POLITICS

RCMP officer wants answers on harassment allegations

05/28/2013 05:05 EDT | Updated 07/28/2013 05:12 EDT
A veteran RCMP officer says he is aware of five complaints of sexual assault, sexual harassment and procuring prostitutes against senior-ranking Mounties — but that his efforts to determine if justice was done were to "no avail."

Cpl. Pete Merrifield, president of the Mounted Police Association of Ontario, told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics that five of his supervisors have faced serious complaints in the past eight years, including a superintendent.

Merrifield said he has tried to get information on how the force has dealt with the complaints by writing letters up the chain of command, but has received no formal response.

"There's a decision to take inaction when it suits them," he told host Power & Politics host Evan Solomon Monday.

The RCMP publishes an annual report on disciplinary action against civilian members and commissioned and non-commissioned officers, which have included sexual assault, harassment, impaired driving, using prostitutes and surfing pornography on duty. It is not known if any of the cases Merrifield refers to are included in those reports.

RCMP spokesman Sgt. Greg Cox said the "fundamental disagreement" with Cpl. Merrifield arises from policy compliance issues associated with running for federal office, speaking publicly without authorization about national security matters and other operational compliance issues.

"He has been away from the workplace for an extended period of time. As such, his perspective is not reflective of the current reality in the RCMP and of the changes brought forward by [RCMP] Commissioner [Bob] Paulson," he said. "Today's RCMP is committed to providing its employees with a respectful workplace where they can contribute to our mandate to deliver safety for Canadians."

'Deep-rooted issue'

Merrifield, who is suing the RCMP for harassment and breach of his constitutional rights related to what he calls "retaliation" for seeking a Conservative nomination in Barrie, Ont. in 2005, testified before a Senate committee probing harassment in the RCMP Monday.

Merrifield said he believes Paulson is committed to changing the culture of harassment in the ranks, but said others in the federal police force don't share that commitment.

"It's a deep-rooted issue, and it's very damaging to the force," he told Solomon.

Merrifield says there is a "three-D effect" in dealing with complaints — deny, delay and defer. Once a member makes allegations he or she can face whisper campaigns or even criminal obstruction of justice, he said.

In his own case, a senior officer jeopardized a confidential informant Merrifield was using in a cross-border investigation, he said.

In the past, Merrifield has lobbied MPs and ministers of Public Safety about his own case and the broader issue of harassment. In 2005 he briefed then opposition leader Stephen Harper and his aide Ray Novak, who is now Harper’s chief of staff.