The wife of an RCMP officer who killed himself two years ago claims that her husband was used by the Mounties [as] a scapegoat in the death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver’s airport in October 2007.In a statement of claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court, Sheila Lemaitre said her husband, Pierre, was told he would lose his job if he tried to correct misinformation given to the media about the night Dziekanski died.
The sergeant was the media relations officer who released information about the incident where the Polish immigrant was jolted with a police Taser and died on the floor of the arrivals area.
The lawsuit claimed Lemaitre wanted to correct the information, but was ordered not to say anything.
“As a result of this incorrect information, his immediate removal as RCMP spokesman, the subsequent public release of the private video … he was brought into public contempt where he was accused in the public of being the ‘RCMP liar’ and/or the RCMP spin doctor,” the statement said.
…The statement of claim said the RCMP knew Lemaitre was under extreme psychological distress caused by the negligence of the force and that it could result in his becoming suicidal.
…The court document outlined that Lemaitre was transferred to a job described as an RCMP “dumping ground,” that he was treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, and became depressed, angry, full of rage.
He went on sick-leave in February 2013 and “committed suicide” on July 13, 2013, the document stated.
The statement of claim alleged an RCMP chaplain took control of the funeral arrangements, determining which songs could be played, and said that it was an “absolute requirement” that he “vet” all of the eulogies.
Lamaitre’s wife was told on the day before the funeral that she could not give a eulogy herself, and when she asked who was giving that order, the chaplain said “You know who signs my cheques,” said the statement…
Before learning about the lawsuit, I noted unusual traffic landing on pages here that reference Sgt. Lemaitre. That caused me to re-read the articles and I also determined CBC’s linked report on Lemaitre had not changed. The 2013 item at cbc.ca remains an unfair and incomplete record of Lemaitre’s final contributions to the public and I said that when submitting feedback about their two year old report. I hope they will remove or amend the offensive material.
Items in the Lemaitre statement of claim mirror information I heard years ago. The whole Dziekanski affair has dragged on for almost eight years and is not close to finished. It is into one of the worst scandals in the RCMP’s long history but, unfortunately, in this police world, incompetence is inexplicably rewarded. Wayne Rideout was seen as a manager worth promoting. Since failing to manage the Dziekanski cover-up, he’s gone from Superintendent to Assistant Commissioner. Recently, he’s had hands on the “terrorism” clusterfuck that had 240 RCMP officers trying to get two indolent drug-dependent crazies to do, as Ian Mulgrew reported, more than play video games, smoke pot and have sex.
What follows was first published August 15, 2013:
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Last Sunday, a large group of family, friends and associates gathered and paid tribute to Pierre Lemaitre, an officer who once was the RCMP’s senior media relations officer in British Columbia. I expected corporate media would be at the memorial — they cover biker gang remembrances don’t they? — because sudden, unexpected deaths of police officers, often involving PTSD, are events worth examination.
The only mention that I noted in the corporate press was by CBC. However, it was incomplete and inaccurate. This is the entire written report on the CBC news website:
“Friends and family gathered at a memorial service in Langley yesterday to remember RCMP Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre.
“The former senior B.C. spokesperson for the RCMP died on July 29.
“Lemaitre is best known for his role as the face of the force following the death of Robert Dziekanski.
“At the time, Lemaitre was criticized for providing details of the altercation that were later contradicted by a video of the incident.
“Lemaitre is survived by his wife and two daughters.”
Whoever wrote that piece had little knowledge of Robert Dziekanski’s death, the events immediately afterwards or the Braidwood Inquiry that followed. CBC is grossly unfair to imply that Lemaitre knowingly misled the public after the Taser homicide at Vancouver Airport. The Sergeant was not at YVR, nor was he a part of the RCMP team that was investigating the incident. He merely repeated information provided him by IHIT and its supervising officers. Let Justice Braidwood’s words provide the detail:
“According to Sgt. Lemaitre, …he received a phone call from Cpl. Dale Carr of the RCMP’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT). IHIT is a team of RCMP officers who investigate all homicides and in-custody deaths arising in areas policed by the RCMP, as well as in several Lower Mainland municipalities policed by municipal police forces. Cpl. Carr was the official spokesperson for IHIT.
“Cpl. Carr told Sgt. Lemaitre that there had been an incident at the Vancouver International Airport in which a man causing a disturbance had had a confrontation with some RCMP officers, a conducted energy weapon had been used, and the man had died. Although normally IHIT would handle media relations, Cpl. Carr asked Sgt. Lemaitre to become involved because there would be international interest in this event and because Sgt. Lemaitre was bilingual. Sgt. Lemaitre agreed to meet him at the RCMP detachment.
“They met at 6:30 a.m., and Cpl. Carr took Sgt. Lemaitre to a briefing room in the detachment building, where about a dozen IHIT officers were working on laptops. Cpl. [Monty] Robinson was one of the officers there. Sgt. Lemaitre asked Cpl. Carr what he wanted him to report publicly. Cpl. Carr told him what information he had cleared with his superiors that could be released, which Sgt. Lemaitre summarized for me as follows:
‘That a man of unknown origin had caused a disturbance in the waiting area at YVR. He had entered past some glass doors; he had been banging on glass; had thrown a computer to the ground. Members arrived, they attempted to calm him down, communicate with him, and at some point they deployed their TASER, struggled with him, and as we now know, the man unfortunately passed away.’
“…Sgt. Lemaitre told me that after his October 16 interviews, responsibility for RCMP media relations was transferred to Cpl. Carr, a member of IHIT. Sgt. Lemaitre was confident that Cpl. Carr would release updated information in a timely manner. When it became publicly known that some of the information he had released was incorrect, the media criticized him. He was anxious to set the record straight and had discussions with communication strategists who he worked with, as well as some pretty animated discussions with his superior, Staff Sgt. John Ward. He accepted that in homicide investigations IHIT is in control and calls the shots, and that he had to have faith that in time the information was going to come out.
“…Cpl. Carr told me that in the weeks after the incident, he took steps to attempt to correct the misinformation that had been provided to the public. However, Supt.[now Assistant Commissioner] Rideout instructed him not to do so…
“…As more information became known about the incident, the factual inaccuracies took on more significance. They were consistently self-serving — they painted Mr. Dziekanski in an unfairly negative, and the officers in an unfairly positive, light. Supt. Rideout prevented Sgt. Lemaitre from correcting the public record and implemented a policy of commenting publicly only on matters of process, not evidence.
“…Supt. Rideout did not act consistently — in at least one instance he breached his own “process, not evidence” rule by authorizing Cpl. Carr to publicly defend their officers against allegations that they had stood around doing nothing before Richmond Fire-Rescue arrived at the scene…”
Clearly, CBC did not tell the proper story in that single sentence reporting criticism of Lemaitre for providing details later contradicted. Yes, he made the initial releases but Dale Carr and Wayne Rideout were the officers responsible for the misinformation contained. Rideout specifically prevented the public record from being made correct. His action was not in the public interest, it was part of an effort that continued for months; an effort to vilify victim Robert Dziekanski and to sanction the homicidal behaviours of Cpl. Monty Robinson and his crew.
Was Pierre Lemaitre haunted by this experience until his end? Was he scapegoated by his superiors for the RCMP’s dishonest clumsiness in handling the Dziekanski affair? Did he suffer disfavour and retribution as a target of the RCMP campaign to dismiss members suffering stress disorders?
I can’t answer those questions with certainty but my research shows that the RCMP and police forces in general fail to use modern techniques of human resource management. Inherently incompetent hierarchical structures used in most police services demand obedience to superior levels regardless of their competence. The results may be stress, frustration and dissatisfaction among the troops and the typical response of leadership is to paint sufferers as weaklings or malcontents.
In the most serious cases, usually ones untreated, suicide may be an unfortunate outcome. There seems too little study of mental health problems among police officers. One website cites American statistics and offers the following observations:
Police suicide is not a popular topic in the law enforcement culture. As we learn more through research and study, however, it becomes obvious that suicide is merely “the tip of the iceberg” in comparison to the more important issue of mental health in law enforcement.
It may well prove impossible to develop a program that can identify and prevent 150 suicides in a force of almost a million police officers. It is clear, however, that when efforts are focused on mental health, instead of the narrower ‘suicide prevention,’ there can be be benefits that include not only suicide prevention, but fewer:
- officer deaths from shootings and accidents
- sick leave
- substance abuse
- criminal and other misbehaviurs
- on and off-job injuries