A high-ranking female Red Deer Mountie says she’s never experienced harassment problems or seen it among other officers within the RCMP.
Insp. Karen Simon, the operations support officer for the past two years at Red Deer city RCMP, said on Friday that she’s never experienced harassment issues that some women say have occurred within the national police force.
“Certainly, there’s been inappropriate comments that were dealt with at the time,” said Simon.
She said she spoke with her male counterpart to get it resolved immediately and then “we’d just go on.”
“But more so, I’ve seen tremendous change by both men and women in the organization to make it a better place, constantly,” said Simon.
“It’s a great organization and I’ve had a tremendous career. Female members in our organization have the ability to have a very satisfying career.”
Simon, who joined the RCMP in 1981, said she never felt there was a double standard when it comes to men and women receiving promotions.
“We have several detachment commanders and several women in all areas of the organization because of their skill sets,” said Simon.
Allegations of widespread sexual harassment within the national police force surfaced last November.
The controversy was ignited by Cpl. Catherine Galliford, has filed a lawsuit against the Mounties, alleging she was sexually assaulted, harassed and bullied over 16 years.
In March, former Mountie Janet Merlo filed a class-action lawsuit with the B.C. Supreme Court after she alleged she was subjected to persistent and ongoing gender-based discrimination by male members.
“That’s individual to them and it’s very unfortunate that they had to experience that in their careers,” said Simon.
“But they are individual stories and not organizational representation. We have 30,000 employees.”
Simon is one supervisor who can be approached about harassment problems within the police station, but hasn’t so far.
About 36 Mounties of the 131 stationed at the city detachment are female.
“And I would encourage that if someone is being harassed to come forward, so we can deal with it in a timely manner.”
She’s also co-chair of the women’s advisory committee for K-Division, which has mostly heard issues related to leadership, mentorship, balancing family life with shiftwork and the like.
News recently surfaced that a former Red Deer Mountie who was working in the polygraph section at Edmonton had seven allegations of misconduct between the period of 2006 and 2009.
An RCMP adjudication board ruled that Donald Ray would be demoted one rank down to sergeant, be suspended for 10 days without pay, given a formal reprimand, and has since been transferred to a B.C. detachment where he is working under supervision.
RCMP officer Staff Sgt. Robert Blundell admitted to discreditable conduct in 2001 in connection with allegations that he sexually harassed and assaulted two female officers in the late 1990s.
One of those women, Victoria Cliffe, had been a member of the Red Deer Emergency Response Team until 2003, when she was involved in an undercover operation with Blundell in Calgary.
Red Deer resident Yvonne Johnson was appalled with how Ray was handled by his superiors.
“It’s not adequate (to be demoted one rank),” said the woman who has been following the case in the news.
Johnson shared her concerns with Red Deer city RCMP Supt. Warren Dosko as well as Red Deer MP Earl Dreeshen.
“It’s an old boys’ network,” she said.
She said she believes that a retired justice should review harassment claims.
“The RCMP shouldn’t be dealing with their own RCMP,” Johnson said.
An employee with Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP also spoke with Johnson about her concerns.
The commission is conducting an independent investigation into issues of workplace harassment within the RCMP.
By its March 30 deadline, it had received over 60 individual submissions from within and outside the force on how the RCMP handles incidents of alleged harassment. A report is expected by year end.
Spokesman Tim Cogan said the vast majority of those complaints aren’t dealing with sexual harassment.
“We’ve also asked the RCMP to provide information on cases related to harassment back to 2008 because that’s when a new policy was put in place,” Cogan said.
“We’ve received about 1,200 files and we’re looking at those as well.”
Cogan said he’s unaware of any specific public complaints to the commission as to how Ray’s case was handled.
“It’s certainly one that will become part of our overall review,” he said.