Fellow officers teased and goaded him by text message to see “how far he would go,” and another constable observed flirting between Theriault and the indigenous woman, saying he “jokingly made a comment about having a threesome” with her.
The senior officer in the detachment first said “it wasn’t right” for Theriault to take the woman out of custody but finally said: “You arrested her, you can do whatever the f--k you want to do.”
The incident occurred on Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, near Thompson, Man., in 2011. A written decision was not delivered until 2014.
The constable admitted to the allegations, got a reprimand and lost pay for seven days.
Horrendous breach of trust
“It’s a gross abuse of power,” said Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, who called the incident “appalling.”
Theriault and another constable had arrested the woman at a party and placed her in a cell until she sobered up. Six hours after she was brought in, Theriault returned to the detachment out of uniform and asked for her to be released into his care.
He and the woman left the detachment in his personal car.
Two of Theriault’s co-workers followed in an RCMP cruiser and later alerted the corporal of the detachment. That officer called Theriault and ordered him to take the woman home, which he did.
“It’s a horrendous breach of trust,” Nepinak said, adding the officer who allowed the release should face discipline.
The report doesn't indicate if he did or not.
“They have to hold one another to standards of conduct,” Nepinak added. “We expect to be protected, just as every Canadian expects to be protected by a policing agency."
Nepinak called Theriault’s punishment “a slap on the wrist” and said it sends the wrong message to the aboriginal community.
Theriault worked in a small aboriginal community where “maintaining public support and trust is always a delicate balance,” according to the adjudication committee’s decision.
“I certainly think it’s a piece of a larger equation,” Nepinak said.
Call for independent investigations
RCMP investigate their own members for allegations of misconduct. An inspector and two superintendents served on Theriault’s disciplinary adjudication board.
“It seems to me that the standard is that there should be independent civilian investigation of these kinds of allegations,” said Meghan Rhoad, a women’s rights researcher with New York-based Human Rights Watch.
Her group’s report, "Those Who Take Us," documents serious misconduct involving Northern British Columbia RCMP officers and indigenous women in custody, many of whom were intoxicated.
She said that police misconduct compounds the historic tension and distrust between police and aboriginal communities.
Her report attempts to link the way RCMP treat aboriginal women and girls in custody to the larger problem of missing and murdered women.
“If communities can’t trust police to behave properly how can indigenous women and girls feel that these are people they can go to for protection?” she said.
Theriault didn’t return calls for an interview and the RCMP will not comment on specific cases.
Also on HuffPost