Alberta’s police watchdog is investigating the Prince George RCMP after a review found the detachment failed to properly look into sexual abuse allegations against some of its own officers.
Official records of the claims date back to 2004 when a senior Prince George officer brought forward complaints to the detachment that colleagues may have committed criminal offences against underage Indigenous sex trade workers.
According to a summary of an interim 2021 report by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, what followed was “a complete failure by all management personnel aware of the allegations.”
The detachment delayed several months before interviewing the complaining officer and a second officer who was the key witness. The second officer said she had found evidence that may implicate her ex-husband, also a Prince George Mountie. As reported by the Vancouver Sun, this evidence was in the form of video tapes.
The female officer said after she informed a senior officer about the existence of the tapes, her ex-husband broke into her home and stole them.
The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission found that despite this information, the Prince George RCMP chose not to take any action.
The complainant officer retired soon after, but wrote a letter to his old employer several years later expressing concern that his criminal complaint had never been properly investigated. The RCMP conducted a review in response, but later told the retired officer no charges were warranted.
That was when the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission got involved. It reviewed records and interviewed 20 former and current RCMP members, and concluded there had been both a systemic and management failure. In 2021, it recommended the RCMP “conduct an immediate assessment of the criminal complaint and, depending on the outcome, conduct a criminal investigation if warranted.”
Still, it wasn’t until 2023, following media reports and calls from First Nations Leadership Council and BC First Nations Justice Council, that the Director of Police Service ordered an independent investigation.
At the end of February, the two First Nations councils called on the RCMP to address its negligence.
“The discredited RCMP organization must be completely transformed so that it stops perpetuating harm against Indigenous peoples, especially women, girls and gender-diverse people,” they said in a statement.
“The FNLC and BCFNJC are extremely troubled by the details of these allegations, which point to the deeply rooted corruption, impunity, and lawlessness of the RCMP as a police institution. It is fundamentally unfit, and unable to be accountable.”
On Wednesday night (March 8), the B.C. government spoke out on it for the first time. Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth called the allegations “disturbing” and announced the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team is now investigating.
The team is Alberta’s independent, civilian police watchdog. It investigates serious allegations of police misconduct and any officer-involved incidents that end in serious harm or death.
BC RCMP Senior Media Relations Officer Staff Sgt. Kris Clark said in a statement that the force is committed to fully cooperating and will provide Alberta’s police watchdog with complete access to their records.