes are even higher. Two weeks ago, the chief constable of the West Vancouver municipal police floated the idea of a regional force on the Lower Mainland, an idea that would remove the cities of Burnaby, North Vancouver, Richmond and Surrey from the RCMP’s bailiwick. Kash Heed justified the idea on grounds that the area’s patchwork of police forces work in their own silos, leaving it vulnerable to criminals who moved between districts. But his suggestion came on the heels of a shooting in RCMP-patrolled Surrey, in which two innocent bystanders and four people associated with drug-trafficking rings the Mounties had known about for years died.

Barring a wholesale reorganization of the force, or a massive injection of cash, it’s hard to imagine what any task force or new commissioner could do to reverse this drift. For now, says Linda Duxbury, a Carleton University professor who has conducted three separate studies of working conditions inside the RCMP, the entire institution is being propped up by the near-pathological dedication of officers who’ve invested their lives in it. “The workloads in the RCMP were among the worst I’ve seen in any organization,” said Duxbury of her 2004 study (her most recent probe, conducted this year, has not yet been released). “But the culture of the organization was literally sick. It was focused on the hours you put in, sucking it up, never saying

no. Anyone who pushed back was labelled a whiner, a loser, someone who just didn’t have the right stuff. By any objective standard, it was abnormal.”

ABNORMAL. Horribly broken. If William Elliott shares these considered opinions of the police force he just took over, he’s keeping it to himself. The commissioner declined requests for interviews for this story, leaving the job to deputy Bill Sweeney, a former divisional commander whom he selected to be his right-hand man shortly after taking the job. While Sweeney acknowledges the existence of harassment, intimidation and despair within the ranks, he holds out hope the task force will spare him and his colleagues more such intemperate findings. “We’re 26,000

people and we’re in the business of dealing with controversy and issues that generate very strong feelings,” Sweeney says. “We’re under a lot of pressure on a constant basis and it’s not surprising that relationships within a working environment like policing are often strained.”

Perhaps. But the frequency with which “strong feelings” are metasticizing into embarrassing court battles points to something worse than high-pressure police work. The floodgates cracked open seven years ago, when a group of female officers came forward alleging sexual harassment on the part of senior officers, saying their complaints had been downplayed or ignored. By May 2006, close to two dozen current and former members had filed affidavits in connection with the upcoming constitutional challenge to the union prohibition, all playing on the same

theme: a disturbing tolerance for bad and sometimes borderline criminal behaviour within the force. And those with the courage to blow the whistle frequently find themselves wishing they had never complained.

Tori Cliffe, a constable in Red Deer, Alta., came forward in 2000, after a fellow female officer reported she had been subjected to unwanted sexual advances and groping by a male colleague during an undercover operation. Cliffe had a similar experience with the officer accused, Sgt. Robert Blundell, a few years before, but had believed her career would be over if she dared to speak out. “I was having a hard time looking in the mirror each day knowing that in my job I had asked hundreds of women to do the same thing,” says Cliffe. Two other female officers also eventually came forward—with one claiming she had been raped. (An RCMP disciplinary investigation accepted Blundell’s explanation that the sex had been consensual.) For Cliffe, the repercussions were immediate. She became the target of gossip and scorn at the office, was forced to change jobs repeatedly, and faced a trumpedup Code of Conduct investigation. On the other hand, Blundell, who admitted to groping the initial complainant and Cliffe, received a reprimand, a referral for

counselling, and forfeited a day’s pay. He is now a staff sergeant in British Columbia.

In 2003, Cliffe and the three other complainants filed a civil suit against the force and Blundell over the affair. The RCMP settled in May 2004, and issued a press release praising the women for their “personal and professional commitment.” (The suit against Blundell is not being actively pursued.) To this day, many of Cliffe’s colleagues refuse to speak with her. “I opened Pandora’s box,” she says. “There will always be residual crap and an effect on my career.”

For Peter Merrifield, a 41-year-old constable who had distinguished himself doing counterterrorism work in Ontario, the offence was pursuing his constitutional right to seek political office. He had handled his May 2005 bid for the federal Conservative nomination

Following a promotion that angered a superior, one officer had a surveillance team assigned to him and his family

in Barrie, Ont., strictly by the book, taking leave without pay even though it was not required. He’d also maintained a clear line when campaigning between his platform and the policies of the force. But that didn’t stop senior officers from branding him a troublemaker and casting him into a Kafkaesque state of bureaucratic limbo, he says. No one at headquarters would confirm he was under investigation, yet Merrifield was unceremoniously yanked from his unit and declared “surplus to establishment,” a designation that effectively required him to do nothing.

As with Cliffe, Merrifield’s attempts to determine why he was being targeted only made things worse. “By then it was personal,” he says in an interview. “They were trying to teach me a lesson.” Merrifield lost the nomination, but soon after he was accused by an inspector at O Division, the headquarters of Ontario’s RCMP operations, of disclosing national security secrets during an interview

he’d done with a Toronto radio station. Next came a two-year audit of his personal expenses, according to an affidavit Merrifield has filed in support of the constitutional challenge. Again, both inquiries came to nothing.

Merrifield has soldiered on, taking a lesser job in customs and excise enforcement despite efforts by former colleagues to have him reinstated to security intelligence. Others haven’t fared so well. Rob Creasser, a constable based in Kamloops, B.C., who has been active in the unionization drive, was slapped with a gag order in August 2006, after telling a local radio station that members needed a clearer explanation of events leading to the fatal shooting of four Mounties near Mayerthorpe, Alta., more than a year earlier. Creasser grieved the order under the force’s staff relations policy, and won. But his superiors have offered nothing in the way of explanation or compensation. Two weeks ago, after being diagnosed with major depressive disorder, the veteran officer went off duty.

But the most glaring example is surely the case of Ken Smith. In 2001, the then 25-year veteran won a promotion to staff sergeant in charge of the RCMP’s drug sections in Frederiction and Saint John, N.B. However, Smith’s boss, Supt. Louis Lefebvre, had wanted the job to go to another officer, and immediately set about trying to discredit his new underling. In November 2002, Smith was hit with 10 Code of Conduct allegations, including swearing at a waiter in a restaurant, and using

his police-issue vehicle to visit his father in a Halifax hospital. What he didn’t learn until more than a year later is that the case against him was based on covert physical and electronic surveillance by his own colleagues. The RCMP has admitted in court that Lefebvre— with the support of his superior, Chief Supt. Jim Payne, but without a warrant—had a tracking and listening device attached to Smith’s car, and a surveillance team assigned to tail him and his family for six weeks.

An internal RCMP panel upheld a harassment complaint by Smith, ruling his bosses abused their power, but they faced few consequences. Payne recently retired, and Lefebvre is now in charge of the provincial office of the Criminal Intelligence Service. Smith, on the other hand, remains off work, waiting for a long-requested transfer out of the province. (A civil suit is winding its way through the courts, as is a private criminal complaint he brought against Lefebvre after the RCMP

and Crown declined to pursue the matter.) Meanwhile, his wife, also an RCMP officer, suffers daily indignities on the job. This past spring when she returned to work to find the combination to the office doors had been changed, none of her colleagues would provide it to her.

“Louis Lefebvre did an awful lot,” says Smith, whose legal bills have now topped more than $400,000. “But the organization supported him right throughout.” The real problem, he says, is a deeply ingrained culture of officers who feel they have the power to make—and break—the rules: the type of abuses the McDonald commission probed in the late 1970s. “We were supposed to have learned from that,” says Smith. “But certain parts of the force didn’t change at all. And they don’t even feel bad about it.”

WHETHER THE RCMP or its political masters can pull out of their tailspin is a question that may take years to answer. Joe Comartin, the federal NDP justice critic, says the Harper Conservatives, like the Liberals before them, have demonstrated little enthusiasm for the task of overhauling the force. “The RCMP are among the best police forces in the world,” says Comartin. “But they have a very archaic, mid-l800s military management culture.” Fixing the problem, he says, could take a generation, he adds. Still, the coming months will at least determine the appetite for change.

Communities that used to voice unwavering support are showing less patience with the RCMP’s dysfunctions

Some rank-and-file members are pinning high hopes to the pending task force report, along with Elliott’s recent promise that serious reforms are on the horizon. In an appearance before a Commons committee in September, the commissioner called for protection for whistle-blowers, discipline for wrongdoers, and an ombudsman to handle internal com-

plaints. “We need to have mechanisms and processes in place,” he said, “to support a culture of fairness and respect.”

The government has certainly empowered Brown’s five-member panel to usher in the sort of dramatic change Elliott alluded to, mandating it to examine everything from whether the force needs outside oversight, to how it holds senior management accountable and protects whistle-blowers. But it’s difficult

to gauge how deeply Brown is delving. Requests for an interview with task force members were declined, and no one from the body was willing to even outline how it is going about its work. An email was sent to all RCMP members a few weeks ago asking for written submissions, along with the suggestion that members with concerns over the way the force does

business ask their commanding officers to arrange a town hall meeting. A few have been held, but no one seems that interested in hearing from the whistle-blowers. Bill Gilmour, a Toronto lawyer and former RCMP officer, went public this past spring, saying he has a dozen clients waiting to share stories of serious wrongdoing within the force if they are given protection from reprisals. So far, no one from the task force has contacted him.

No surprise, then, that some 2,000 members have instead thrown their lot in with the nascent union movement, whose constitutional challenge against the RCMP Act and tide of supporting affidavits have at least shown some potential to advance members’ rights. “The way my case was handled has made a union supporter out of me,” says Merrifield, who normally identifies himself as a small-c conservative, but is now paying his $108 per year to belong to the association. “Believe me, that’s saying something.”

Yet this too has proven laborious, as the force fights rearguard actions both legal and political to keep the union at bay. Earlier this month, the case was delayed from going to court as RCMP lawyers registered objections to seemingly innocuous intervenors. More infuriating still to association leaders, directors of the RCMP’s in-house staff representative program last year tapped a members’ legal fund to hire the Ottawa-based lobbyist Summa Strategies to persuade federal MPs

against legalizing the union through legislative amendments. While the staff representatives control the fund, all RCMP members contribute $52 dollars per year to it, notes Merrifield in a court-filed affidavit. “They are using our money to advocate against us,” the document says. “I believe this is an abuse.” What does seem clear is that the RCMP’s accountability problems extend far beyond the walls of Ottawa HQ—a fact with implications for civilians as well as officers themselves. Unlike other police organizations in Canada, the force remains answerable only to itself. When a member of the public has a beef, the standard practice is for the RCMP to investigate the case and decide whether to pass it on to the outside Commis-

sion for Public Complaints (CPC). In turn, that body relies on facts and testimony gathered by the force to determine if rules or laws have been broken, then submits a finding that may still be overturned by the RCMP commissioner. In its 2006-07 annual report, the CPC noted that more than half of its adverse findings were overruled, with Zaccardelli or his interim replacement Bev Busson substituting their own assessments of evidence and witness credibility. “Right now the commissioner gets two licks at the spoon,” says CPC chair Paul Kennedy. “We have a model of police review that is based on a time that has passed us by.”

THERE WAS A LARGE and thirsty crowd for Jym Grimshaw’s retirement party at a dingy bar in an Oakville shopping plaza on Nov. 7-

The tributes—official and unofficial—took more than an hour. Glenn Lickers, chief of the Six Nations Police, honoured Grimshaw with a piece of handcrafted native pottery. RCMP Supt. Mark Fleming, his current boss at the Toronto CSFEU, called Grimshaw his “saviour,” read an official letter of appreciation from Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, and made a laughing reference to “certain legal matters we have to deal with.” Others mentioned the inspector’s leadership skills, empathy and ability as a “natural humorist.” There were also a couple of choice excerpts

from his service record: “His men would follow him anywhere, but only out of a morbid sense of curiosity,” wrote one wag.

When it was Grimshaw’s turn to take the stage, the emcee warned those with “sensitive ears” to leave the bar, and asked those who remained to turn off their recording devices. The guest of honour didn’t disappoint. He poked fun at his wife, a stammering colleague, and his vertically challenged boss. And while there were no stories about big busts, or dangerous on-the-job experiences, Grimshaw did share an epic 10-minute tale of how he once “s-t his pants” after four days of “all drinking, all the time” at a police conference in Denver. There were also some heartfelt moments as he reflected back on his 37 years of service. “I’m not leaving like some guys do, people who are disgruntled

and s-t,” said Grimshaw, pausing to pay special respect to his new boss Fleming. “I was in the penalty box. I don’t think anybody wanted to touch me because I had leprosy,” he said. “Mark made me feel comfortable about coming back, about still fitting in and stuff, because there was a lot of crap going on at the time. You guys may have read about it.” The crowd joined in his laughter.

Grimshaw’s five former colleagues can’t afford to be so free with their words. Still desperate to return to the job despite all that has transpired, their biggest fear now is that they could be charged under the RCMP Act if management deems them to have been openly critical of the force. “I’d like to think I have a strong sense of duty. And part of that duty is being guided by a set of RCMP core values: honesty, integrity, respect and accountability,” says Peter Kidd. “I was compelled to tell the truth at any cost. That’s what we teach our kids.” Gery Markie, who struggles daily with the “embarrassment” of having PTSD, admits to feeling betrayed, but will go no further. It’s left to Luis Cerritos to say what they are all thinking: blowing the whistle hasn’t been worth the trouble. “I would take it all back if I could. I would rather go back to writing tickets instead of going through this.”

The officers’ in-house advocate, staff relations representative Staff Sgt. Kim Floyd, says it is the most difficult case he has ever dealt with. “For whatever reason, the very process that is there to protect members failed these guys, and failed them miserably.” No evidence of the type of performance issues that Grimshaw alleges has ever been brought forward, he says. Floyd has now met with two successive commissioners to try to resolve things. Bev Busson launched a review of the case following an April tête-à-tête. It was completed in July, and apparently found several shortcomings in RCMP procedures. The five CSFEU members finally received copies on Oct. 2, the day Floyd met with William Elliott. The new commissioner has since asked Bill Sweeney to again look into the matter. He says he is still gathering facts, and hasn’t set a deadline for his investigation. However, one issue Sweeney will be probing is why the situation was allowed to fester so long that a major drug case was dropped. “When I first became aware of the case that’s one of the questions I asked,” he says. “And I don’t have the answer.” M

ON THE WEB: For more RCMP troubles, and coverage of the funeral for fallen Mountle Douglas Scott, go to madeans.ca/rcmp