Moncton RCMP officer violated code of conduct, discredited force, board finds

·6 min read
This duplex on Dominion Street was one of the Moncton residences raided by Codiac Regional RCMP in 2019 following a police investigation at the heart of an RCMP code-of-conduct hearing this week for two officers.  (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)
This duplex on Dominion Street was one of the Moncton residences raided by Codiac Regional RCMP in 2019 following a police investigation at the heart of an RCMP code-of-conduct hearing this week for two officers. (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)

One of two Moncton RCMP officers accused of discrediting the police force has been found in violation of the code of conduct.

At a disciplinary hearing Thursday, Const. Graham Bourque was also found to have failed to provide complete and accurate accounts of his work.

Cpl. Mathieu Potvin, meanwhile, who faced the same allegations under the code of conduct, was cleared of both at the same hearing.

The accusations against both Codiac RCMP officers arose from a 2019 criminal investigation into the drug trade in Moncton. During his testimony, Bourque admitted to deleting a video he had taken of a target during surveillance with three other officers in the course of their investigation.

Bourque testified it was a brief, poor-quality video of the person they were watching. As he rushed to follow the person in his vehicle, he said, he failed to turn off the video. The ensuing 25 minutes included a personal phone call he had with his wife.

Sabine Georges, the conduct authority representative whose function was similar to a prosecutor in a criminal case, recommended Bourque's immediate dismissal.

But the conduct board chair, Louise Morel, asked Georges to provide alternative punishments to consider, other than outright dismissal.

A hearing will be held on Friday to determine the punishment.

Shane Magee/CBC
Shane Magee/CBC

RCMP conduct boards look into the most serious cases of police misconduct — ones where dismissal is on the table. They are formal, court-like processes and the adjudicators have the legal authority to order disciplinary measures, such as loss of pay or dismissal.

Morel said that all interim measures against Potvin should be lifted immediately.

Potvin and Bourque have been suspended with pay since December 2020.

During the testimony phase, Bourque said he didn't think the surveillance footage he deleted was valuable as evidence.

Bourque was part of a surveillance team following Jesse Todd Logue. He captured a poor-quality video of Logue leaving a property on Donovan Terrace in Moncton.

Shane Magee/CBC
Shane Magee/CBC

After filming the roughly two-second video, Bourque said he dropped the camera in the vehicle he was driving and tried to follow Logue — all the while the camera continued recording.

Bourque testified that the extra 25 minutes showed nothing but black, but it captured the sound of police radio chatter and a private conversation Bourque had with his wife.

He said he was concerned about the conversation being turned over to Logue if charges were laid as part of disclosure of the Crown's evidence.

Bourque asked the surveillance team over their radios that day whether he could edit the 25-minute recording down to 10 seconds. Const. Eric Pichette said he couldn't.

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.

But Morel ruled that the conversations did not constitute an agreement to destroy evidence or submit false information in the report, since Potvin didn't know the video had been deleted until 10 months later. He believed there had been a video malfunction.

Final arguments

In her final remarks, Sabine Georges, the conduct authority representative in the hearing, said there's no denying that Bourque physically deleted the tape.

"He admits to that. We've established that."

The question, she said, is whether that constitutes discreditable conduct.

"A reasonable person in society, with the knowledge of all relevant circumstances, including the realities of policing in general and, in particular, the RCMP, would view this behaviour as inappropriate," Georges said.

But in his closing arguments, David Bright, a lawyer representing Bourque, said, "It's never the reasonable person. It's always the reasonable person fully informed. That's the difference — the reasonable person must be fully informed."

He said they must be fully informed about the background and the circumstances of the case, "and I would suggest a reasonable person would not find fault on behalf Const. Bourque."

Legal implications

Georges said there are "various and serious implications," including that it may "preclude an accused person to make full answer and defence."

She said the Crown may not be able to prosecute a case as a result, or result in the withdrawal of serious charges against an accused person.

"It may negatively impact the administration of justice as a whole. It may prevent [the] Crown from ensuring that justice is done."

But that's not what happened at all, said Bright.

"The evidence before you is directly contrary to that submission. There was a successful conclusion to this project. Mr Logue was charged, convicted and nothing further transpired in that regard."

In her closing, Georges cited decisions in other cases and said she didn't have to prove intent to suppress the evidence.

"Intent is not required to prove discreditable conduct, but rather, if a reasonable person would view [the] actions as likely to discredit the force."

But Bright disagreed with that as well.

"There must be intent," he said. "You cannot have a conspiracy without intent. It's impossible. You just simply can't do it."

In his final remarks, Gordon Campbell, who represented Potvin, said there was no agreement between the officers to suppress evidence or submit a false report.

He said Potvin didn't even know there was a deleted video until 10 months after it had been deleted. He said Potvin initially believed it was a "video malfunction."

Campbell said the entire premise of the charges is "based on a conspiracy fantasy."

"The only thing that I've heard evidence of is four dedicated RCMP officers doing their best to surveil, essentially individuals believed to be violent drug dealers in a very dynamic situation," said Campbell.

He said any of the officers could have edited the radio log that contained mention of deleting a video.

"In fact, they produced an unedited version of the radio log, which you have the complete log here, 18 pages worth of it, and a proposed vetted copy to the chain of command.

"So in fact, you have evidence of exactly the contrary as to the conspiracy that's being alleged."

If there was some concern about disclosing personal information about an officer to the target of a police investigation, Georges said there are procedures in place to deal with that.

She said it's not the officers' responsibility to determine the relevance of a piece of evidence.

"The relevancy of any material is ultimately made by the prosecutors and not the investigators. Therefore, police have a duty to submit all the material to Crown in order for them to make the final determination."