Four RCMP officers and three civilian staff members at a police jail in B.C. are under a criminal investigation for allegedly watching a video feed of two female inmates having sex in a cell and doing nothing to stop it.
Spokesman Inspector Tim Shields said the concern centres around the fact that both women had been arrested for public intoxication and were in a cell commonly referred to as the "drunk tank" at the time.
"What is at issue here is the level of consent that could have been given by one or both of the women in consideration of the fact that they had both been brought into cells for being drunk in public," Insp. Shields said in an interview.
The Mounties issued a news release Tuesday detailing the allegations that, for seven minutes on Aug. 18, four RCMP officers, two civilian cell guards and a civilian watch clerk - all of them men - watched the two women engage in what appeared to be consensual sex without intervening.
The women had been arrested in two unrelated incidents for causing a disturbance and being drunk in public and were being held in a cell that is monitored by closed-circuit video, Insp. Shields said.
"If one person was severely intoxicated, then it brings into question their ability to consent to that type of activity," he said.
"It is our duty to ensure that they don't come to any type of harm, and that would include being engaged in sexual activity while they're drunk."
Insp. Shields said there is no firm policy about what to do when inmates are having sex because, except for the drunk tank, prisoners are not kept in the same cell. He stressed the issue in this case is about whether two intoxicated prisoners could legally consent, rather than the fact they were having sex in the first place.
The RCMP issued a news release last Friday saying four of its officers in Kamloops were under investigation for "actions and/or inactions" at the jail earlier this month, but no other details were provided.
Over the weekend, there was a news report detailing the sexual encounter, but the report remained unconfirmed until Tuesday's news release.
Insp. Shields said supervisors learned about the incident five days after it occurred, and now criminal investigations have been launched into the actions of all seven.
The four officers - a corporal and three constables - face internal code-of-conduct reviews. The City of Kamloops, which employs the three staff members, is also investigating.
Insp. Shields said investigators now have copies of the video taken inside the cell, as well as the video from another camera in the guard room, which he said clearly shows who was watching the monitor and for how long.
"We know with complete clarity and with impartiality when each employee arrived, how long they stayed and when they left and really what they were looking at," said Insp. Shields.
Insp. Shields said the criminal investigation is also looking at the sexual activity of the women, although he didn't elaborate. The release from last Friday indicated the investigation was targeting just one of the women in the cell.
The supervising corporal has been on the force for 20 years, while the constables have been with the RCMP for one, two and seven years.
The corporal has already been placed on administrative duties and the three constables are still on active duty, but Insp. Shields suggested that may soon change.
"The duty status of all four of these officers has now been reviewed by the commanding officer of RCMP's E Division headquarters, and a decision regarding their duty status has been made," said Insp. Shields. "It's going to be conveyed to the four officers, and once it has been, then that decision will be made public."
He said that could come as early as Wednesday.
E Division is the RCMP's hub in British Columbia and is headquartered in Vancouver.
The two women have since been released, said Insp. Shields, and neither faced charges related to their initial arrests.
It's the latest embarrassment for the RCMP in a province where the force has come under particular scrutiny.
The most high profile controversy involving RCMP officers is the death of Robert Dziekanski, the Polish immigrant who died at Vancouver's airport in October 2007 after four officers stunned him repeatedly with a Taser.
It's also not the only investigation targeting officers in Kamloops.
Earlier this month, 50-year-old Wilbert Bartley was shot and killed by two constables in an unmarked police van after he rammed his SUV into the vehicle. Calgary's municipal police force is investigating.
And the RCMP announced several weeks ago that two other constables have been charged with assault. One case involves an incident that occurred when an officer was on duty, while the other relates to a bar fight outside of work.
The Canadian Press