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News Report

Ex-Police Officer Kept in Custody for Sex Assault

SASKATOON  —  A former Saskatoon police sex crimes unit sergeant was led from a courtroom in handcuffs Tuesday to await his sentence for grabbing a woman's breast while on duty last February.

Sgt. James Bracken
Sex offender Jim Bracken Sentence: This ex-police officer will serve 9 months in prison. Bracken must provide a DNA sample under s 487.05 of the Canadian Criminal Code; he is prohibited from owning firearms for 10 years; and must pay a $500 victim surcharge.

Retired officer Jim Bracken, 54, pleaded guilty in April to sexually assaulting an 18-year-old woman, a previous sexual assault victim in a case he was investigating.

Crown prosecutor Glen Herman said Bracken should go to jail for at least a year for assaulting "the most vulnerable victim you can well imagine."

The 18-year-old sat in the front row of the small courtroom, legs crossed and arms folded, crumpling a tissue in her hands as Herman read her victim impact statement.

"Bracken was not only my investigator, he was my friend. I had a lot of trust in him," Herman read. "I can't believe Jim did this to me. I'm vulnerable and he knew that … If I can't trust a police officer, then who can I trust?"

The Crown is asking for a jail term between nine and 18 months, but is recommending a minimum of one year. "Certainly what our position was is that he was in kind of a unique position of trust, not only with respect to the complainant in this particular case, but of course he's a peace officer and of course owes everyone a public trust," Herman told reporters outside of the courtroom.

"Our view is that there are certain cases essentially where jail is the only possible result when you want to send the right message and that this is one of those cases."

Bracken Capitalized on Vulnerability

As an investigator into the victim's previous case of sexual abuse, Bracken spent a "significant" amount of time with her, often calling her for coffee or lunch, Herman told the court.

Mixed in with discussions about the case, he began "talking dirty," telling her about his sexual experiences, Herman said.

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

"Even with all this unprofessional talk, she indicated she convinced herself she was overreacting," he said.

In January, when sitting in a restaurant parking lot smoking, Bracken asked her what color bra she was wearing and said he wanted to peek down the front of her shirt, Herman told the court.

In early February, the victim stopped in to see Bracken when she was running an errand near the police station. When they went outside for a smoke, he pulled up in an unmarked police vehicle and suggested they take a ride, court heard.

After asking her if she "got lucky" that weekend, Bracken "reached over and began to squeeze and play with her breast," Herman told court. "Immediately after touching her in the breast area, he said, 'There, now I feel better.' "

Defence lawyer Jay Watson told the court his client, who turns 55 Friday, was under stress at the time of the incident over his approaching retirement and was having personal problems with his girlfriend.

Bracken's retirement took effect after the incident but before the complaint against him was filed with Saskatoon police.

Watson described Bracken as an officer who went beyond the call of duty, who was extremely remorseful about this act and who didn't deserve to go to jail.

"He dealt with this right up front, and this is out of character for him, and he feels horrible," he said. He pointed out that Bracken had dealt with many sexual abuse victims in the past and had no prior disciplinary action on his record.

After interjecting to pose several questions to both Crown and defence, Judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond recommended Bracken be taken into custody to await her June 24 sentencing decision.

"Bracken is obviously not happy about that, but he certainly wanted to do the right thing right from the start," Watson told reporters, "He understood that when he pled guilty, some things are going to happen that he won't be happy about, but he took the high road and he'll deal with this."

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 is evident when other newspapers pick up and reprint the story from the Canadian wire service.
  
Original Ex-police officer kept in custody for sex assault Saskatoon Star Phoenix  (June 8)
Reprint Retired police officer awaits sentencing Regina Leader Post  (June 8)

Original Star Phoenix newspaper clipping

Saskatoon Star Phoenix, 8 June 2005 (page A1)

News Clip / Ex-police officer kept in custody for sexual assault

Saskatoon Star Phoenix, 8 June 2005 (page A2)

News Clip / Assault: Officer remorseful