Updated: Red Deer RCMP officer denies he asked prisoner to expose her breasts

Updated: Red Deer RCMP officer denies he asked prisoner to expose her breasts

Const. Jason Tress says he “never” asked woman in custody to show her breasts

A Red Deer RCMP constable denied in court Thursday that he asked a woman in his custody to expose her breasts.

“Did that ever happen?” asked defence lawyer Robb Beeman.

”Never,” answered Const. Jason Tress.

He is on trial at Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench after pleading not guilty to sexual assault and breach of trust in connection with an alleged Canada Day 2016 incident at Red Deer’s downtown detachment.

Melissa Heinrichs, 22, testified on Monday that Tress coerced her into lifting her top when they were alone together in a fingerprint room.

Unlike formal interview rooms, the fingerprint area was not then equipped with video monitoring. It has been installed since.

Video shown of a nearly 90-minute formal interview Tress conducted with Heinrichs later in the afternoon showed no untoward behaviour or questions.

Beeman asked if Tress had acted differently in the formal interview than he did in the fingerprint room.

“Not at all,” he said.

Beeman asked about testimony from another constable at the detachment, who said that when she passed by a window outside the interview room, she made eye contact with Tress, who was talking to Heinrichs. The shutters were then closed from the inside.

“From my best recollection, I was sitting on the chair the whole time,” Tress said, referring to a seat he said he took in the fingerprint room. “I have no recollection of that.”

Heinrichs had also testified that Tress made vulgar comments about the way she was dressed and commented on his sexual arousal when she was handcuffed in the back of his police vehicle before being taken to the detachment earlier that day.

She and her boyfriend, Keifer Collins, had been arrested at the Travelodge Hotel in Red Deer.

Tress denied making any sexually inappropriate remarks to Heindrichs.

“The only thing where she might have got that opinion from, was when I said I noticed she wasn’t wearing a bra,” said Tress.

He asked her about that because officers try to ensure that those who are arrested are wearing clothes that are suitable if they are released later, he said.

Crown prosecutor Photini Papadatou questioned Tress closely about why he twice talked to Heinrichs in the fingerprint room, when other video-equipped interview rooms were available.

On both occasions, Heinrichs appeared to leave the room crying, holding a tissue to her face, Papadatou pointed out.

Tress said the fingerprint room was large, conveniently located to the front desk in the cell area and allowed him to talk to Heindrichs away from Collins.

Police wanted to keep the two apart, he said, and Heindrichs had told him she wanted to get away from Collins and the drug lifestyle.

Papadatou put it to Tress that he picked that room because he knew there would be no recording.

“I agree. That was part of it — for her privacy,” he said, adding it would not make sense to use the other rooms.

About eight hours after Heinrichs was arrested, she was released without charges.

About two weeks later, Tress, who was on vacation with his wife, who is also an RCMP officer, was notified by a senior officer of the sexual assault complaint.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team investigated and interviewed Tress in late July.

Out of that investigation, Tress faces another breach of trust charge, also dating back to 2016, involving another woman.

As well, he faces one count of sexual assault involving a third woman, stemming from an unrelated incident in 2012.

He has been suspended from the RCMP and is working as a coil tube supervisor in the oilpatch.