(Published in 24 Hours Aug 20, 2013)

No pat explanation for cop's suicide


   By Leo Knight




A little more than a week ago, friends and family of former RCMP media spokesman Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre said farewell after he tragically committed suicide at the age of 55. It was shocking to people because he was, for many years, one of the faces of the RCMP as a senior media liaison officer.

What was more shocking to me was that the story got reported at all in the mainstream media, and how it was reported, with most referring to his speaking to the media the night of the death of Polish tourist Robert Dziekanski at YVR.

You see, despite the frequency of police suicides, the media rarely ever report on them. They may infrequently discuss the phenomena, but never specific cases, any more than they report on someone jumping off the Burrard Street Bridge.

It's not good form.

But not in the case of Lemaitre. In this case, the media fell all over themselves not only to report it, but to nebulously tie his suicide to the comments he made the night Dziekanski died. It was as though his guilt about somehow making "misleading" comments on a fluid situation was some overarching reason and he suddenly couldn't live with himself.

Let me set the record straight. Lemaitre was called to YVR by IHIT Cpl. Dale Carr because he rightly recognized the case would have national implications and Lemaitre was bilingual.

Lemaitre was briefed by investigators upon his arrival based on the information that they knew at the time and he gave that information to the assembled media. He did nothing wrong. That some of the information would later turn out to be incorrect as the investigation progressed was not terribly surprising. That is not unusual.

That senior management in the RCMP made the decision that the misinformation would not be corrected had nothing to do with him. That decision, as determined in the Braidwood inquiry, lays solely at the feet of Wayne Rideout, a superintendent at the time.

Was there an element of guilt that hounded Lemaitre inasmuch as he was unfairly pilloried in the media? Possibly. But I don't know that.

I do know he left a suicide note to explain his reasons. And I do know that I have lost too many police friends to suicide. It is a hazard of the job.

As a cop, there are some things you just cannot un-see. You cannot just forget the horrors that accompany your job. You just try and deal with them in the best way you can.

Some cops cannot live with their demons and commit suicide. It's always tragic. But it shouldn’t be salacious news told by those who haven't a clue.


Prime Time Crime

Columns 2013