Friday, May 26, 2006

RCMP officers who commit sexual assault remain in jobs

Ross Kentner Commentary for Tuesday, May 23rd 2006:

Sometimes, women have to ask men, "What part of ‘no’ don’t you get?" And I have to ask top brass in the RCMP, "What part of keeping an officer who has been convicted of sexual assault don’t you get?"

Inspector Alain Heon is a district commander of the force in New Brunswick. He was convicted of sexually assaulting the wife of an officer who reported to him. For that, he has been given a six-month conditional sentence. It means two months of house arrest and being entered in the National Sex Offender Registry but, at least for now, he keeps his job.

Here’s the problem and it’s a big one. Precedent has a lot to do with how such cases are decided. And it turns out that in four similar situations where RCMP officers were convicted of sexual assault, they all got to stay on the force. One of them initiated unwanted sexual contact with two different women and harassed a third. You would think that three strikes and you’re out, but a little demotion, counselling and a transfer did the trick. The other two officers lost 10 days pay for having initiated unwanted sexual contact with sleeping women.

What’s wrong with this picture? You would think it would be pretty clear to those whose responsibility is to uphold and enforce the law. Is the law that one takes advantage of a sleeping woman? Certainly not. Is losing 10 days pay the appropriate penalty for doing so. Most certainly not.

Now, if you are a woman who has been raped or battered, how good will you feel calling the RCMP? What if the very officer who comes to your door just happens to have been convicted of sexual assault? You’ll be glad he was demoted, got counselling and was transferred, right?

A final determination on Inspector Heon’s future with the RCMP still has to be reached. While it should have something to do with Heon’s ability and service it should have much more to do with ensuring that the women who need police protection can be confident protection is what they will get from the RCMP. It should have much to do with changing the culture in the RCMP so that officers know that sexual assault leads to the exit door. In short, this officer has got to go.



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