Global News Investigates: Alberta RCMP officer allegedly fails to enforce restraining order, calls woman ‘dramatic’
A Strathcona County woman has filed a complaint against the local RCMP, alleging an officer not only failed to enforce a restraining order but actually brought her face-to-face with the other party and implied she was being “dramatic” about the situation.
The alleged incident is raising concerns about the conduct of RCMP when dealing with restraining orders.
Brettany Sorokowsky filed a restraining order against a tenant on May 8, based on a number of allegations including erratic behaviour and threatening comments and messages. The tenant lived in a garage on the property adjacent to her family home.
Those allegations have not been proven in court but a judge granted the restraining order, which was obtained by Global News. The order states the tenant is not allowed within 100 metres of the property, with the exception of specific days to pick up his belongings.
LISTEN BELOW: Brettany Sorokowsky joins the Ryan Jespersen Show on 630 CHED
It states if the court order is breached, a police officer is permitted to arrest the tenant and bring him before a justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench “to show why there should not be a finding of civil contempt.”
The restraining order, which was renewed until the end of July, gave the tenant five separate opportunities to enter the property to remove his belongings and two occasions for a third-party to remove his belongings.
Sorokowsky said one additional day, June 29, was worked out with the tenant to allow a moving company to remove his items from the property without him being present. Text messages between the tenant and Sorokowsky’s family appear to confirm the conditions.
In the complaint filed with the Civhttps://globalnews.ca/news/5655213/global-news-inve…estraining-order/ilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) for the RCMP, Sorokowsky alleges “[the tenant] showed up with four of his friends instead of a moving company so I called the RCMP as he was breaching his restraining order.”
“Then we found out he was moving his items to our next door neighbour’s,” Sorokowsky said in an interview.
“I said, ‘He’s breaking the restraining order. He can’t have his stuff there.’ The cops came, they talked to us. They said, ‘No, that’s in violation of the restraining order. We’ll tell him he can’t move his stuff there.’”
Sorokowsky said the officer left to speak with the tenant but said the officer returned while she was outside her home “with the former tenant in the car with him,” according to the complaint.
“The member told me that I should listen to the tenant because he had some demands he would like to speak to me about…The RCMP member stepped in and told the tenant that he could move his stuff next door and that if I could ‘stop being so dramatic, you can give him that at least.’”
“I feel as though there’s not much more you could do to traumatize a human,” Sorokowksy told Global News about the alleged face-to-face encounter.
“Let’s just bring somebody who’s inflicted a huge amount of stress, inconvenience, money pressure, everything you can imagine. Let’s bring them to your home where your children are… I struggle to see where the benefit is.”
The tenant himself confirmed to Global News that he was on the property on June 29 with a police officer and did speak directly with Sorokowsky.
The tenant told Global News the “cop was right by my side the whole time. He’s like, ‘I got no problem with you talking to them.’ He said, ‘I’ve got way better things to be doing.’”
A criminal record check of the tenant does not show any evidence he was charged with breaching the order.
‘I was an inconvenience’
Sorokowsky is also taking issue with the comments allegedly made by the police officer.
“They alluded to the fact that I needed to not be dramatic in my approach, that I am quick to call them, that I am quick to essentially abuse what they were there for. I was like, ‘I have a restraining order and your job is to enforce the restraining order and your job is to listen to the courts,’” she said.
Her concern is further elaborated in the complaint.
“[The officer] made me feel as [though] my rights and my [family’s] rights to feel safe in our home has been taken away by the RCMP. I feel I had been indirectly informed that I should just keep my mouth shut and not call the RCMP when I feel in danger and an order is being violated. I was an inconvenience to the officer,” reads the complaint.
Response from CRCC, RCMP
CRCC spokesperson Kate McDerby said the commission does not confirm or comment on a complaint that has been filed.
“Complaints are sent to the RCMP to be investigated. Whether or not the RCMP member who conducts the investigation is from another detachment or not is a decision made by the RCMP,” McDerby said in a statement.
“Once the public complaint investigation is complete, the RCMP provides a report outlining how the complaint has been addressed. Currently, there are no legislated timelines for the public complaint process.”
Alberta RCMP declined to comment while the complaint is being investigated but said the officer involved is still on operational duty.
No exemptions: Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association
Danielle Boisvert, director of the Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association, said there are no exemptions allowing the subject of a restraining order to breach it, even if in the custody of a police officer. Boisvert has no relation or ties to either party in the restraining order.
“A court order is very specific. Exemptions to any types of restrictions need to be clearly laid out in that court order,” Boisvert said.
“If that exemption is absent from a court order, it simply doesn’t apply. There is no other source of authority for a police officer to say, ‘I’m not going to allow this. I’ll do something a little bit different.’”
Boisvert, who reviewed the restraining order as well as the complaint filed against RCMP, said she would not belittle Sorokowsky’s complaint.
“If what she is saying is accurate, then this officer did show not only a lack of following a court order, it’s arguable he went to the extent of facilitating a breach of that court order,” she said.
Boisvert said the terms and conditions of the court order are clearly laid out in regards to where and when the tenant was allowed on the premises.
“This was a court order from the Court of Queen’s Bench. It’s the highest level of court in Alberta other than the Court of Appeal,” Boisvert said.
“The respondent was required by the court to go back and ask for permission for any further attendances at the property to retrieve his personal belongings. That’s where it should have stopped right there. That’s where, as soon as the officer saw the part of the restraining order, he or she should have said to the respondent, ‘You are not even allowed to be here right now.’”
Court order must be enforced: CPLEA
Jeff Surtees, executive director of the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta, who also has no relation or ties to either party, also reviewed the restraining order and the complaint.
Surtees said police officers have a duty to enforce restraining orders but he said they also have to balance it with their duty to keep the peace.
“The police are given a broad discretion as to how they carry out their duties. When… an officer arrives at the scene, that officer doesn’t know what they’re going to expect. He or she may make judgment decisions about how they treat the people that are there,” Surtees said.
However, he said the court order must be carried out.
“I want to be clear. He doesn’t have the authority to change what the order says or to ignore it completely. And bringing parties right face-to-face together, I don’t know what the reasoning was for that,” he said.
As for Sorokowsky, she is empathetic to police officers and understands they have a difficult job but she would like to see officers do what the courts instruct.
“I understand it creates paperwork for them, we’re still humans. Humans still have emotions. There’s still things to be sensitive to,” she said.
Have a story you think should be investigated? Email reporter Julia Wong in confidence at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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