Mountie sues RCMP, alleging ‘systemic harassment’

Credit: CBC

 

A Mountie is suing the RCMP, alleging that some of his fellow officers committed serious offences, and that he was bullied and abused when he tried to blow the whistle on them, according to legal documents.

Cpl. Ryan Letnes, a 17-year member of the force, is now with the Surrey, B.C., detachment but was posted in Airdrie, Alta., just north of Calgary, from 2008 to 2015.

He claims colleagues at the Airdrie detachment at times withheld evidence and laid charges without justification. He alleges he brought his concerns to management, but they ignored him and “engaged in systemic harassment.”

Letnes says among other “targeted” behaviours, he was demoted twice, surveilled at his home and locked out of his detachment after returning from stress leave.

His statement of claim, filed this week in B.C. Supreme Court, names as defendants the RCMP, several commanding officers as well as the Alberta and B.C. ministers of justice, among others.

In a written statement to CBC News, the RCMP said it cannot comment because the matter is currently before the courts. So far, the Minister of Public Safety has not responded to a request for comment from CBC News.

None of the allegations have been proven in court, and the defendants have not yet filed statements of defence.

The veteran officer is seeking unspecified damages for psychological and physical suffering.

‘Attempt to embarrass and demean’

Former RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson admitted in 2016 that the RCMP has had a “culture of bullying and intimidation and general harassment,” which he committed to addressing.

The lawsuit describes a police culture where grudges play out and infect the workplace and, potentially, affect investigations. The document details nearly a decade of Letnes’s grievances.

Letnes says on several occasions he was the subject of internal investigations, including having his home surveilled at the insistence of senior management.

In 2009, following a public complaint against Letnes which was ultimately deemed unfounded, he became the subject of an investigation. Letnes claims a junior officer who had recently been a direct subordinate was assigned the investigation “in a direct attempt to embarrass and demean” him.

In 2011, the lawsuit claims, a GPS unit was placed on Letnes’s cruiser so his commanding officer could track his whereabouts “for no other reason than to harass and intimidate” him.

Letnes, a self-described whistleblower, says he tried to raise his concerns through a confidential email sent to the deputy commissioner of the RCMP in 2013, but his intended private communication ended up being disseminated to local management.

Letnes claims that he was then told he was no longer welcome at the Airdrie detachment and within a couple of months was transferred to B.C.

He says that years of internal strife in Alberta interfered with active investigations there.

For instance, in 2011, three years into the bad blood between Letnes and some of his superiors at the Airdrie detachment, he alleges two managers “wrongly interfered” in his surveillance of John Dionne, a high-risk sex offender.

Dionne kidnapped a nine-year-old girl from a mall in Calgary on Feb. 24, 2011. He got spooked and dropped off the girl at a McDonald’s in Airdrie after a local RCMP officer unknowingly stopped his vehicle. After the girl was recovered, Dionne was still at large.

That’s when Letnes claims his order of overnight surveillance of Dionne was called off. In the end, Dionne was arrested the day after the kidnapping.

Human rights case could ‘make history’

In addition to Letnes’s civil suit, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has agreed to hear his complaint stemming from his treatment on the job. He accuses senior management of passing him over for promotions because of a disability.

In 2014, Letnes began suffering from vision and respiratory issues and says he was placed on restricted duties in Airdrie before being transferred to the detachment in Surrey.

He claims he was the subject of a targeted campaign of harassment, assigned demeaning duties, shuffled around the organization and encouraged to leave the RCMP because of those disabilities.

He alleges the RCMP “knowingly and wilfully discriminates against disabled employees.”

He says one of the commanding officers who turned him down for promotion in Surrey was newly appointed RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki.

He says Lucki, who was then a chief superintendent, told him the positions he was going after required someone who could quickly jump into action if needed and on a moment’s notice.

Letnes says he intends to call her as a witness when the tribunal, a quasi-judicial body, hears his case next year.

The Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada, one of the groups jockeying to represent RCMP members now that they are allowed to unionize, is seeking interested party status in the case. The association says the tribunal case could have significant consequences for officers with disabilities going forward.

“This is a case that’s going to make history,” the group’s president, Louis-Philippe Thériault, told CBC News. “Any members who suffered discrimination, loss of employment, loss of promotion, loss of posting, loss of job with the RCMP could be affected by that decision.”

The RCMP has also declined to comment on the hearing, saying the matter is before the courts.

‘Underlying rot’

​Jonathan Denis, Alberta’s former justice minister, who represents Letnes in the civil case, says his client, who still works for the RCMP in B.C., wants to stay on as a Mountie.

“He wants the problem rectified, and he wants the confidence in the RCMP to be restored,” said Denis.

Denis says Letnes believes his situation is not an isolated one, and others agree.

Darryl Davies, a criminal justice professor at Carleton University, says Letnes’s allegations point to the “underlying rot that exists in the organization.”

“How is an organization that is self-imploding and dysfunctional able to conduct criminal investigations in a manner that is credible?” Davies said.

“I believe this is the tip of the iceberg.”

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