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North Island Mountie resigned before he could be punished in misconduct investigation

The RCMP logo is seen outside Royal Canadian Mounted Police "E" Division Headquarters, in Surrey, B.C., on April 13, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck The RCMP logo is seen outside Royal Canadian Mounted Police "E" Division Headquarters, in Surrey, B.C., on April 13, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
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A former Vancouver Island Mountie harassed a subordinate and abused his authority, but resigned from the force before he could be punished for it, according to a recently published disciplinary decision.

The discipline arose from an RCMP Code of Conduct investigation against Cpl. Bartholomew Doerr, which was launched after a complaint from his subordinate, identified in the decision as "Const. T.N."

RCMP Conduct Board member Gerald Annetts issued the decision in May, but it was posted online last week

According to the document, the conduct authority accused Doerr of "a pattern of repeated improper and offensive conduct including objectionable acts(s), comment(s) or display(s) that demeaned, belittled and caused personal humiliation and embarrassment" to T.N.

The officers worked together in the North Island Integrated Road Safety Unit, based in the Comox Valley, according to the decision.

Doerr was a corporal supervisor for the unit, in which T.N. began a three-month assignment in March 2019. In February 2020, she transferred to the unit on a permanent basis.

THE ALLEGATIONS

There were two misconduct allegations against Doerr. First, he was accused of "(failing) to treat every person with respect and courtesy and (engaging) in harassment." Second, he was accused of "(failing) to act with integrity, fairness and impartiality, and (compromising) or (abusing) his authority, power or position."

The first allegation stemmed from Doerr's communication with and treatment of T.N., with the conduct authority highlighting alleged inappropriate comments about her appearance, "repeated unreasonable text and telephone communications," "personalized and expensive gifts," and sending "inappropriate and sexualized videos and photos," among other things.

The second allegation stemmed from Doerr's alleged threatening of T.N.'s wife – a fellow RCMP officer identified as Const. S.F. – with a code of conduct investigation when S.F. confronted him about his communications with T.N.

Annetts found only some of the details alleged by the conduct authority to be substantiated, but wrote that enough of them had been established for him to conclude that Doerr had committed both instances of misconduct.

'NOT EVERYONE SPEAKS THE SAME WAY'

Annetts placed relatively little emphasis on the allegations of excessive and inappropriate communication by Doerr that took place before March 1, 2020.

The board member noted that the number of text messages and phone calls initiated by each officer before that date was "almost exactly equal." A reasonable person reviewing the content of the texts would not conclude that T.N. felt they were inappropriate or wished for them to stop, he wrote.

"Cpl. Doerr’s communications with her were substantial, but when looked at in context and when Const. T.N.’s communications with him in response are taken into account, it appears to me that these were the communications of someone he saw as a friend, in addition to a colleague and subordinate," Annetts wrote.

"Not everyone speaks the same way and not everyone is comfortable expressing their feelings to the extent that Cpl. Doerr does. However, that communication style in and of itself is not inappropriate or excessive."

THE MISCONDUCT

After March 1, 2020, however, the situation changed, according to the board member.

On that date, S.F. called Doerr and expressed frustration with his repeated communication with her spouse outside of work hours and for non-work purposes.

It was during this call that Doerr allegedly threatened S.F. with a code of conduct investigation, according to the decision.

Doerr discussed the call with his supervisor, who recommended he "keep work to work." Shortly thereafter, T.N. also told him to stop contacting her for non-work reasons, according to Annetts.

"He received the same message from three different people within three days," the board member wrote.

"He complied with their direction/advice/request for a number of days, limiting his communication to work-related issues. However, after Const. T.N. invited him to attend a real estate open house with her on March 14, 2020, those non-work-related communications began again in earnest."

The following day, T.N. went to Oliver, B.C., to deal with "personal and family health issues."

"Const. T.N. shared that information with Cpl. Doerr and he began sending numerous lengthy texts in an attempt to lift her spirits," Annetts wrote.

"Const. T.N.’s responses to those messages indicate that she initially welcomed his efforts; however, it is clearly evident that this changed when he sent her an image via text of someone’s thumb over top of their naked legs, an image which appears at first glance to be an erect penis, along with the caption, 'Ever cut your nails too short?'"

T.N. was offended by the image and blocked Doerr's number, according to the decision. Unaware that he had been blocked, Doerr continued sending texts. When those were not acknowledged, he attempted to call her twice, and when those calls were not answered, he tried calling her from a different number.

"Const. T.N. was upset at his extraordinary efforts to contact her," Annetts wrote. "When she realized it was Cpl. Doerr on the phone, she told him clearly and plainly that he had sent her some inappropriate messages and that he was not to contact her again unless it was work related."

OTHER INCIDENTS

The board member also found "other incidents of harassment" that stood out from Doerr's general conduct before March 1, 2020.

In one instance, the corporal sent T.N. a "happy birthday video" featuring a "creepy" partially dressed man singing happy birthday in various settings, "including in the shower, laying on the couch with his legs wide open, (and) coming out of a swimming pool."

While Doerr said he sent the video because he thought T.N. would find it funny and denied the video contained sexually suggestive content, Annetts disagreed.

"I find that the video did indeed contain a sexual theme and was clearly inappropriate for a supervisor in the RCMP to send to his subordinate, regardless of whether a friendship existed or not," the board member wrote.

Similarly, though they disagreed on the particulars of the situation, both T.N. and Doerr testified about an instance in which the corporal made a comment about T.N.'s butt.

Doerr justified his comment by saying he had noticed T.N. adjusting her position while talking to the driver, in a way that made him think a confrontation with the driver might occur.

Annetts was skeptical of this justification.

"Had he actually thought there was a confrontation about to take place, or an officer safety issue as he termed it, I doubt he, as an experienced junior non-commissioned officer, would have continued to sit in the car and watch as the interaction unfolded instead of exiting the vehicle to assist Const. T.N.," Annetts wrote.

THE DECISION

Annetts also found the allegation that Doerr abused his authority to be substantiated, writing that he found the corporal's statements to T.N. about the possibility of a code of conduct investigation into her wife to be Doerr "striking back against Const. T.N. for what Const. S.F. said to him."

"Having found the allegations to be established … I would normally be compelled to impose conduct measures," Annetts wrote.

"However, prior to the conduct hearing being reconvened to enter into the conduct measures phase, Cpl. Doerr submitted a Form 1733, thus tendering his voluntary resignation from the force. When that resignation was accepted by his commanding officer, I lost jurisdiction to impose conduct measures." 

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