The charges a former RCMP officer is now facing aren’t enough for the crimes he’s accused of, according to some of his alleged victims.
In 2012, after Zoe called 911 because she was frightened during a road rage incident, Const. Brian Burkett allegedly took her personal phone number and sent her a dozen sexually suggestive text messages.
But she said she was too scared to do anything about it at the time.
“As years went on, in 2016 when the MeToo movement really began to take shape, I was older. I was more confident. I had spent many years reflecting on the impacts of that situation, and I decided to find Burkett and tell him how he had impacted me,” Zoe said.
“Burkett responded with what I now realize is a completely hollow apology,” she said.
According to Facebook messages, the officer replied that he didn’t recall what he said specifically but apologized for his behaviour and admitted it was unprofessional.
When allegations from other women against Burkett were publicized years later, Zoe said she felt sick to her stomach.
Police later investigated her allegations but charges were never laid in Zoe’s case.
“The message that Crown counsel is sending by not approving that (charge), is that this case, where an RCMP officer used the personal and private information of a victim of crime to pursue a sexual relationship with her in an impulsive and obsessive and aggressive manner, does not even constitute a breach of trust,” Zoe said.
The Crown would not comment, saying the matter is still before the courts.
But Angela Marie MacDougall, executive director of Battered Women’s Support Services, believes Burkett should be charged in Zoe’s case.
“She as well as countless other women have bumped up against this blue wall of silence and of minimizing and denying and outright dismissing,” she said.
Court documents suggest that in May 2016, as Burkett was apologizing to Zoe for his behaviour, he was allegedly simultaneously pursuing inappropriate sexual relationships with six other women, many of them victims of crime who had turned to RCMP for help.
He met both Kate and Michelle, whose names have been changed, on the exact same day but during separate police incidents, according to court documents.
Burkett would allegedly go on to send both women a series of sexually explicit messages.
Those allegations have not been proven in court, but Burkett was later charged with seven counts of breach of trust.
“I am completely enraged that what he’s charged with is a breach of trust,” Kate said. “To me when I think about that wording, it feels like he took my mail and read it.”
“What he did was stalking. What he did was systematic. It was hidden and it was purposeful.”
Michelle’s lawsuit against the former cop claims that he forced her to have sex with him.
Burkett was not charged with sexual assault.
Michelle doesn’t believe the breach of trust charge is enough.
“It’s pathetic, absolutely disgusting. This is nothing. That’s a slap on the wrist,” Michelle said.
MacDougall said the power imbalance between Burkett and his alleged victims is extraordinary. She agreed he should be facing more than breach of trust charges given the officer’s position of power.
“Here we have a member of law enforcement who then abuses his trust in order to achieve his own sexual gratification, through sexting someone who is a victim of domestic violence,” she said.
“What we’ve seen here is that the criminal system has decided to underscore the incredible violation that this member of law enforcement has done by deciding to go with charges that do not reflect the offence.”
“We need Crown counsel to use the Criminal Code to its full extent, to call a spade a spade,” MacDougall added.
MacDougall said sexual offenders usually follow a grooming process, where they start by testing victims to see how far they can go.
She emphasized that blame shouldn’t fall to the victims.
“If I’m speaking to any victim of sexualized violence, any woman that’s been a victim of misuse of power by a member of law enforcement, I say, it’s not your fault.”
“He has professional standards that he’s accountable to, he has the trust of the community that he’s accountable to, and when somebody misuses their power, it’s 100 per cent their responsibility,” MacDougall added.
Zoe believes that Burkett’s behaviour escalated over time.
“You don’t jump from sending harassing text messages to literally coercing and manipulating victims of crime into being sexually assaulted and then dumping them on the side of the road.”
Zoe is referring to allegations in Michelle’s civil claim which have not been proven, and Burkett has not been charged with sexual assault.
Over his nearly 10-year career, Burkett was posted to six different places, including North Cowichan, Ahousaht, Bella Bella, Lake Country, Duncan and Kelowna.
Lawyer Michael Patterson represents four of the women in civil suits.
“RCMP appear to show a pattern of moving officers with bad behaviour around to different detachments, maybe to give that officer a fresh start, but creating fresh victims in the process,” he said.
Patterson believes Burkett has more victims out there.
Zoe noted that if she hadn’t come forward with her civil case, none of her story would be public.
“And it really causes me to question how many other women have come forward with allegations against Burkett…and then be silenced,” she added.
“I want to see transparency from RCMP. If they did not know that this pattern of behaviour was happening over these years, let’s see his transfer records. Let’s see his disciplinary records,” Zoe added.
She feels let down by the criminal justice system.
“How can I expect a system to protect me when it wasn’t designed to protect women?” she asked.
“The whole process of being involved in a criminal investigation is deeply exhausting and disheartening. I am a well-educated and well-resourced person who doesn’t give up easily, and I was exhausted,” Zoe added.
Zoe wants Burkett to be held criminally responsible for his alleged actions.
“I also believe that RCMP need to be held responsible because they are responsible for the behaviour of their officers,” she said.
The allegations against Burkett have not been proven, and he did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
He’s no longer a police officer.
The Crown says it expects Burkett to plead guilty on June 2.
He has not filed a defence to any of the civil claims.