Ralph Goodale and the good-ole boys club: Misogyny is alive and well at the Regina Police Service
Photo credit: Jackie Hall Photography
There has been a lot in the news the past few years about harassment and bullying in the RCMP.
In 2017, more than 3,100 women working for the RCMP won a $100-million class action lawsuit and an apology from RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson for harassment faced for 40 years.
“You came to the RCMP wanting to personally contribute to your community and we failed you. We hurt you. For that, I am truly sorry,” Paulson said in a news conference in Ottawa in 2016.
The RCMP now faces a $1.1-billion lawsuit over bullying and harassment claims also dating back decades.
Thousands of male and female RCMP officers, staff and even volunteers have come forward seeking compensation for the harm they endured while employed in Canada’s national police force.
Unfortunately, harassment and bullying in police forces is not limited to the RCMP. Former member of the Regina Police Service (RPS) Heather Gray says she has been suffering for many years because of the treatment she faced while employed with the RPS.
In 1981, Gray became the first female police officer in the Moose Jaw Police Service. Even early on in her career Gray faced the difficulties of being a woman in a male-dominated field.
When she was offered a job with the RPS in 1983 she hoped that going from a service where she was the only woman to the RPS, which had 11 female officers, would allow her to fit in better and avoid further harassment based on her gender.
“It was a course of concern throughout my career path,” she said. “I was always on guard for something to happen.”
Gray was a valued member of the RPS, working as a patrol member for years in a high violent crime inner city area. In 1992 she became a hostage/crisis negotiator and was active in fund raising and organizing training from the LAPD and FBI at SWAT schools in Regina.
As an eight-person team it responded to 55 calls a year that involved high-risk warrant and hostage taking situations.
“I was very proud of that and very thankful to be on the team.”
In 1996, Gray gave birth to her son and five months later joined the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the RPS in the child abuse unit. She trained as a forensic interviewer and dealt directly with children who had been abused.
“I was a brand-new mother and had a full case-load of child abuse.”
A few months into her employment in the child abuse unit, Gray felt that one of her superiors, Sgt. Tom Griffin had put a target on her back.
She remembered Griffin as someone who was emotionally unstable and would frequently lose his cool at work.
Gray said Griffin tried to undermine her work and bully her in the workplace. It only got worse in the next year as he enlisted others in her chain of command to assist him in making her life miserable. “Something was happening every day. I couldn’t focus on my work.”
Everything came to a head in 1998 when a friend of Gray’s in the patrol division of the RPS came to her and her partner at the time, Christine Tell, about a group of officers cheating on the police promotional exam.
Her friend didn’t want to go to the authorities herself because she was afraid it would be too easy for the cheaters to know it was her as she worked with them on their patrol team. Heather and Christine agreed to report the incident and went to Sgt. Tim Hesse in Internal Affairs.
She mentioned to him that she was concerned the issue would not be addressed because the inspector in charge of Internal Affairs, Garry Hoedel, was close with officers who cheated on the exam.
“Tim assured me that he would look into it,” Gray said.
A few hours later, as Gray was walking to her car in the parking garage of the Regina Police Department, she was attacked by Hoedel. She said he backed her up against the cold wall of the parking garage, yelling: “Who the fuck do you think you are!”
“I was terrified,” she said. “He was so aggressive and outweighed me by 50 pounds.”
Gray says after he let her go she went straight to the RPS Police Chief, Calvin Johnston and told him what happened.
She was very concerned because she knew that in just a few short weeks Hoedel would be coming over into her chain of command as the inspector in charge of the CID.
“All [Johnston] did was put his hand on the small of my back, guide me out of his office and say, ‘It’s a good thing Garry doesn’t hold a grudge’,” She remembered.
Gray said she could see what was happening. She had disrupted Hoedel’s ‘boys club’ and she was going to pay for it. The men who cheated on the exam where part of the RPS hockey team and were highly respected in the service. “They were treated like gods,” Gray said.
Her nightmare came true in January 1999 when Hoedel became an inspector in the CID. The Superintendent of the CID, Vernon Forbes was also in Hoedel’s gang and was well known as a loose canon. “I call him the arch-bully. He had all this power and did great harm to many people.”
Former RPS officer Marv Taylor knows the abuse that Forbes was capable of all too well. In June 1976, Forbes allowed a police dog to attack Taylor while they were working together in the RPS canine unit. Despite being accused of using unnecessary force with police dogs many times, Forbes was promoted through the ranks until he reached superintendent of the CID.
“He was accountable to no one,” Taylor said. “Everyone was afraid of Forbes because they thought it would come back on them. He caused a lot of issues, but no one would address it.”
Because Taylor questioned his actions, Forbes undermined his authority, making his job in the CID as difficult as possible.
“He wanted to weed me out because he had his own people he wanted in,” Taylor said.
In December 1998, Taylor was placed on progressive discipline by Forbes who also threatened him by telling him that he was going to have a “very uncomfortable year.”
With Forbes and Hoedel in charge, Gray had a similar experience while working in the child abuse unit. She was frequently given conflicting tasks which she was unable to complete. When she asked questions, she was deemed insubordinate. Eventually she was placed under an unnecessary work order, causing her to resign from the hostage negotiation team and putting restraints on her that made it impossible for her to advance her career. “I couldn’t imagine anything worse,” she said.
Both Gray and Taylor said the last few years of their employment with the RPS as the worst in their lives. “I was a physical and mental wreck,” Taylor said. “I was on the verge of a nervous break down and was two steps away from suicide.”
Taylor added that all the bullying and harassment was reported to the Police Chief Calvin Johnston, but nothing constructive was done.
Thankfully for Taylor when he retired in 1999 he had served just more than 25 years with the RPS allowing him to receive his partial pension.
Gray was not so lucky and left the force in 2001 with nothing but severe psychological scars from years of abuse.
“This should have never happened. I was ruined.” Gray and Taylor have both been diagnosed with PTSD. Gray has also been diagnosed with several other mental illnesses including anxiety, depression and agoraphobia.
Her situation has only worsened the past 20 years as she fought to get compensation for what she endured.
In 2005, there was a ruling in her favour to receive money and treatment from the Workers Compensation Board (WCB) because of psychological injury.
In 2007, the decision was reversed after what she believes was tampering in her file by individuals within the RPS and people high up in the Saskatchewan Party.
She was told by the people at the WCB that after two years she had been compensated enough for her PTSD. “The bullying and intimidation continued even after I left the police force,” she said. “It’s like being raped again and again.”
The pairs’ lawyer, Bob Hycran believes there is no doubt harassment and bullying were rampant in the RPS during Gray and Taylor’s time and that they deserve compensation. He also believes the RPS interfered with their WCB hearings, ensuring that they did not receive a pay-out for what they endured. Hycran said he knew Gray when he was a young lawyer back in the 1990s.
Gray and Taylor met with the MP for Regina-Wascana, Ralph Goodale, back in 2014 to discuss their case.
At the time Goodale seemed sympathetic but said he felt he didn’t have the power to do anything about it as an MP. A letter was sent to Goodale, who is now the Minister of Public Safety, at the end of August to remind him of the 2014 meeting and ask him to conduct a third-party investigation into the RPS, similar to what he did for the abuses in the RCMP.
“In light of previous conduct of the RPS/Board of Commissioners we have little confidence of a fair unbiased ‘review of these offences involving former senior RPS officers,” Hycran wrote.
It is well known that Goodale is friends with former RPS Police Chief Calvin Johnston who ignored both Gray and Taylor’s reports of abuse in the late 1990s. The letter has not received a response and Goodale’s press secretary Scott Bardsley told Ottawa Life Magazine that they, “do not comment on private meetings or letters received from constituents.”
Bardsley did say that the Minister of Public Safety only has jurisdiction over the RCMP, not over 300 other police forces in the country.
In January 2017, Gray delivered a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau outlining her abuses and asking for his help.
“Please don’t put this off,” she wrote. “As a caring family man do right by my family.”
Gray has received no response to this letter. Despite numerous calls and emails, Ottawa Life Magazine was not able to get a response from the prime minister about why there has been know acknowledgement of the letter.
Gray and Taylor met with current Police Chief Evan Bray in May of this year, and as follow-up to the meeting he sent them a letter advising them to be patient as “these things take time.” Executive Officer of the RPS Lauralee Davies confirmed while they are looking in to the allegations, “it may take some time because it was so long ago.”
Both Gray and Taylor feel as though they have been nothing but patient.
Gray’s situation is becoming increasingly desperate as she has had to liquidate all her savings to provide for herself and her son. She is also struggling immensely with her mental health. “I have no choice but to die,” Gray said, her voice cracking. “Nothing has gone in our favour and everyone has stepped on our necks.”
Hycran said he believes bullying of officers is a daily occurrence and something that is a feature of police services.
“You would be shocked to find out how many police officers have been destroyed.”
In 2016, the Saskatchewan Party introduced legislation that would insure all Saskatchewan employees suffering from PTSD would receive benefits from the WCB.
Key to this legislation was “presumptive coverage” that would assume all occupations leave employees in a position where they could suffer from PTSD. The bill also allows coverage to be retroactive. For some reason this legislation has not made a difference for either Gray or Taylor.
“Good things are happening, but they are not translating into good things for Marv or Heather,” Hycran said.
Hycran believes that a true, unbiased investigation into harassment, bullying and corruption in the RPS is needed. A lot of attention has been placed on the RCMP, yet little is being done to investigate the atrocities that occurred within the RPS that have caused significant hardship for Gray, Taylor and possibly more police officers.
Gray is looking for compensation for her injuries and the pension that she was unable to collect because she was forced out of her position pre-maturely.
“In October of this year I should have finished my 35-year career and been on my way to a happy retirement,” she said, her voice wobbling.
While Taylor is in a better situation financially, he too would like compensation as well as an apology from the RPS for allowing the abuse to continue for years. Taylor hopes the same consideration and concern that is being given to RCMP officers be translated to local police departments.
“The RCMP have come to terms with it,” he said. “It’s been 20 years of fighting. That really takes a toll on you.”
Heather Gray has lost everything championing for change. Her home, her career, her life as she knew it. To help Heather, click here to donate to a Go Fund Me page set up by fellow female officer Amy Matthijsse.
Read more about Heather's story here:
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