RAMBLE ON: Two years, no answer for suspended cop

Two years since the suspension of Osoyoos RCMP officer Const. Amit Goyal and we know as much about the situation now as we did then.

Dale Boyd is a reporter for the Penticton Western News.

Dale Boyd is a reporter for the Penticton Western News.

This fall marks two years since the suspension of Osoyoos RCMP officer Const. Amit Goyal and we know as much about the situation now as we did when the RCMP said he was suspended with pay in 2013.

As it stands there have been two Code of Conduct hearings put on the schedule in Vancouver Federal Court, and twice the hearing has been removed from the schedule with no reasons provided from the RCMP. The hearing is currently hanging in limbo as Goyal’s name does not appear on the schedule.

I have been able to attain one interesting tidbit of information from RCMP HQ.

“The RCMP would like to clarify that Const. Amit Goyal’s matter is a legacy case that is governed under the former discipline process that was in place prior to Nov. 28, 2014,” said an email from Annie Delisle, media relations officer with the RCMP.

The response goes on to say the RCMP’s former discipline process was “taking too long to resolve matters and options available for addressing misconduct were too limited.”

No kidding. At this point there are only allegations against Goyal, nothing has been proven in a court of law or disciplinary hearing and no criminal charges have been laid, though an investigation conducted by the Trail RCMP detachment recommended criminal charges in 2013. The only thing we can confirm is that there was obviously some incident or incidents that caused the RCMP to suspend the officer in the first place.

There is a Supreme Court lawsuit from former Osoyoos resident Steve Condon, who said he was forced to leave town and alleges he was framed in 2012 for the theft and destruction of two cars by Goyal, though once again that lawsuit hangs in the balance of this disciplinary hearing and would smartly wait to hear whatever allegations and evidence will eventually be heard before going forward. There have been other allegations that individuals and families felt they had to leave town due to the actions of Osoyoos RCMP members.

Public trust in the RCMP is paramount and I have the habit, perhaps flaw, of giving people the benefit of the doubt. However, public officials, especially those tasked with protecting the public and given the weapons, authority and means to do so, get no such benefit. If you chose to get into a public service line of work, the public has every right to constantly hold you under the microscope. The benefit of the doubt goes to the citizen every time not the officer, and body cameras are starting to seem like they could sort out a mess like this pretty quickly.

Presumption of innocence is a hugely important pillar of justice, however, to me, an officer suspended with pay should light a fire under any disciplinary hearing as a ticking clock. Those are tax dollars, end of story. The starting salary for a Constable in the RCMP as of Jan. 1, 2011 is $48,104 a year. I’ll be generous and say Goyal is hypothetically receiving a reduced rate of 40 per cent of his salary while suspended. That makes for a low-ball estimate of roughly $40,000 paid over the last two years to an officer who isn’t performing any duties.

It is difficult to get a representative to talk on the phone, but when an RCMP member does respond by email I have only ever heard the party line that “for a number of reasons, we do not provide specific reasons for delays in discipline hearings. However various causes can delay the progress of a formal discipline hearing.”

The latest email response to the question of “how do you explain this two-year suspension with pay to the average taxpayer?” is a list of possible reasons the hearing could be delayed. Scheduling conflicts, unavailability of witnesses or RCMP members due to illness or serious personal matters, unavailability of a venue or inclement weather causing flight delays and/or dangerous driving conditions. The email goes on to list a hypothetical scenario where a flight may be cancelled or dangerous driving conditions occur due to weather and the hearing would have to be rescheduled, likely months down the road due to the anarchy that is court scheduling. This list could go on forever. There could be an earthquake, space aliens, the Jays win the World Series (too soon?) — all have about as much hypothetical merit as the reasons given. Hypothetical weather, that’s the closest thing to a reason so far from the RCMP that your tax dollars have been paying a suspended officer for two years.

These closed, robotic responses and reluctance to give any information are on one hand understandable, due to the nature of investigations and the sensitivity of certain information. On the other hand, trust should be as important to the RCMP as it is the public, and two years amounting to a few piecemeal bits of information does not put trust and accountability on the forefront. I asked RCMP HQ about trust in the email, and that portion of the question went largely ignored, they were more concerned about telling me what they couldn’t tell me or pointing out that weather can make travelling difficult sometimes.

At this point, I would even take a generic “the RCMP takes public trust seriously and is working on this diligently.” But alas, no. Not even a nod in that direction.

The responsibility does fall on the public not to forget or let the situation get swept under the rug. The guilt or innocence of Goyal notwithstanding, your interest and demand for timely and expedient justice is a powerful tool that can have a surprising effect on the expediency of these cases. If you feel two years is too long, you can always call or write your local RCMP detachment and let them know how you feel.

Dale Boyd is a reporter for the Penticton Western News.