FREDERICTON – The list of policing issues in the province is growing, with four RCMP members from a rural New Brunswick detachment being suspended as the latest addition.
The four members were of the Woodstock detachment, a force of about 20 members. They were suspended for “discreditable conduct.”
Assistant Commissioner for the RCMP, Roger Brown, assured the suspensions are not drug related. But the major crime unit of the RCMP has been brought in to rule out criminality in the alleged incident.
“Yes it is disturbing, yes it is embarrassing,” Brown said Tuesday.
“It’s very embarrassing for me to stand before you and have to tell you I’ve had to suspect four of our own.”
The suspensions caused enough concern that they were brought up in the N.B. legislature on Wednesday.
“With 20 per cent of this force now on suspension, can the Minister ensure residents that adequate policing is ongoing?” asked MLA for the Woodstock-area, Stewart Fairgrieve.
Criminology Profession Michael Boudreau says these situations bring into question the idea of police policing the police.
In this most recent case, the Kennebacasis Police Force will be conducting an independent investigation.
“The police can investigate themselves, I’m comfortable with that – but the need for another layer, another set of eyes that perhaps don’t have a vested interest in policing?” he said.
The four Woodstock members are suspended with pay, but suspension without pay is being pursued in some of the cases.
Two Bathurst city police officers were charged recently with manslaughter in the death of Michel Vienneau.
Vienneau was shot and killed in January of this year, near the VIA Rail train station in Bathurst.
Fredericton Police Chief Leanne Fitch spent over an hour at a news conference this summer, speaking of her disappointment over five of her members being suspended for a variety of issues.
One, Cst. Jeff Smiley, was dismissed from the Fredericton Police Force last week.
Public safety minister Stephen Horsman had this to say about the number of issues that has faced policing in the province over the past year:
“These are highly stressed positions,” he said. “I mean what other position you have where you carry a weapon around?”
“They’re there to serve and protect us. It’s a difficult job. I did it for 25 years and I know everytime you get a call, it’s never easy.”