Patrol rules relaxed in RCMP staffing crunch, court hears
October 20, 2023 By Andrew Bates, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Oct. 20, 2023, Woodstock, N.B. – When Woodstock RCMP officer Osama Ibrahim pulled overtime shifts for the short-staffed Grand Bay-Westfield RCMP, his location between calls didn’t matter, so long as he answered, the force’s commander told court Thursday.
“We’ve been more lenient on this because we were so short,” said Sgt. Luc Samson. “(If) there’s someone that comes to work for me, I’m not going to be (saying): ‘Now you’re here, do all these different things.’ Just: ‘Thank you for coming, we’ve been short so long.’”
Ibrahim, 29, facing five charges including assault, sexual assault and breach of trust, stood trial for a fourth day Thursday in Saint John provincial court. On Monday, a girl, who was 16 at the time, testified that Ibrahim, then 27, was a family friend who told her parents that he wanted to marry her, and was physically, emotionally and sexually abusive during subsequent visits.
The girl and her mother and father testified that Ibrahim often stayed at the family’s Saint John-area business and home for hours, mostly in his RCMP uniform. The girl’s father testified Tuesday that Ibrahim would show them his “toys,” including a Taser, which the father said would “shoot blue light.”
The girl’s identity is protected by a publication ban. Brunswick News is withholding details which could identify her.
Ibrahim’s lawyer, T.J. Burke, said Thursday that policies for meal breaks and where an officer was located between calls were “flexible.” He has suggested during cross-examination that the alleged abusive incidents involving Ibrahim were invented, that any documented incidents were done in a joking manner, and that the officer never activated his Taser with the family.
Samson testified he’d been introduced to Ibrahim in summer 2021 as a “reliable” officer, with no issues while working overtime at the detachment.
An officer working overtime after a shift would get paid time and a half, and if they worked on a day off they’d get double time, Samson said. Plus, the officer would be paid for travel time, per diems and mileage or accommodation if applicable.
He said Grand Bay-Westfield was “not a go-go-go detachment” and that things are easy going, as long as an officer is ready when there’s a call.
“We’ve been short for so long that I can’t have the expectation of being super proactive and doing extra duties,” Samon said, offering as examples patrolling, school talks and community visibility. He also noted his expectations are higher now that the detachment is in a better position with staffing.
He said it wasn’t as hard to find officers from elsewhere to fill Grand Bay-Westfield overtime shifts as it would be for, say, Codiac RCMP in Moncton, which would get a lot of calls.
“Some members … don’t want to do a lot of work, it’s the best way to explain it,” he said.
Cst. Brett Knox said when he worked with him, Ibrahim would be in the Saint John area for hours at a time, and would report his status as “roving-traffic” even when in the city. He would arrange to be primarily a backup, rather than responding “call-for-call,” Knox said, but Ibrahim never failed to show up when asked.
“I looked at it as, he gave up his day off,” Knox said. “As long as he’s there to back me up, I don’t care, that’s what he’s there for.” RCMP Cpl. Jullie Rogers-Marsh, currently acting as sergeant for the detachment – as Samson is filling roles in the Hampton and Sussex detachments – said when an officer would come to the detachment for the first time, she’d show them around the office, introduce them to the area and share expectations around call response.
She said it was important to patrol the area and be visible, with a trip around their Kingston Peninsula patrol area taking about an hour.
Samson said while investigations would stay with the home detachment, a visiting officer would still be expected to take some initial calls, including ones that would be easy to resolve, or impaired driving cases which could be wrapped up in a night.
While he said people did occasionally go into Saint John for breaks, the expectation was that they’d go for food and come right back, he said. He agreed with Burke that neither he nor Rogers-Marsh could give a specific answer on the maximum length of time they could be away.
Knox said that officers would be able to take a 30-minute break and two 15-minute breaks on a shift, but that you couldn’t always take your break right away, and he sometimes took an hour in a row. Rogers-Marsh said more than an hour would be unreasonable unless she approved it, but she didn’t say this specifically to Ibrahim.
Jonathan Castonguay, an officer with Woodstock RCMP at the time, testified to Taser practices at that detachment. He said the weapons were signed out to a vehicle, rather than an officer. A Taser associated with Ibrahim’s vehicle was triggered just after midnight on Dec. 31, 2021, Castonguay said.
Gisele Leblanc, an RCMP telecom operator, reviewed GPS records showing Ibrahim was near the family business where the alleged victim worked from 6:20 p.m. on Dec. 30 to 2:10 a.m. on the 31st, the same night a municipal works employee testified Wednesday that he phoned the local police because Ibrahim’s vehicle was running unattended for hours on the street.
The court heard that the GPS turns off if the vehicle is shut down, and officers may leave the car running to keep the system online.
Ibrahim was on administrative leave due to an unrelated code of conduct investigation, Saint John police said when charges were laid in September 2022. He is charged with assault, sexual assault, assault while using or threatening to use a baton, conductive energy weapon and handcuffs, assault while choking and breach of trust from December 2021 to February 2022.
The trial was adjourned to Nov. 2. Crown prosecutor Nicholas Lavigne said he’d file documents related to GPS records, then hand the podium over to Burke for defence witnesses.
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