CANADA POLITICS Top NS Mountie wanted the officer to be fired...

Top NS Mountie wanted the officer to be fired for sexual harassment, but Commissioner Lucky disagreed


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A Nova Scotia RCMP constable who violated the police code of conduct after petting colleagues will keep his job despite the provincial leadership at the time wanting him fired for sexual assault.

The case contrasts the desire of the local chapter with Commissioner Brenda Lucky, who, after publicly promising that sexual abuse would not be tolerated under her supervision, agreed to let the member keep his job.

In 2018 Const. Devin Pulsifer joined the other mounts for an evening at a local pub in Port Williams, NC, ending a day of tactical training. The public meeting was organized by the forces as an opportunity for team building.

According to the decision of the RCMP Council of Conduct and the report of the provincial police oversight body, Pulsifer, while intoxicated, put his hands under the shirt of another RCMP officer and grabbed her breasts in front of other RCMP members.

Another member pulled him away, but a few moments later Pulsipher moved to the second constable and put his hand under her shirt, as the conduct board’s decision and report said.

The second constable hurled Pulsipher away, but he tried again, both reports say, adding that the second constable then turned around and punched Pulsifer in the face.

Both women, whose names are protected by a publication ban, said they had not spoken to Pulsipher prior to the incident and never consented to his actions.

Pulsifer, who at the time was posted to the squad in Liverpool, North Carolina, did not deny the allegations and said he was drunk to the point of passing out at the time.

The incident was investigated by the Nova Scotia Major Incident Response Team, a civilian agency that investigates allegations against police officers. He came to the conclusion that Pulsifer could be charged with sexual assault. But because both women indicated in writing that they did not want the case “to be brought to the stage of a criminal charge,” SIRT did not file a criminal case.

The RCMP has for years been accused of imposing inadequate sanctions on the mountain in cases of harassment and sexual assault. The federal government has paid out millions to compensate 2,304 women who were sexually harassed and discriminated against on the basis of gender or sexual orientation while working in the mountains. (Maria José Burgos/CBC)

The case was referred to the RCMP conduct commission in 2019. Such conduct hearings occur in the most serious cases – when it comes to dismissal. These are formal lawsuits and judges have the legal authority to impose disciplinary action such as loss of wages or termination.

The commission found that “under the balance of probabilities” the claims of both women were confirmed.

Evidence in front of the blackboard

As part of this process, the board considered Pulsifer’s positive performance reviews and letters of support. Fellow officers, identified only by his initials in the conduct council’s decision, described him as a leader and a courageous officer who put his life on the line.

The board also looked into what was going on in Pulsipher’s life when the attacks took place. His report stated that “his grandmother was in the hospital after a fall” at the time, and “he missed a call from a social worker about an adoption he and his wife were seeking.” Pulsipher also recently learned that a former member of his tactical squad had committed suicide.

The commission considered a victim’s statement from the first woman he touched, who said she felt abandoned by a force.

“I was very offended by some who I thought were real friends and all they seemed to care about was how this incident made the squad look,” she wrote.

“In my opinion, it is completely unacceptable to allow this man to continue to work in the police. I pray that the RCMP will not disappoint me and the many other women in the security forces who have fallen victim to the hands of other members.”

She wrote that she was disappointed in herself for not pushing for a criminal case, but said that dealing with the investigation team “was a terrible experience.” The woman said that she was so stressed by these events that she lost sleep and even once fell asleep at the wheel.

“It would be nice to get an apology from him if he really regretted his actions,” she wrote.

Pulsifer told the council that he was remorseful, indicated that this was his first transgression, and said he was ready to receive any treatment needed.

Ultimately, the behavior board suspended Pulsifer for 35 days, declared him ineligible for promotion for two years, and ordered him to seek counseling on alcohol abuse.

Nova Scotia RCMP Commander Lee Bergerman believes the board “deliberately misclassified” Pulsifer’s actions to justify less harsh behavior. (Tim Krochak/Canadian Press)

“While involving two victims who were quickly touched sexually, the subject’s misconduct was clearly an isolated incident and out of character,” the board concluded.

“He performed above average in his police duties and consistently demonstrated an impressive work ethic and commitment to additional roles in the ceremonial squad and task force. His personal bravery in the performance of his duties was officially recognized.”

NS Mountie accuses board of softening his actions

But the head of the RCMP in Nova Scotia at the time filed an appeal, arguing that Pulsifer’s actions met the definition of sexual assault and that he should resign or be fired.

In comments published in the conduct board’s final decision, Lee Bergerman, now a retired former Assistant Commissioner for Nova Scotia, argued that the board “deliberately misclassified [Pulsifer’s] actions as “unwanted sexual touch”.

Bergerman said she felt the board was putting too much emphasis on Pulsifer character references and “simplifying” how his actions affected the victims.

The case revolved around the internal processes of the RCMP for years before it landed on the desk of Commissioner Brenda Luckey in Ottawa.

She concluded that the charge against Pulsifer had originally been characterized as “compromising behavior” rather than sexual assault, upheld the council’s original assessment, and dismissed Bergerman’s appeal.

“In my opinion, the board did not make a mistake by not characterizing the defendant’s behavior as sexual harassment,” she wrote in her decision earlier this year. A copy of the decision was made public last week.

“The commission was in the best position to determine the weight of the evidence and I see no reason to intervene.”

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Luckey said she saw no reason to intervene and dismissed the appeal. (Adrian Wilde/Canadian Press)

Lucky wrote that “Pulsipher’s colleagues spoke highly of him, his work was praised, and, most importantly, he demonstrated integrity in the way he carried himself after the incident, a quality for which he had previously been respected” .

In her ruling, Lucky also ordered Pulsipher to undergo sensitivity training and told him to apologize to the two women in writing.

Pulsipher did not respond to CBC attempts to contact him.

Lucky vows to eradicate sexual harassment

The RCMP has for years been accused of imposing inadequate sanctions on the mountain in cases of harassment and sexual assault.

In his 2020 scathing report on the internal culture of the RCMP, former Supreme Court Justice Michel Bastarache said he heard alleged victims of sexual harassment accuse the RCMP of letting the perpetrators get away without “consequences.”

After this report was released, Lucky pledged to eradicate sexual harassment, harassment and discrimination in the RCMP.

“That kind of behavior keeps resurfacing. It must be stopped, and it is not allowed. There is absolutely no place for sexual harassment, harassment, discrimination, bullying, sexism, racism, homophobia or transphobia in the RCMP,” she said in November. .

“It’s important that people know that this is unacceptable.”

In a statement sent to CBC News, an RCMP spokesman said all issues of conduct are being handled “fair, consistent and proportionate in nature.”

“To be clear, the member’s behavior was not justified. He was sanctioned in the form of confiscation of wages, a severe disciplinary measure befitting this particular case. These are case by case estimates,” spokesman Robin Percival said.

Mendicino in the middle of a word, face close-up
A mandate letter from the Minister of Public Security, Marco Mendicino, instructs him to initiate “an external review of the sanctions and the RCMP’s disciplinary regime to determine the adequacy of the existing sanctions and their correct and consistent application.” (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)

“Any form of sexual harassment, harassment and violence is unacceptable and unacceptable in the RCMP. We continue to encourage anyone who believes they are the victim of inappropriate behavior to report it.”

The federal government has promised to review how the RCMP disciplines its members.

In a mandate letter from the Minister of Public Security, Marco Mendicino, after the election, he was instructed to initiate “an external review of the sanctions and the RCMP disciplinary regime in order to determine the adequacy of the existing sanctions and their correct and consistent application.”

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