Last fall, the Kelowna, B.C., RCMP apologized to an Okanagan woman, admitting a local officer had initially failed to properly investigate her sexual assault complaint.
Now, police have admitted that the officer involved was re-hired as a reservist after the complaints against her were substantiated.
The situation is raising questions about police accountability.
Last October, police issued a final report into allegations that a Kelowna RCMP officer had mishandled a sexual assault complaint.
The investigation found Const. Lesley Smith had neglected her duty and shown an improper attitude in the way she handled a sexual assault report.
Smith had formally retired from the force weeks earlier, but police have now admitted she was sworn back in as a reservist on Oct. 22, the day after the report substantiating the allegations was issued.
“I find it to be an odd situation because it doesn’t really fit the definition of what is required, the minimum requirements to be a reserve officer which right on the RCMP website state they need to be of good character and have retired and resigned in good standing,” said retired RCMP officer Bruce Pitt-Payne.
Pitt-Payne questions the re-hiring given that Smith was found to have written something untrue in the RCMP case file.
Smith wrote that the woman making the sexual assault complaint didn’t want to press charges when that was not the case.
“It has totally affected her integrity,” said Pitt-Payne.
“I’m concerned or I question how the RCMP could hire her back as a reservist when she obviously does not meet the criteria and, in fact, it makes me wonder is that the best they can do?”
Pitt- Payne said reservists work on a part-time, as-needed basis to backfill full-time employees.
“They are fully-trained members doing exactly what any other RCMP member would do, which is the good part, but now you can see the bad part when that responsibility is so high and you have a situation like this,” Pitt Payne said.
The woman who originally filed the complaint against Smith has questioned why a more serious Code of Conduct investigation wasn’t launched.
Global News asked that question of the RCMP back in November.
“I would refer you to our E Division communications for specific things related to conduct except to say that Superintendent Triance believes in holding the membership accountable. In this particular case the person did retire which limits our abilities in certain regards,” Inspector Adam MacIntosh of the Kelowna RCMP said in November 2021.
We now know Smith was sworn back in as a reservist the day following a report substantiating concerns about her police work was issued to the complainant.
Global News is not identifying the complainant because she is the alleged victim of sexual assault.
“I think they kind of found a loophole for her to get out of the Code of Conduct investigation,” said the complainant.
While Smith did receive operational guidance about how to better handle sexual assault complaints, the complainant is concerned about the level of accountability.
“The person who investigated my complaint against her was also a reservist so she could be in this position again,” said the complainant.
“Because that Code of Conduct hearing was never investigated or never happened, she’s just been bumped into a new role where she could do the exact same thing to someone else.”
An RCMP E Division communications officer declined an interview request saying public complaints are covered by privacy legislation.
In a statement, the RCMP said, in general, complaints may result in a range of different outcomes including operational guidance, as was the case for Smith.
“This guidance is meant not to be punitive, but corrective, so that the officer who was subject to the complaint has the opportunity to learn from the incident and move forward,” wrote Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet, senior media relations officer for RCMP E Division.
RCMP confirmed Smith remains employed on an “as and when necessary basis.”