Women come forward with claims of sexual harassment, assault and breach of trust against former RCMP officer
‘IT IS A SILENCING SYSTEM’
A former RCMP officer who is facing serious allegations of breach of trust and sexual harassment from multiple women has worked at six detachments across B.C.
Glacier Media has confirmed with RCMP Headquarters the locations that Brian Burkett worked at during his time as an officer between 2007 and 2017.
“In addition to Kelowna and Duncan he was also posted to the following locations, all in British Columbia: Lake Country, Bella Bella, North Cowichan and Ahousaht,” said an RCMP spokesperson.
There are currently four civil lawsuits against the former police officer and seven criminal counts of breach of trust by a public officer for allegedly pursuing sexual relationships with women in connection with his duties as an officer in 2015 and 2016.
According to a notice of civil claim filed in December 2019, Burkett responded to a domestic assault. The plaintiff will be given the letter “A” to protect her identity.
The civil claim states that Burkett used the plaintiff’s personal information to sexually harass the plaintiff and “Burkett sent the plaintiff via text inappropriate pictures of himself.”
‘When there is an officer texting you and threatening you … you don’t know what you’re going to say to get yourself out of the situation,” says A.
She tells Glacier Media she was afraid, scared and felt in danger.
When A didn’t reply to the text messages, “Burkett threatened the plaintiff with sexual assault,” according to the claim.
Court documents also allege “Burkett sent the plaintiff text messages stating that he would be visiting the plaintiff while he was on shift” and “Burkett also informed the plaintiff that when he visits the plaintiff he expects certain sexual favours.”
“Here’s a police officer I have to interact with and now I know I am in trouble,” says A.
A provided images and documents to Glacier Media which relate to her claim.
“I realized he wasn’t going away and my nice ways of re-directing weren’t working and it was scaring me,” she says. “That’s why I reached out for help because I didn’t know what to do or how to respond.”
She sought professional help and went to a counsellor, who pushed her to report the messages to police.
“I was afraid,” she says. “I was scared for myself. I didn’t know who I would talk to because I can’t call the police. I was isolated and he was aware of that.”
“It is really difficult to report a police officer to the police.”
Court documents for a separate civil claim allege Burkett obtained personal details from a woman after her vehicle was impounded.
According to the civil claim, Burkett used the plaintiff’s personal information to sexually harass the plaintiff and sent inappropriate pictures of himself.
“Burkett met with the plaintiff while on duty and manipulated and threatened the plaintiff again with prison as part of his scheme to force the plaintiff to have sex with him in his car,” the claim states.
Lawyer Michael Patterson, who is representing several claimants in the lawsuits, says he is concerned there could be more victims.
“Given the facts that we have, we believe that there may be many more victims who have not come forward,” says Patterson. “Given the number of detachments and how Burkett moved around, the incidents that we have been retained for may just be a tipping point.”
Glacier Media is not aware of any other woman alleging similar claims against Burkett, at this time.
A woman, not involved in the civil or criminal proceedings came forward to share her experience with a man she claims is also Burkett. She says she met him after a 2012 traffic incident in Duncan. She will be called B, to protect her identity.
B complained to police but was later advised that Crown prosecutors had decided not to pursue breach of trust charges against Burkett in connection with her complaint.
“The system is not set up to protect us; in fact, the system is set up to protect RCMP officers,” says B. “The system is designed to exhaust us and really to encourage us to not speak up. It is a silencing system.”
None of these allegations have been proven in court. Burkett has not filed responses to the civil claims. Burkett did not respond to a request for comment.
BC Prosecution Service confirms Burkett intends to enter a plea on June 2.
Dawn Roberts, director in charge of BC RCMP communications, tells Glacier Media that when RCMP became aware of some allegations in 2016 that dealt with inappropriate conduct involving one of their police officers they immediately launched an internal code of conduct investigation and criminal code investigation.
“The police officer was removed from duties and in 2017 was formally suspended with pay and served a notice that the matter would be moving forward to a dismissal hearing as a result of the internal investigation,” says Roberts.
Burkett formally resigned from the RCMP in October 2017.
“We would like to acknowledge that the victims in the case worked with our investigators and we appreciate their courage,” she says. “We are awaiting the results and decision of this case, which is still before the courts.”
Roberts says this is a rare, but serious breach of the RCMP’s expectations, laws and standards.
“When a police officer does not adhere to expectations and the law, they will be held accountable through our internal processes and, when criminal, through the judicial processes,” says Roberts.
A says she found it difficult to report a police officer, to the police.
“He is living his life and he was very protected by the RCMP and I had the opposite experience and not believed,” she says.