Cosby and his Fat Albert characters, Weinstein and his movie interests, who has become “Derailed”, Louis C.K. and his large comedy presence selling out Madison Square Gardens, Spacey and his House of collapsing Cards and most recently Charlie Rose who seems to have enjoyed flashing in his bath robe more than an in-depth probing interview.
All now overcome by the recent tide of sexual inappropriate behaviour, narrated in explicit undertones flooding over the United States airwaves. CNN has recently compiled a list, a list which they had to break down into the various categories of professions in order to keep it clear and concise in terms of the various sexual complaints being levelled. All revealed in 48 hours, in colour, and in righteous commentary.
Guilty with no trial or recourse, with most of the detail probably proven to be true, but possibly not all of it. (Think Jan Gomeshi of the CBC where the complainants were proven to be totally unreliable) We are returning to the days of the lynch mob, led by a Liberal government, who believe in human rights and the right to free speech, unless of course you disagree with them.
One can not help but be overwhelmed, but I must admit to not being overly surprised. I have lived, like those of my generation, in an era where inappropriate behaviour was observed on an almost daily basis and the world of policing was no exception, in fact it may have been even more pronounced in this machismo environment. In terms of levels of offence, the most observable would have been considered to be on the lower end of the scale; the leering looks, the inferential sexual comments, but the offences go all the way to criminal sexual assault. It was considered to be “way it was”, and the females learned to avoid the usual suspect cops, as there was no avenue open to them. The RCMP, alarmingly, to this day has no Human Relations department, so those who found themselves in untenable positions could only go to their immediate supervisor, who could very well have been the problem.
Whether it be the shoulder rub on the night shift, the questions about their love lives, and the casual groping at the after-shift party, it would have been impossible for any officer of the RCMP to say that they had not seen it. Can anyone of my generation deny having heard the expression “road trip rules” and its implications, where drinking and partying, and fraternizing was almost a rite of passage, often led by the married, who often acted as if having been released from a cage.
Women were considered “one of the guys” if they behaved inappropriately in return, tried to be as lewd as the guys, or told dirty jokes. Was it all some sort of defence mechanism? In most cases, likely yes. And lets not totally limit it to males, I also saw behaviour of women officers that would not be considered appropriate, all part of the rough and tumble image of policing. Uncomfortable, laughing acceptance was the norm.
I need to be clear. Did I ever witness sexual assault? No I did not. Did I ever witness sexual inappropriate behaviour as part of a bullying or power move such as in a Weinstein, where a reward was held out? No I did not. Did it occur, of course, there can be little doubt. I learned of many serious incidents that required internal investigations, which invariably never ended up in any punishment, or at least a punishment that could be observed.
The image of policing, real or imagined, made it susceptible to this behaviour. Joseph Wambaugh who wrote “Choir Boys” in 1975, which went on to become listed as one of the best crime novels of its time, and was a novel that glorified “choir practises”; the after shift get togethers, where copious amounts of booze was drunk, and parties with the bar maids, or the female officers was the central theme. Management looked the other way, all of it allowed and justified as a way to blow off steam, a psychological release from the vagaries of policing.
So in todays headlines, Global News is now reporting that 1100 women out of a potential 20,000 women that served since 1974, have begun the process of claims of sexual harassment by the RCMP. This constitutes 5% of women who served during this time period who are making claims. Three hundred and fifty three of those women have already finished up their claims, and submitted all the documentation. Seventy-two of those women have had their claims settled. “Most” that have been dealt with so far, have been termed as “legitimate” by the overseeing Judge Bastarache. This quagmire is about half way through the reporting period.
There should be little doubt that it will go much higher. Many will be settled with little or no further investigation. If there is any substance there will be payouts. The fact that there is no provisions for in-depth investigation of these matters means that there will be some claims that will be part of the band wagon effect as there always is in this kind of structure. That is the nature of the beast, a rich beast with a $100 million bankroll, where few questions are asked, the assumption being one of guilt rather than innocence as a starting point.
That being said, just as clearly this is the biggest cover up of inappropriate conduct by a Federal agency or a policing agency in history.
Then Commissioner Bob Paulson and Solicitor General Ralph Goodale have orchestrated and condoned this cover up, no doubt to cover up a stain on the RCMP that may have been too large for the agency to handle and still survive. A Canadian version of “too big to fail”.
Is it possible that the complaints went all the way to the top, including Paulson, who with crocodile tears apologized to the offended women? We will never know. The cloud will forever hang over this historic organization.
All of it of course is legal, as Mounties, some of who have reached the highest levels, hide behind the claim process, shivering, but unobstructed in their pursuit of their careers. No names will be given, no details will be released, and all the women with legitimate claims will be paid out in order to guarantee their silence.
In E Division, the RCMP’s largest division of officers, and where I spent a great deal of my service, I personally know of several high ranking officers who were investigated for sexual inappropriate behaviour, and there were no observable consequences. Some of those officers are still at work today, not only surviving but having been promoted a few ranks.
Of course I am not alone in thinking this is one of the biggest cover ups ever perpetrated in the policing world. Several groups are calling for greater openness and transparency, pointing out that a Force which holds itself up as the paragon of virtue should at the very least provide greater details. Is it possible that the RCMP is harbouring 1100 offenders amongst its ranks? Of course, although to contemplate such a number is staggering.
The RCMP says it is working to get rid of this culture, but it has no problem allowing offenders to stay amongst their midst. Your National Police Force could have hundreds of officers who behaved badly. Interestingly, our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who prides himself as the great defender of women, who crys at the mention of any historic wrong doing, and who was notably absent during the press conference, signed off on this agreement. The story will continue over the next few years, nothing will have changed, no one in the policing world will be held to account. It will tarnish the RCMP and all those that were part of this era.
If there is anything which grates on an old investigator, it is when justice is denied. It is when a case becomes de-railed by circumstances no longer under their control. When the perp smilingly walks free, when victims sit in courtrooms with bowed heads, feeling they have been let down by the system.
The police are the last hope that justice can be brought, arbiters of truth who are not swayed by the politics of the day, where the facts are finally brought to light, regardless of the consequences. It is the police officer where children are taught to go if in peril. It is that image which is in jeopardy.
The silence on the part of those in the current RCMP, on the fact that individuals amongst them are beating the system is deafening. The unfairness of everyone being tarnished by the same brush is a second unanticipated and dire consequence.
The RCMP and the Liberal government are now using the system they are mandated to uphold, hiding behind a flawed judicial process which does not allow any light to shine on their behaviour, a political and legal loophole. It embarrasses me, but the fact that the perpetrators carry-on disgusts me.
So as Cosby and Weinstein will pay a massive price, as they should, their careers ended, their reputations sullied for life, a group of RCMP officers, in their bright red serge will continue marching. They will continue to expound how they are working on changing the “culture” of the RCMP. A $100 million of taxpayers dollars set aside to protect the individuals who make up that culture. No justice to be brought upon the perpetrators. Two polar results, the instant justice in the U.S., and a complete slow moving coverup by Canada’s world renowned police force.
Photo courtesy of FLICKR Creative Commons by JPMPINMONTREAL Some Rights Reserved
Since this post, the numbers, which officials predicted could be as high as 1000, has now reached 4200. So of the 20,000 who were eligible under the time frame given, now 20% are claiming some form of sexual harassment. Minister of Public Safety said if the monies become in excess of $100 million, there will be more approved.
These numbers give me some pause as the business of reporting is a 35 page form, and the investigation of these claims is negligible, and with the monies apparently limitless, there is little doubt that some fraudulent claims could surface. But we will never know. This miscarriage of justice will continue….