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News Report

Ex-Police Officer Jailed for Sexual Assault

SASKATOON  —  A former Saskatoon police sergeant was sentenced to nine months in jail Friday for sexually assaulting the 18-year-old female victim of a sexual assault he was investigating.

James Bracken, 55, pleaded guilty June 7 to groping the young woman's breast in his police car in February.

Sgt. James Bracken
Portrait of a Rogue Officer Sgt. Bracken viewed the assault victim as a girl sexually available to him. She did not comply under duress despite his position of trust and authority over her, and the age difference. Penalty: 9 months in prison. Key sentencing principles were how best to denounce Bracken’s conduct, and how to deter it from happening again by another police officer or authority figure.

In her victim impact statement, the woman expressed incredulity at Bracken's assault on her.

"If I can't trust a police officer, then who can I trust?" she wrote. "I can't believe Jim Bracken did this to me. I am vulnerable and he knew that … I feel so betrayed. I am hurt, I am sad, I'm mad."

Provincial court Judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond found in a written decision Friday that the breach of trust Bracken committed while acting as a police officer made it necessary for him to serve a jail sentence.

"When victims come forward, the public expects peace officers to maintain professional standards and create appropriate relationships when investigating complaints. When those duties are breached, as they were here in a shameful fashion, reassurance is required that this is unacceptable conduct as a matter of criminal procedure and law," she wrote.

The victim "faced the double tragedy of the death of her father and the experience of childhood sexual abuse at the same time in her young life.

"Her fragile state as an individual was well-known to Bracken, who demonstrated a callous disregard for her situation," Turpel-Lafond wrote.

Bracken, who served 29 years with the Saskatoon Police Service, retired March 11. He had applied for the retirement prior to the assault, but the retirement took effect after the woman complained to the Crown prosecutor who was handling the original sexual assault.

The prosecutor had reported the Bracken incident to the police and an investigation had begun by the time of Bracken's retirement. The formal charge was laid after the retirement.

The Pattern of a Predator

Bracken was the lead investigator in the case of the woman, who alleges she was sexually abused by an adult neighbor from the time she was 12 until she was 14½. The accused neighbor in that case is said to have groomed her as a victim of sexual abuse.

The neighbor's matter is awaiting trial at Court of Queen's Bench. It has been adjourned until Aug. 12, when a pretrial conference will consider the implications of Bracken's conviction on his role as a police witness in a case involving the same victim.

Scott Bartlett, who is the Crown prosecutor in the neighbor's case, said he doesn't know yet what the outcome of that discussion will be.

Bracken was assigned to the initial case last summer and in August, began to call the complainant for lunch or coffee. He was supportive and encouraging and helped her re-enrol in school. But the tenor of his interaction changed in the fall, when he began "talking dirty" to her, making intrusive inquiries and raising sexually charged topics for discussion, Turpel-Lafond found.

Between September 2004 and February 2005, Bracken and the woman met about 40 times. Bracken told her about a nude resort in Jamaica he and his girlfriend had visited several times, where people had sex with many partners. He told her he enjoyed the sexual contact he had there because women would do anything to make men happy.

Bracken: Vulnerability an Aphrodisiac

In January, soon after the preliminary hearing in the neighbor's case, Bracken gave the woman four of his police-issued, light blue uniform shirts and a blue clip-on tie. He told her that she should wear the shirts to bed and that he wanted a picture of her wearing nothing except the police shirt or the tie, Turpel-Lafond wrote.

Bracken also told the woman that he had her Grade 6 school picture, which he had from the police investigation, and that he kept it beside his bed.

In January, Bracken asked the woman what color her bra was and asked to look down the front of her shirt.

On the day of the assault in February, Bracken called the woman a "silly bitch" for wearing a sweater that covered up her breasts. He told her he hadn't gotten lucky on the weekend, then reached over and squeezed her breast several times before she brushed his arm away.

Bracken commented that he now felt better and made the cryptic statement, "just wait until next weekend," and spoke of his impending retirement. Bracken told the woman, "You're going to like Jamaica," according to Turpel-Lafond's decision.

Victim Impact Statement

In her victim impact statement, the woman said when Bracken groped her, it brought her right back to the first time the neighbor groped her.

"I felt like that little girl with the big secret," she wrote.

She tried to avoid contact with Bracken after that, going so far as to ask the prosecutor handling the other matter to drop those charges so she wouldn't have to have any more contact with Bracken. The neighbor's charges were not dropped.

Bracken will receive double credit for the 17 days he has already spent in jail, which reduces the remaining time to seven months and three weeks, Turpel-Lafond said.

Before he was sentenced, Bracken apologized to the victim and her family. He also apologized to the police service for any ill feelings brought down on it because of his actions.

"This is my failure and my failure alone," he said.

"Although my behavior may indicate otherwise, this is not who I am, not what I'm about. I've always prided myself on being an honorable person."

"How is it that I've become the monster I've been seeking?" Bracken has said, Turpel-Lafond noted in her decision.

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

Police Crest Abuse of trust by a police officer is serious. Society's abhorrence and pain can be measured by the number of newspapers which pick up and reprint a story from the Canadian wire service.
Original Ex-police officer jailed for sexual assault Saskatoon Star Phoenix  (June 25)
Reprints Former officer gets 9 months for groping Regina Leader Post  (June 25)
  Sergeant who groped sexual assault victim jailed nine months National Post  (June 25)
  Officer gets nine months for groping assault victim Globe and Mail  (June 25)
  Officer jailed for groping Calgary Herald  (June 25)
  Sask officer jailed for sex assault on teen Edmonton Journal  (June 25)

Original Star Phoenix newspaper clipping

Saskatoon Star Phoenix, 25 June 2005 (page A1)

News Clip / Ex-police officer jailed for sexual assault

Saskatoon Star Phoenix, 25 June 2005 (page A7)

News Clip / Assault: Apology Offered