by Roxanna Bennett
Today a national hotline will be implemented for female RCMP officers and others who have experienced sexual harassment at the hands of the police. The service will be staffed by Battered Women’s Support Services, offering confidential emotional support and referrals to legal services.
The launch of the service was spurred by the public statements of Cpl. Catherine Galliford in advance of her testimony at the Missing Women’s Inquiry. Galliford expressed that she wishes the option of a hotline had been available to her while she was working on the force. She said: “Female police officers are incredible public servants and the general public is only starting to hear about the harassment that we go through. It can break you, and then if you need help, it’s very hard to find.
A phone line, with confidentiality and referral to counselling, and medical and legal help, is an excellent idea. I went to every doctor on the planet,” Galliford continued, saying the RCMP’s internal employee assistance program leaked her medical files to the RCMP and did not offer her any help with her situation or ongoing emotional issues. Galliford has post-traumatic stress disorder and agoraphobia and has been on sick leave for the past four years. Her illness is a direct result of the continual sexual harassment she suffered during her 16 year career with the RCMP.
The harassment began before she entered the force. In 1991, having started her training with the force the year before, Galliford was stalked by an RCMP officer. Allegedly, the officer stalking her told her that if she did not have sex with him he would stop her from getting onto the force.
Galliford joined the Missing Women’s Task Force in 2001 with the intention of hunting down a serial killer that was preying on women in the Downtown Lower Eastside of Vancouver. She was the public spokesperson for the Air India bombings and the Pickton case.
Galliford will be testifying at the Pickton Inquiry in January with the support of police psychologist Mike Webster and she intends to “name names.” Galliford said the RCMP had enough evidence for a search warrant for the Pickton farm in 1999 but did nothing. Fourteen women were murdered by Robert Pickton between 1999 and 2002. In 2002, Pickton was arrested for an unrelated charge when junior officer Nathan Wells obtained a search warrant related to illegal firearms.
Galliford released a 115-page statement to the RCMP detailing the apathy, misogyny, and discriminatory conduct of both the Vancouver Police Department and the RCMP after the formation of the Missing Women Task Force. In her statement Galliford says that members of the Task Force watched porn and left work early to drink and engage in sexual liaisons. In an interview Galliford said of her former colleagues: “They would break between noon and 2 p.m. PT to just drink and party and go for lunch, but then they would go back to work on Friday and claim double-time.There was a police indifference and that, I believe, is why it went on for so long [to catch Pickton], and why so many women lost their lives.”
Soon after joining the force, Galliford found enough evidence for a search warrant but her discovery was met with indifference.
“The minute I read that file I could have put everything together for another search warrant and nothing was done. It was concluded. You had a lot of other potential suspects, but in this certain file, we had enough for another search warrant. He wasn’t a potential suspect. He was a suspect and there is a difference in the police world. At that time in the investigation, Pickton was the only one. There were potential suspects, but Pickton was the only suspect.”
Galliford said the file contained evidence of guns, women’s clothing, government I.D., and an asthma inhaler that belonged to one of the missing women. Instead of obtaining a warrant to search the farm, senior RCMP staff curtailed surveillance at the farm. Galliford attributes this disinterest with the systemic misogynistic culture of the RCMP.
A particularly disturbing form of harassment occurred for Galliford as the details of the Pickton murders began to emerge. Other members of the Task Force had a “fantasy” about Galliford that they insisted on sharing with her. In an interview she said:
“They wanted to see Willie Pickton escape from prison, track me down and strip me naked, string me up on a meat hook and gut me like a pig. And they actually started laughing and fist-tapping each other.” Read more