Cst. Justin Harris: The RCMP Scapegoat
To begin, I am a twenty (20) year regular member of the RCMP holding the rank of Constable and currently stationed in Vancouver, B.C. At present, I am off duty sick as a result of a work related psychological injury. In that regard, I have been continuously away from work and seeking regular treatment from a clinical psychologist for a duty related medical condition since September 2004. My medical condition is a direct result of the actions undertaken against me by RCMP “E” Division (British Columbia) senior management. My last active job posting in the Force was as a member of the “E” Division Undercover Unit, where I served as one of twelve elite undercover operators on a team, the mandate of which, was to develop and carry out covert evidence gathering techniques on subjects suspected of having committed high profile homicides.
The circumstances which lead to my developed medical condition are lengthy. While attached to the “E” Division Undercover Unit during September 2004, I was suspended from duty with pay and subjected to both a criminal and internal Code of Conduct investigation. In particular, I learned at the time, that I faced a total of six (6) sex related allegations made by four (4) underage female sex trade workers stemming from my tenure stationed at Prince George Detachment between 1993 and 2001. These investigations which targeted myself as well as a number of other RCMP officers implicated with similar allegations, were a spin off of the former Provincial Court Judge David Ramsay case, and were known inside the RCMP as Project EPREVAILS. A special prosecutor assigned to review the criminal investigation reviewed the matter but, decided in November 2005, that no criminal charges were warranted against me or any of the other accused RCMP members.
A lengthy internal Code of Conduct investigation was undertaken which resulted in my appearing at a formal discipline hearing before an RCMP Adjudication Board in October 2006, facing a total of four (4) allegations from just two (2) remaining female accusers. A preliminary motion brought on at the onset of the hearing by my legal counsel challenging the RCMP Act section 43(8) one (1) year limitation period (to initiate a hearing) proved successful. Consequently, the presiding board members ruled they did not have jurisdiction to hear the matter because the “E” Division Appropriate Officer had breached RCMP Act section 43(8) by initiating the hearing more than nine (9) months beyond the expiration of the prescribed limitation period. The board members subsequently dismissed the hearing altogether.
Shortly thereafter in October 2006, the RCMP undertook an Operational File Review of Project EPREVAILS. In mid December 2006, the “E” Division Appropriate Officer filed an appeal pertaining to the Adjudication Board’s decision. Between January and March 2007, the RCMP then carried out a number of recommendations and follow-up investigation stemming from the file review. Their efforts yielded no new evidence to support the allegations made against me. In the spring of 2007, the matter was again submitted to the same special prosecutor for review. Again, no criminal charges were approved against me.
In early April 2007, the primary female accuser (whose allegations together with those made by her elder sister, formed the subject matter of the disciplinary hearing), passed away due to natural causes. Three weeks later, the RCMP abandoned their appeal, dropped all the outstanding allegations made against me, and lifted my suspension. I was subsequently ordered to be reinstated. This despite the elder sister still available as a compellable witness. Thereafter, a series of continued inappropriate acts by senior management resulted in my remaining off duty sick and unable to return to work. Let me explain.
Specifically, two (2) decisions made by the RCMP in August and September 2007, contributed to my not being able to return to work. During August 2007, a high ranking officer within the RCMP addressed correspondence to the “E” Division Commanding Officer wherein, he indicated his opinion that there exists a body of evidence to support the laying of two (2) criminal charges against me in connection to the deceased accuser’s allegations. Then, a week later in September 2007, I learned through a RCMP – Staff Relations Representative that the “E” Division Commanding Officer was not prepared to place me back at work due to an “untested” allegation. Was not a test already applied to the allegations by the special prosecutor? Despite my reinstatement being ordered several months earlier, suffice it to say the door allowing for my return to work was never truly open.
The revelations made by the RCMP in both August and September of 2007, effectively ruined any chance I may have had at returning to the Force and salvaging my career. Equally disturbing though, is the fact that these decisions occurred:
1) After the RCMP had already abandoned their appeal, dropped the outstanding allegations against me, lifted the suspension, and ordered my reinstatement;
2) After the primary female accuser had died, and
3) After the special prosecutor had already deemed no criminal charges were warranted against me.
Not surprising, the collective actions undertaken by the RCMP ultimately resulted in my filing a civil action in the Vancouver Supreme Court registry during February 2008. While I am currently represented by legal counsel, the matter remains unresolved and is still before the courts.
In March 2009 the medical professionals at RCMP “E” Division Health Services concurred with my caregiver’s diagnosis and opinion, and consequently deemed me “permanently disabled for any work within the RCMP” (Class O6).
Throughout the ordeal, I have remained on the RCMP payroll and have received my regular pay & benefits. Even so, I have been without opportunity for advancement, promotions, or overtime earnings since September 2004. On top of that, I have been a police officer for most of my adult life and do not possess a university degree or formal training in any other areas. While my service with the Force continues to accrue, my formal police training effectively ceased in 2004. Nearly four (4) years after being deemed unfit to work at any duties in the RCMP, I remain an employee but, with no real future left in the Force.
The experience I have had to endure at the hands of the RCMP was high profile and caused extensive local, provincial, and national media coverage, all of which, was derogatory in nature and eventually meandered onto the internet, where sadly it remains today. Moreover, the allegations made against me by my accusers are false. The girls who accused me are outright liars. I have never been disciplined by the RCMP for any of the allegations levied against me, or for anything else for that matter. Nor have any criminal charges ever been laid against me. My employment record with the Force was unblemished but, now my career and reputation have been destroyed, my personal finances have been greatly affected, the toll on both my marital and social relationships has been massive, and the prospects for future employment outside the RCMP look grim.
With continual advancements in internet technology it is safe to conclude that reputable employers now resort to the world wide web and social media as a means of screening prospective job applicants. This has and continues to pose a great difficulty for me. Not only must I overcome an eight (8) year hiatus in my RCMP service (plainly visible on my resume) with a convincing explanation to a potential employer outlining why I am, where I am, with the Force, I also face the reality that employers are already alive to the heinous allegations littered across the internet or, at a minimum, have access to same at anytime through a simple Google search.
To date, in my search for employment outside the RCMP, I continually face a moral dilemma and am confronted with choosing the lesser of two evils. Either I choose to verbalize the exhaustive details which have lead to my being “permanently disabled from all duties with the RCMP” or, decide to say nothing; thereby risking my being perceived as untruthful by conscientious employers whose interests include surfing the net. How is any of this my fault? I can assure you that I have already experimented with both alternatives applying for a number of appealing jobs without much success. It may be the case I am able to secure menial work at minimum wage jobs that do not require my policing skill set, or any significant degree of personal disclosure, and where the employer’s sole interest is reliable employee attendance, but suffice it to say, those endeavors offer little to no job satisfaction, no opportunity for advancement, and by no means are considered by me to be rewarding careers. With so much uncertainty surrounding my residual employability outside the RCMP, a voluntary retirement from the Force at this point without proper compensation, is not an option for me.
In closing, I hope other RCMP members are inspired by my decision to speak up, and will now gather the courage necessary to step up and tell us about their own experiences. I know I am not alone. In the coming weeks, I intend to provide you with more insight into the Project EPREVAILS investigation and precisely how I have been treated by the RCMP.
Justin P. Harris