Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of Sept. 24, 2007)


RCMP shoots itself in the foot - Again


  By John Martin

These have certainly been difficult times for the world's most recognizable police force: the RCMP. Criticism and controversy over the Air India investigation and the Maher Arar affair aren't going away anytime soon. Well-publicized difficulties surrounding the leadership and morale of the force have perhaps permanently tarnished the force's image.

The allegations and accusations surrounding the handling of RCMP pension funds delivered another couple well-placed blows to their once impeccable image.

And the most recent shenanigans of a couple buffoons on the Ridge Meadows force, and the RCMP's unacceptable response, brings about another low point as the force continues to take a beating.

Carrying on like a couple of drunked up punks on probation, constables Pat Hughson and Steve Frazer went on a tear last year that defies the imagination. In a state described as "highly intoxicated" they hopped into a friend's pickup truck and drove around town randomly assaulting pedestrians, cyclists and even a security guard. Oh yes, and just to show how clever and cute they figured they were, the pair identified themselves as PoCo police officers.

At sentencing, one was given a conditional discharge with a requirement to attend alcohol counselling and perform 25 hours of community service. The other was diverted into an alternative measures program and will avoid a criminal record.

The sentences are consistent with what civilians without previous convictions would receive. In other words, they were treated like anyone else, which is exactly how it should be. Taking a job as a police officer does not mean relinquishing one's rights to be treated equally before the law.

The real problem is the manner in which the RCMP handled the issue as a disciplinary matter. An RCMP disciplinary board found the two guilty of "disgraceful" conduct as a result of their "intentional, serial abuse of innocent passersby, without reason." Any other finding would have been sickening.

But rather than follow through with the only logical option and dismiss the two, they were each docked 10 days pay. There is absolutely no justifying keeping these two on the force. Anyone can make a mistake and disgrace themselves and their employer. Overall, we tend to be quite forgiving and willing to give most people a second chance if they demonstrate regret and remorse. And that level of decency should certainly be extended to police, who work in an environment that is often very difficult physically, mentally and emotionally. But the actions of these two are so far over the top and beyond anything a reasonable person could be expected to do on a bad night, even with a belly full of booze, that they have clearly forfeited the right to be law enforcement officers.

It has been widely reported the pair have excellent work histories and have abstained from alcohol since the incident. No doubt the night of the incident is an anomaly and there's no reason to believe it would ever happen again.

But for the RCMP to believe these two deserve to keep their jobs shows how far off track the force has gone. It is so crystal clear that despite however much the pair may regret their actions and be of otherwise outstanding character, the RCMP has a responsibility to the public trust.

A momentary lapse of judgment or control is one thing.

A prolonged night of thuggery from one end of town to the other is something altogether quite different.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at

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