Original Published on Aug 12, 2022 at 09:31
By Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The independent investigator looking into allegations of sexual assault by Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers has found the police force should have initiated a criminal investigation into at least one of the complaints.
All but one of the incidents involve the same officer, whom investigator Mike King refers to as Subject Officer 2 (SO2). In the other case, it’s not clear who the officer is, although the possibility it is also SO2 is not ruled out.
That person resigned his position after the most egregious incident was brought to the attention of the RNC chief, something the person who lodged the complaint was apparently satisfied with.
King, director of the Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT-NL), outlines details of six complaints that were brought to his attention in a report released Thursday, Aug. 11. Only one of them was forwarded to him from outside the police force — a single complaint lodged through SIRT by a local law firm.
It’s not clear whether that law firm is Morris Martin Moore, although lawyer Lynn Moore has said she represents a number of women in a civil case against the provincial government that involves more than one officer.
Moore was unavailable for comment Thursday.
King said the other cases were brought to his attention by former RNC chief Joe Boland.
While King says his investigation has taken the matter as far as it can go under the circumstances, he emphasized the file is not closed and that he’s open to hearing any further evidence or complaints.
Offering a lift
Almost all of the cases involve a police officer giving a woman a ride home from downtown St. John’s, a practice that resulted last year in the conviction of Const. Doug Snelgrove in his third trial for a sexual assault that occurred in 2014.
Snelgrove is seeking a fourth trial.
The most egregious SIRT case involved a woman whom King refers to as Affected Person 3 (AP3).
A statement given to police by the woman revealed the following details:
“AP3 stated that an RNC officer offered her a ride when she was walking on George Street after a night out drinking with her friends. AP3 clarified she was not drunk. During the ride, the RNC officer made comments to her about her looks and his marital status. Once parked in front of her residence, the RNC officer and AP3 kissed. She advised that she pulled away when he tried to put his tongue in her mouth. AP3 advised that the RNC officer also tried to put his hand up her skirt. She put her number in his phone. She admitted that she was unsure who initiated the kissing. The next day, AP3 received a text from the RNC officer who advised it was awesome meeting her and that he was working again if she needed a ride home.”
The RNC launched a public complaints investigation and discovered the officer involved was SO2. That officer said his interaction with the woman was entirely consensual, and that the woman even offered to perform oral sex.
Although SO2 appeared to have violated the RNC Act for conduct unbecoming of a police officer, no criminal charges were pursued.
“An ‘informal’ resolution was reached where SO2 agreed to resign from his employment with the RNC. AP3 was advised of this and agreed to same. The RNC closed their file and no further action was pursued,” King wrote.
King says the SIRT decided to pursue the matter, but discovered both the woman and the former officer had left town.
They were unable to locate the man, but did eventually track down AP3, who was living in the United States. Several attempts to contact her were unsuccessful, and the team was eventually informed by a lawyer that the woman was not interested in pursuing the matter further.
“In my opinion, the RNC should have investigated this incident more thoroughly when it first came to light years ago,” King wrote. “As outlined above — particularly in the case of AP3 — it presents a significant obstacle for an investigative agency when an investigation takes place years after the fact.”
Not the only time
In another instance, King summarizes the details as follows: “On March 18, 2017, a uniformed RNC patrol officer was on duty on George Street in the early morning hours. The officer was approached by an unknown female who stated that SO2 was ‘a predator.’ The female went on to say that SO2 was picking up females in his truck and asks if they want to have sex with him. (The officer) encouraged the female to provide her name and make a complaint. The female declined and walked away. She was never identified.”
The one case where the subject officer was not identified involved a woman who reported her car stolen in July 2010. It was recovered later the same day. That evening, while in downtown St. John’s, she received a call from a police officer who inquired where she was. The officer subsequently showed up in an unmarked car and offered her and her friend a ride home. After dropping her friend off, he then pulled into a parking lot and propositioned her. She became angry, so he drove her home. No physical contact took place.
When informed of the incident in November 2021, the SIRT investigator tracked down one of the officers involved in the original stolen car complaint, but was unable to identify the officer who gave the women a ride. He said notes and files were difficult to obtain because of the length of time between the incident and the inquiry.
While no criminal investigation was warranted under the circumstances, the woman was advised she could still launch a public complaint.
In his conclusion, King said the RNC was remiss in not promptly pursuing the case involving AP3, and that the other cases should have at least involved disciplinary measures.
“If the above allegations are true, it is clear that SO2 has displayed a disturbing pattern of using his position to solicit sexual favour from women in the St. John’s area — most commonly in the downtown vicinity,” he wrote. “While each file provided to SIRT-NL is extremely concerning, and would properly be the subject of an RNC internal disciplinary process, on the information we have, only one file involves a potential criminal offence.”
This item reprinted with permission from The Telegram, St. John’s, Newfoundland