Pitt Meadows Mayor Bill Dingwall, who is a former RCMP officer, was called upon to testify before a coroner’s inquest into the death of a Mountie.
RCMP Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre took his own life in July of 2013. He had been suffering from post-traumatic stress (PTSD) and depression after the fallout from the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, who was Tasered by police at Vancouver International Airport in 2007.
Lemaitre had been the first RCMP media liaison to speak about Dziekanski’s death, and how four RCMP officers had responded.
His statement was later thrown into doubt when a citizen-recorded video surfaced. It showed police firing their Tasers five times, not twice as reported, and Dziekanski to be much less aggressive than described by the RCMP.
Lemaitre tried to correct the misinformation, but his bosses refused. The inquest heard that he was working with health professionals to control “a rage in his head.”
Dingwall’s involvement in the inquest surrounded an earlier transfer of Lemaitre.
In 2003, Dingwall was appointed to the chief superintendent rank, and was in charge of human resources for the Pacific region. His predecessor had ordered a review of Lemaitre being transferred to Chilliwack.
Lemaitre had heard a reporter make an allegation of sexual harassment against one of his superiors. He passed the allegation on, going above his immediate superior. He was soon transferred out of the unit. He viewed the transfer as punishment.
In February of 2004, Dingwall reviewed the transfer and wrote a summary that found it was inappropriate.
“I didn’t think he was treated fairly at all,” said Dingwall, adding the optics and timing of the transfer were poor, given that Lemaitre had raised the sexual harassment complaint.
Dingwall apologized to Lemaitre in a memorandum, and directed he be re-deployed, which he was, and was eventually transferred back to his original media relations unit in 2007.
“My role was to correct something that shouldn’t have happened,” Dingwall explained.
He also told the inquest about the supports that were available to members through the RCMP. Dingwall said the force “came a long way” in its recognition of PTSD and mental health issues through his career.
Dingwall retired from the RCMP in 2012 and was first elected to Pitt Meadows council in 2014.
On Thursday, the coroner’s jury gave five recommendations, including implementing mental health assessments as part of regular physical assessments of officers, which are mandatory.
The coroner’s inquest is not meant to find legal fault, but to prevent similar deaths.
– with files by Katya Slepian and Ashley Wadhwani.