Moncton Mounties face code-of-conduct hearing over deletion of surveillance video

·4 min read
RCMP were surveilling a location on Donovan Terrace in Moncton on May 15, 2019, trying to observe a target of a drug-trafficking investigation. A video one officer attempted to record of a target kept going longer than planned and was later deleted. (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)
RCMP were surveilling a location on Donovan Terrace in Moncton on May 15, 2019, trying to observe a target of a drug-trafficking investigation. A video one officer attempted to record of a target kept going longer than planned and was later deleted. (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)

Two RCMP officers testified Tuesday they didn't think much when a colleague suggested cutting a 25-minute video recorded on a drug-trafficking surveillance operation down to 10 seconds.

A code of conduct hearing has begun for Cpl. Mathieu Potvin and Const. Graham Bourque. They face allegations of discreditable conduct and failing to provide complete and accurate accounts of their work on May 15 and May 16, 2019.

They denied the allegations at the start of the hearing, which was held virtually and beset by technical issues and delays. Both officers were suspended with pay in late 2020 pending the outcome of the conduct investigation.

"I didn't think anything was wrong," RCMP Const. Eric Pichette testified about the May 2019 conversation that took place as the officers tried to trail a drug-trafficking suspect.

"I just heard it, I moved on to try to locate the target. I didn't really think about it."

Shane Magee/CBC
Shane Magee/CBC

Pichette, Bourque and Potvin were among four officers involved in surveilling two locations in Moncton. Const. Melissa Cormier was the fourth. They were all driving separate vehicles trying to watch and follow targets of the investigation while communicating over a police radio.

A transcript of the radio conversation shows Bourque had lost sight of a target, Jesse Logue, the evening of May 15 after seeing him leave a building on Donovan Terrace.

"OK, question for you guys," Bourque asked on the radio, according to the transcript. "Say, the video camera, where I took a brief video, didn't stop recording and it video recorded for 25 minutes. Can we edit that to just 10 seconds?"

Pichette responded he didn't think so.

'We can act as if it never happened'

Potvin was responsible for taking detailed notes of the team's actions that day for a report on their work. He responded that he hadn't written down anything about a video.

"So we can act as if it never happened," Potvin says, according to the transcript.

Bourque says to not write anything down.

"Well, technically, if you act with full disclosure it has to be disclose right?" Potvin says, referring to how evidence gathered by police for use in a criminal case must be provided to Crown prosecutors and then disclosed to the defence.

"But if it never happened it never happened. You can't, you can't try to cut pieces of a video off. It's creating an issue for no reason."

Entire video deleted

Bourque deleted the entire video. A report on the teams' surveillance work prepared by Potvin makes no mention of the video Bourque shot, or its deletion.

The deletion was discovered months later when evidence in the drug trafficking investigation was being turned over to the Crown, including recordings of the radio transmissions.

Cormier testified she was busy trying to locate the targets of the investigation and navigate traffic.She said since the conversation wasn't about her, she didn't think much of it until allegations of wrongdoing emerged later.

"Your thoughts were that they were attempting to resolve a technical problem?" David Bright, a lawyer representing Bourque, asked Cormier in cross-examination.

"Yes, that's correct," Cormier said.

Pichette testified Bourque apologized to him about 10 months after the deletion while an investigation was underway.

Bourque, Potvin, and Pichette were charged in December 2020 with obstruction of justice by destroying evidence during a criminal investigation related to the same incident. The charges were dropped in 2021.

The code-of-conduct hearing is split into two phases: First, an evidence phase, where testimony is heard. Second, the conduct board chair, Louise Morel, can determine what a reasonable punishment could be in the circumstances.

Morel must be satisfied on a balance of probabilities, based on evidence given during the hearing that the officers violated the code of conduct. That's a lower standard that the one in court, which is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The hearing is scheduled to continue for two more days. Both Potvin and Bourque are expected to testify Wednesday.

The conduct board chair, Louise Morel, has said she can give a verbal decision that takes effect immediately, with a written decision issued at a later point expanding on her reasons. The consequences the officers could face were not specified.