Our number six story of 2020 was the end of the saga that was the dismissal for former Moose Jaw police officer Alan Murdock. 

Murdock was appealing his 2019 dismissal and, after a number of adjournments, he withdrew his appeal on Oct. 1. 

The dismissal appeal hearing was scheduled for three weeks beginning on Oct. 6. 

At the Moose Jaw Board of Police Commissioners meeting on Oct. 20, Chief Rick Bourassa spoke publicly for the first time about the final dismissal of Murdock. 

Bourassa outlined what went into his decision, including misconducts that date back to when Murdock was first installed as an officer in 1989. 

“These are an examination of my decisions, my actions. It's important for me to describe what I knew and when I knew it,” Bourassa said. 

“Those incidents are all included in my public order of dismissal. This is going to provide for you my timeline of how I came to the knowledge of a lot of these instances.” 

Bourassa said he could not comment on why it took so long to dismiss Murdock as he couldn’t speak to the actions of other administrations. 

Bourassa was hired as the chief of the Moose Jaw Police Service in October of 2013 and, to understand what was important to the members, he talked to everyone at the police station. 

During those conversations, Bourassa became aware of two incidents: text messages between Murdock and a 15-year-old girl and a large number of evidence exhibits had gone missing. 

In 2014, the chief reviewed investigation reports into those incidents. 

He learned from the report that in 2011 there were inappropriate “flirtatious” text messages exchanged between Murdock and the teen girl that included an invitation to an in-person meeting. Bourassa quoted one of the texts from Murdock saying “I look forward to that compliment in-person.” 

Bourassa said it appeared in the report that Murdock had lied to investigators on several occasions. The investigation ended in 2012 with no discipline, but Murdock was advised about his future conduct. 

The other file that came to Bourassa’s attention were incidents that took place in 2012 when over 100 exhibits went missing from the secure exhibit area. The investigation was conducted by management at the time and Murdock was seen on video at least 47 times taking out exhibits. 

An investigation was also ordered in 2012 because Murdock had a large number of photo exhibits stored on his home computer. The investigation concluded with discipline on eight incidents that included suspensions, probation, and training on police ethics and accountability. 

The complaint of the missing files was brought forward by Const. Murray Rice, who spoke about his experience at the board meeting on Tuesday. He said this journey began for him when he came forward about the missing exhibits in 2010. 

“I know the most recent stuff, it's been about a year and a half. This has been 10 years for me since 2010,” Rice said. 

“What's important that I want to say to the board and to others is I'm not standing here right now speaking for the name that's on the front of my shirt, which is Murray Rice. I'm speaking on behalf of the crest on our shoulder.” 

Rice felt that hundreds of files were not simply a mistake, but a decision, and Murdock’s behaviour was enabled by the inaction of previous administrations. 

Commissioner Heather Eby was on the Police Commissioners board as well as city council in 2010 and offered her apologies. 

“As a member of the board and member of City Council at that time, 2010, I'd just like to apologize that we did not have the proper administration in place that would take your concerns seriously or do what needed to be done. That was a failure of the people at the time.” 

While Murdock had been disciplined for these incidents, Bourassa started to question Murdock’s suitability to be a police officer in 2014. 

After a few years without any incidents, Bourassa began to receive reports of misconduct and began ordering investigations and retaining legal counsel. 

In 2017, there was an assault on a woman that was dismissed by Murdock. Other members became aware of the allegations, intervened, and laid the appropriate charges. Bourassa opened an investigation and notified the Public Complaints Commission. 

Bourassa was also notified by the police service’s privacy co-ordinator, Supt. Rick McKenna, that Murdock had issued a warrant for the arrest of the wrong person and another investigation was ordered. 

Moose Jaw police received a call from a civilian member of the RCMP who was trying to return from the United States. They were detained by customs and asked if they had any issues with the police. They were allowed to proceed as the warrant was in Saskatchewan and, as they would learn, the warrant was issued in Moose Jaw. 

Moose Jaw police were told this person could not sleep or eat as their job involved high-level security clearance and the error put their job in jeopardy. 

When the wrongful warrant investigation was completed, Murdock was disciplined with suspension without pay, probation, and close supervision. During that investigation, Murdock had lied to a public complaints investigator and another investigation was opened. 

McKenna also referenced Murdock searching people’s confidential information for his own personal benefit and, in 2019, took an SD card with a video of a serious accident, did not enter it in as an exhibit, and did not return it to its owner. 

In June of 2019, two tapes with sensitive information about two women were in Murdock’s possession and went missing. 

“There is a lot of emotion involved in this for not just these people,” McKenna said. 

“These are four people that were just living their lives, hadn't done anything wrong, and because one person within our police service chose to either not do their job or made a decision that was inappropriate or didn't do an investigation as thorough, or as properly as they should have, these people sort of suffered for that." 

It was in 2018 and 2019 that the Chief secured legal counsel and began the unsuitability process. 

Also in 2019, Bourassa learned that supervisors, managers, and other members had lost trust in Murdock and were wondering why he was still a police officer. Bourassa also learned that Murdock had made sexual comments to female officers in the past. 

In June 2019, Bourassa completed the unsuitability processes and received reports in the system and memos filed dating back to 1989. In those files, Bourassa learned the following about Murdock: 

  • He was installed as an officer in 1989. 
  • 1997, he assaulted his step-son, no charges were laid and no discipline was taken. 
  • 1998, he was off-duty and driving when another driver gave him the finger. When Murdock returned to duty in uniform, he abused his authority to address this personal matter. Murdock was provided advice into future conduct, but no other discipline was taken. 
  • 1998, reports of inappropriate behaviour and false statements in a report. There was no record of discipline. 
  • 1999, while on-duty with a police vehicle, a man yells from the sidewalk an insult towards Murdock. Murdock turns the vehicle around, stops, and assaults and pepper sprays the man without cause. Murdock was reprimanded, put under supervision, and given additional training and counselling. There was no criminal investigation. 
  • 2003, there were memos of a reported assault on a communications officer, and Murdock was provided advice on future conduct but there was no discipline. Bourassa would later learn that the communications officer was Cheryl Burtenshaw and the situation was much more serious as Murdock touched her breasts with his elbow. 
  • 2004, a report of Murdock making rude, dismissive, and inappropriate comments to a woman about a deceased family member. 
  • 2007, assaulted another stepson, no charges or discipline came of the incident. 
  • 2011, Doesn’t exhibit evidence in a homicide investigation. 

On June 19, 2019, Murdock was called into an interview with investigators about the misconduct allegations and lied to the investigators. Immediately after the interview, Murdock was dismissed by Bourassa as unsuitable to be a police officer. 

Days after the dismissal became public, Bourassa was inundated with complaints about Murdock that happened in the past. These are some of the complaints Bourassa received after Murdock was dismissed: 

  • One month after being installed as an officer in 1989, Murdock had 30 inappropriate contacts with a young woman while on duty to the point where the father had to get involved and the owner of the business where she worked had barred Murdock from entering. 
  • Murdock was routinely physically aggressive with other officers. 
  • In 2012 or 2013, he asked RCMP officer Sgt. Dean Bohlken to falsify a tax receipt for $500 or $600 for work Murdock did on a volunteer board. 
  • 2015, criticized a teen girl and dismissed an assault complaint. 
  • 2018, dismissed a sexual assault complaint from a teen girl and lied in the report. A year later, another officer responded to a complaint, and charges were laid. It was learned that, because of the initial dismissal, the complainant had been victimized for at least a year with no action. 
  • 2019, Murdock stored illicit drugs and ceased alcohol in his house, and neighbourhood children had taken them. 
  • 2019, in the lobby of the police station a woman had a complaint about a sexually explicit video of her that was being shared without her consent. Murdock took a cell phone with the video on it. No one knows where the phone is and there is no record of the phone. 
  • 2019, in a routine audit of exhibits, two videos with child pornography were in Murdock's possession and are missing. 
  • 2019, Murdock’s loaded service pistol was not stored properly and accessible to children in the house. 
  • An impaired driving charge was thrown out because Murdock turned off the in-car camera in the police cruiser when doing an interview. 
  • Learned a lady had been providing information for years about serious drug trafficking in the city. Murdock told her that the drug squad and SWAT teams were on it doing searches, laying charges, and making arrests. None of that was true and the information was never passed on. Bourassa did an investigation to see if Murdock was involved in drug trafficking, but couldn’t find any evidence of that. 

As a result of the investigations by Bourassa, every sexual assault and domestic violence call Murdock attended to was reviewed and complainants re-contacted. Three other police services had also been engaged in helping with the investigations. 

Murdock was appealing the dismissal and the hearing was scheduled for Oct. 6. On Oct. 1, Murdock withdrew his appeal. The chief had arranged 43 witnesses for the hearing. 

“This was after me making it very clear that I would accept only an unconditional withdrawal of the appeal and that I was actually more interested in having the hearing move forward,” Bourassa said. 

“I would not accept any reinstatement, there would be no payout, there would be no secrecy demand.” 

Bourassa has also referred information to the Ministry of Justice and the attorney-general as the Police Act states the chief must refer the matter if he believes there have been criminal offences. No charges have been laid as of yet. 

Bourassa has also asked the board to maintain and expand legal counsel to ensure a situation like this doesn’t happen again. 

As part of the Police Act, the police service pay for the expenses for the dismissal. As for Sept. 30, those expenses were over $229,000. 

“But that financial cost has no bearing on the value and the culture and the importance of what the police service does in our community,” said Commissioner Mayor Fraser Tolmie. 

 

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