RCMP officer felt betrayed by force after man's death: colleague tells inquest | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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RCMP officer felt betrayed by force after man's death: colleague tells inquest

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November 28, 2018 - 10:30 AM

BURNABY, B.C. - An RCMP officer who took his own life was betrayed by the force and "hung out to dry" by superiors who used him to tell a false story about the death of a Polish immigrant at Vancouver International Airport, a former media strategist for the Mounties testified Tuesday.

"I saw the institutional betrayal that he experienced first-hand, and I saw damage it did to him first-hand," Atoya Montague told a coroner's inquest into Pierre Lemaitre's death in July 2013. "It was really horrible."

She said Lemaitre became a scapegoat for the Mounties after two decades of building his reputation and rising to the rank of sergeant. Montague said Lemaitre was told the inaccurate information he provided to the media about the incident involving Robert Dziekanski would not be corrected.

Montague said another officer was initially deployed to the airport to address the media after the confrontation between Dziekanski and four Mounties, who used a Taser to try and subdue the man on the night of Oct. 14, 2007. The officer called her at 4 a.m. to say dealing with the incident would be beyond his scope, Montague said, adding she advised him to contact Lemaitre, who received information from investigators when he arrived at the airport.

Lemaitre told reporters three officers approached a combative man and jolted him twice. But two days later he watched a video from a witness that showed Dziekanski was relatively calm when the Mounties arrived and that they used a Taser five times.

Lemaitre was so distressed that he approached managers to demand the information be corrected immediately, Montague said, but a decision was made to not take any action.

"He was helpless, helpless to correct it. He was so distraught," she said through tears, recalling how Lemaitre worried he'd be considered a liar.

The RCMP refused to set the record straight despite her advice that the force was making a "huge mistake," said Montague, who retired last year after a medical discharge.

"This is a national and international story," she said, adding that Lemaitre was under more pressure after the video became public.

Deputy chief coroner Vincent Stancato reminded a five-member jury at the end of Montague's testimony that the purpose of an inquest is not to cast blame but to hear evidence on recommendations that could be made to prevent similar deaths in the future.

Lemaitre's former family doctor and psychologist told the inquest Tuesday that officer had post-traumatic stress disorder from dealing with victims of crime but the Dziekanski incident increased his depression and anxiety.

His former psychologist, Georgia Nemetz, recommended the RCMP put more emphasis on resiliency training, including for supervisors.

"It's not a normal job and people going in should not expect to have a normal life and they should not expect that their normal coping skills will protect them."

Nemetz, who last saw Lemaitre three days before his death, does critical incident debriefings for the RCMP.

She said more debriefings are being provided for members since his death but still more needs to be done for officers.

"I don't believe everything that is being done is being done equally at every division, and every detachment is different," she said.

Lemaitre's family doctor said his patient was prescribed antidepressants and anxiety medication but he was not suicidal.

Dr. Cameron Smith said Lemaitre was also dealing with stress at home and expressed concerns about caring for his disabled wife, saying she had indicated thoughts of suicide.

He described Lemaitre as a stoic man whose mental health issues began improving, only to worsen after Dziekanski's death.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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