A sad and costly police affair

In July 2015, Sheila Lemaitre initiated a lawsuit that accused the RCMP of responsibility in the death of her husband, police sergeant Pierre Lemaitre. Reported by Canadian Press:

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:

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 be difficult to identify risks and prevent suicides. However, it is clear that when efforts are focused on mental health, instead of the narrower suicide prevention, benefits will not only include suicide prevention, but fewer:

  • officer deaths from shootings and accidents
  • lawsuits
  • complaints
  • sick leave
  • alcoholism
  • substance abuse
  • criminal and other misbehaviours
  • on and off-job injuries
  • divorces
  • grievances
  • resignations

27 replies »

  1. Sad.
    The RCMP is a shadow of it's former self. Sgt. Lemaitre didnt deserve any of the critisism directed his way for the Dziekanski debacle. He was the “deer in the media headlights”. Fed misinformation which he was instructed and expected to deliver.
    That entire episode was a joke from start to finish.
    Interesting how Canada Customs washed their hands of the entire affair. After placing Mr Dziekanski in a secondary inspection 'room” and then leaving him there for 6? 8 HOURS? No wonder he became angry, agitated and belligerant. I would have gone ballistic.
    Kudos to the mindless, unaccountable drones that work in govt. Youve cost the taxpayers further millions in legal fees with your sloth and stupidity.
    As a govt employee smirked at me and said, “We are Legion, we are many.”


  2. Sad is not the word I would use, tragic is more appropriate. Tragic because every single person in this country knows full well that the problems with the RCMP come from the top down and must be dealt with sooner than later.

    For substantiation of that fact we can look no further than Gary Bass telephoning the four constables and congratulating them on their performance immediately following the murder of Mr Dziekanski and, more importantly, demonstrating his bias previous to any type of investigation of the facts, internally or otherwise.

    How many times do Canadians require this confirmation?

    More proof, once again, in this posting that superiors in this enforcement system are more concerned with appearances than doing their job, which is to address and apply the law regardless of how it might look to any one party, especially including their own members.

    This is the biggest problem with the RCMP today; it has been politicised into something other than serve and protect and has therefore abandoned its original mandate.

    And so the force used Sgt. Lemaitre up, when his usefulness expired, his superiors intentionally blocked a portion of his recovery (reputation and credibility) and left him to struggle on his own.

    Three tragedies; one is Lemaitre, two is the inability to comprehend proper, modern human resource management by the RCMP, and the third is how Canadians collectively allow the problems with the state police to continue unabated.

    Dismantle the RCMP and start again seems to be the only way out.


  3. It's interesting John Daly didn't do a piece on this. Your guaranteed his presence on any piece of ARSLIKHAN when it deals with the horsemen. I always reflect on his timely reports, daily, during the Glen Clark political lynching. Discovering his fishin' buddy was Peter Montague (RCMP ret'd) explained all his “scoops”. BTW, the latest female complainant Ateya Montague: any relation?


  4. The RCMP has been broken for a long long time.

    The top echelon of the RCMP starting with their sleaze bag commissioner and about five deep after him should be sent down the road with no pension or benefits. Let them fight it out with the bureaucracy for a change.
    New blood with no connection the the current group of slugs mentioned above might go along way into creating a different police force with some credibility and respect.



  5. Thanks Norman, for all that you do. Especially pieces like this one.

    The lack of support for Officer Lemaitre from his superiors and the utter lack of respect by the MSM following his death are appalling.

    I wondered why there was so little reported and also wondered if the RCMP gags the media or if they willingly apply a hands off approach.

    Pierre Lemaitre was clearly thrown under the bus.


  6. The state radio and television follows the state police down the state- made rabbit hole.

    The RCMP has no significant human resource management because they do not consider their employees as being human. They are considered chattel to be used up at whatever the cost.

    This is military thinking; in the army during wartime conflict there is no such thing as an indispensable man.


  7. There's a certain Deputy Chief on the island who is also hiding a dirty little suicide secret after he failed to follow proper protocols while in his HR position.


  8. Thank you Norm for another full and vital piece on the goings on in one of our power levels. And thanks to Dan for his insightful comments. My family has been proud to say that we have had family in the NW & RCMP from 1887 and for over 100 years.

    However, this organization has clearly been politicised and for some time. They appear to work on the premise that brains come with stripes, so of course a constable could never be smarter than any Corporal or Sergeant or anyone else above that level of stripe.

    In so many ways, the current membership seems to be no better than a gang of thugs. And I understand that their work takes them to people and places I have never been or seen, nor do I wish to. However, we have laws out there and they are supposed to be applied equitably to all citizens, no matter how we may personally judge them. The lack of proper human resource management within the force most likely, in a large part, contributes to their attitude toward the general public as well. The Pierre Lemaitre situation is inexcusable and ranks up there with the treatment dispensed by Monty Robinson and his crew of at YVR.


  9. The feedback I get is that the good people in uniform are much troubled by actions of the unethical minority that behave with insufficient respect for fellow police and citizens. What good officers want is a fair system and humane treatment but that requires police services to advance about 50 years in the science of management. It won't happen when the senior officers aim to promote people that reflect their own points of view.


  10. BC's Deputy Minister of Health, who thinks it's appropriate to pay paramedics $2 an hour for being on call, earns near $5K a week. Plus, he gets about $2K a month expenses.


  11. Thanks for bringing Sgt. Lemaitre's side of the story to light, Norm. It looks like he was set up by IHIT and Wayne Rideout to be the patsy on this file and he had no means of correcting the record. It obviously bothered him a great deal. My condolences to his family.

    I'm curious as to why Customs was never required to explain why they red-flagged Mr. Dziekanski? I don't recall that being explored by Braidwood at all.


  12. It would be interesting to know who authorized the failed Health Authority/BCAS raises:


    The ironic thing about the $2.00 on call “pay”, is that so many paramedics are not getting paid this pauper's sum by a badly launched new payroll system.

    This is what we pay management big bucks for.

    At least paramedics can hold their heads high for the job they do, you can't take that away from them.


  13. Having been a victim of police corruption and violence, I feel for the family but they will get paid off when suicide should void any payment or pension.

    It is unfortunate the costumed thugs are looking to the wrong folks for help with training so as to perpetuate this sad culture which perhaps is driving out the very, very rare good person.
    A possible solution would be to prevent familial hiring, have IQ and EQ tests, history lessons.

    The costumed thugs need to be taught to think, be reminded they are servants, and enjoy no special status.


  14. RCMP managers interfering with the dead man's funeral is shocking but from what friends in the police tell me, not surprising. That chaplain needs to reconsider the relationship with his cheque providers. Apparently, he chose financial rewards over moral conduct.

    We need to rethink the kind of people being hired and the kind of environment they enter when going to work.

    If Conservatives are reelected, the only change will be change for the worse since some of their leaders seem to long for a real, fulled activated, police state.

    I hope Canadians keep Mrs. Lemaitre's funeral experience in mind when votes are cast.


  15. If Wayne Rideout and his confreres tell the same story under oath at this trial that they fed the public while refusing Sgt. Lemaitre’s pleas to tell the truth, then to apply the law equally the Crown will have to charge them with perjury as it did with the four members under their direction for swearing that story. I’m not holding my breath.

    Nor am I going to go hypoxic waiting for the CBC to realize shooting the messenger should be anathema to any news organization, but when even the professed excuse for doing so proves false an abject apology is in order.


  16. The betrayal he must have felt, the trust he had that the truth he held would matter! The choices made by his superior officers to use him. The loss of everything he spent his life believing in. All of this to protect the lowest of the low the likes of Monty Robinson. I can't imagine.
    These men responsible hide behind the cloak of righteousness and respect but inside are putrid and foul and repulsive. It is only their smallness of mind that allows them to function as they do.
    I hope Sheila Lamaitre can find some solace and peace from her effort. She greatly deserves that!


  17. Some years back, after a report had showed that BC has the poorest record of inc-custody deaths in the country, I heard the man who was presumably Lemaitre's successor on the CBC.

    He was asked why he thought people lacked trust in the RCMP. “Well, there was the incident with the taser at YVR”.

    Words failed me then as they still do now.


  18. We've always wondered what became of S-Sgt John Ward, he of the prescient quote at the onset of the BC RAIL robbery, to paraphrase…..”the tentacles of organized crime have crept into the legislature”…..remember that beauty?. Interesting to see he was Lemaitre's superior in the airport fiasco. Haven't heard much from him lately. Dudley Paulson and Gary Bass…what a tag team!


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