Rogue Police

News Report

For His Abuse of Trust

Provincial Court Judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond explained that his sexual assault was not, as Sgt. James Bracken's lawyer claimed, at the "low end of the spectrum." It was serious. "Trial judges," she wrote, "do not base their decision on the spectrum solely on the physical acts of sexual assault, placing touching at the low end and intercourse at the high end of the spectrum …

Sgt. James Bracken
Sgt. James Bracken Bracken was lead investigator for assaults committed on a young girl by her neighbor. Betraying his trust as a police officer, Bracken studied her file, learned how fragile she was, and capitalized on it. In re-victimizing her, Bracken escalated from months of lewd talk, to gifts of police uniforms, to air tickets for a jaunt to a Jamaican nude resort. She turned him in.

In Saskatchewan, an RCMP officer who sexually assaulted an aboriginal prisoner was sentenced last week to three years in prison. That's a fairly tough sentence by Canadian standards. But the standards seem out of whack. They do not reflect the damage done to the individual and her community in cases of an egregious abuse of trust.

Wearing his gun, Constable Thierry Jacques took a 24-year-old from the drunk tank in La Ronge to a police garage. He demanded she lift her shirt; he groped her breasts while he masturbated and ejaculated onto her body. No, it was not a rape  –  not by the conventional definition. But it was a major sexual assault all the same.

To understand why, consider a separate case last year involving a Saskatoon officer who headed that city's major crimes unit. Sergeant James Bracken was the lead investigator on a case of up to 200 major sexual assaults committed on a girl from age 12 to 15. Sgt. Bracken, who had 29 years on the Saskatoon force, groped the breast of that vulnerable girl, who was by then 18. He had read her file  –  knew how vulnerable she was, how her father had been dying of leukemia when she was being sexually assaulted by a neighbour. He did not merely assault her in one clouded moment; months of inappropriate sexual talk on his part led up to that act.

Provincial Court Judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond explained that his sexual assault was not, as Sgt. Bracken's lawyer claimed, at the "low end of the spectrum." It was serious. "Trial judges," she wrote, "do not base their decision on the spectrum solely on the physical acts of sexual assault, placing touching at the low end and intercourse at the high end of the spectrum … Where the touching might seem to be less aggressive or forceful, but there is a 'contemptuous disregard' for the feelings and personal integrity of the victim, the assault must be classified as at the higher end of the spectrum."

Criminal Charges
Bracken's arrest document: Information #34542900 The publication ban refers only to the victim's name

Sgt. Bracken, who pleaded guilty at his first court appearance, seemed truly remorseful. "How is it I've become the monster I've been seeking?" he asked the court. Judge Turpel-Lafond gave Sgt. Bracken seven months in jail. In light of his remorse, that seems reasonable.

Constable Jacques showed no remorse. He did not apologize to the victim, who spoke in her victim statement of feeling "tormented and ashamed." His abuse of trust was profound. He was in a position of power over his victim. He abused society's faith in him as a police officer.

The Crown attorney, Inez Cardinal, asked for three years, so it is hard to fault the Court of Queen's Bench in Saskatoon for the sentence. But it's time to advance the yardsticks. For a major sexual assault involving an armed police officer violating a public trust, a sentence of three years in jail, with the possibility of full parole after just one year, falls short of expressing society's abhorrence and pain.

Read the full legal decision:   R. v. Bracken 2005 SKPC 64

What Makes an Abuser?

In his treatise The Physician as Perpetrator of Abuse, Dr. Richard P. Kluft asked “what sort of physicians approach patients sexually?” His clear insights about MDs apply to all persons in a position of trust, including police officers. There are four categories of exploiter:

Morose: These exploiters often either suffer clinical depression or are going through periods of turmoil in their personal life, often involving marital difficulties, losses, and separations. In their depression, loneliness, and sense of being devalued by others, they are drawn to those who may see and treat them as persons of worth. A role reversal ensues. This is, in Kluft's experience, a very large and important subgroup.

Malicious: Unscrupulous exploiters take advantage of others simply because they find it in their selfish interests to do so. They abuse their authority in order to leverage sexual goals.

Masochistic: These exploiters indulge in shocking behavior as part of a self-destructive drive to destroy or debase themselves. The precise medical definition: Masochism is the tendency to derive pleasure, especially sexual gratification, from the person's own pain or humiliation.

Mentally Ill: This exploiter acts under the influence of an illness of the mind, often with a delusional system that advocates such contact or finds an abnormal rationalization for the breaching of boundaries. For example: one irrational physician believed his sperm had ‘curative powers.’

Read the full treatise:   The Physician as Perpetrator of Abuse