A Wayward Word's Worth

RCMP Apologizes, admits wrong, in McKendy case

COLLEAGUE AND FRIEND DR. SYLVIA HALE HOPES POLICE WILL LEARN FROM THE TRAGEDY

The RCMP has ordered an independent review of its conduct during the investigation of Nicolas Baker and the murder of Dr. John McKendy. Dr. Sylvia Hale, a co-worker and friend of the McKendy family, said she hopes the review is an indication that the RCMP will change its protocol of investigating domestic threats against women.

“You can’t harass people like that without any kind of reaction from the police,” Hale said, adding that Baker had sent approximately 50 threatening emails to the McKendy household in the two weeks prior to the murder. “I don’t accept (from the police) that you have to hit a certain threshold before you act, the harassment itself should surely be the threshold.”

The review was prompted by the RCMP’s realization that, before the murder, the police had been approached by a family member who was concerned Baker posed a danger to the McKendys. The announcement was made by N.B. RCMP’s commanding officer, assistant commissioner Darrell LaFosse, on Wednesday.

This announcement came on the heels of a contrary statement made earlier in the week by media relations officer Cpl. Claude Tremblay, who said that the family had filed no complaints with the authorities.

“We are the police entrusted with protecting people and investigating crime, we have to do the right thing,” LaFosse said. “That is why I must apologize to the McKendy family… for any perception that the family did not bring forward concerns to the police.”

LaFosse said the criminal code dictates threats must meet specific criteria to warrant a criminal charge- including threats to a person’s life, safety, to their property, or to their animal or pet. He said there had been insufficient evidence to proceed with a criminal investigation before the murder occurred, because no specific threats along those lines had been made.

“I think we need to change protocol when this kind of harassment is happening,” Hale said. “So that in the context of marital breakdown the police will act- that they are expected to act, they are mandated to act, and not just sit on their hands and wait to see if something happens.”

Hale said that she has been flooded with emails from victims of domestic violence across the country, since she was interviewed by major media outlets about the McKendy murder last week. Hale said she was especially struck by one message from a woman, who had received 104 threatening emails from her estranged partner for four months, before the police intervened.

“How long do you have to wait to get action?” Hale said. “It’s not just this one case, where they made one mistake. It’s a much broader pattern of not taking this kind of thing seriously.”

Hale said that a change in that pattern would not only offer the family some solace, it would be a fitting sentiment for McKendy himself- one he would have been proud of.

“He would have wanted proactive dealing with this situation long before it spiraled downward into this awful well of violence. He would have liked that this tragedy can make change in the future, so when the police get these low level implied threats and emails, they’ll take them seriously.”

“Peace was his life’s work,” Hale said. “John never would have wanted revenge. He wanted understanding, and he wanted change for the better.”

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