VANCOUVER – An RCMP officer has filed a lawsuit alleging he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after being exposed to a “significant volume” of child pornography while working in a specialized unit.
Const. Michael Wardrope says he was exposed to disturbing videos, photographs, interviews and interrogations as a member of the child abuse and sexual offence unit in Surrey, B.C.
“His mental health was impacted by unescapable images and memories from the files he had worked on,” says the lawsuit filed in British Columbia Supreme Court.
Wardrope says in the court document he was “flattered” when he was recruited to the unit in 2009. But he says he told his bosses he had three young children, had to commute hours per day and didn’t think viewing child porn would be healthy.
He alleges his supervisor assured him that overtime was uncommon and that the amount of child pornography that needed to be viewed was “very minimal and almost non-existent,” as the work was, for the most part, interviewing children.
He says he was told that he was committed to as much as two and a half years in the unit.
Despite the assurances from his superiors, he says, within the first three months on the job he was required to work overtime and was exposed to child pornography. The unit was significantly understaffed, he alleges.
“The plaintiff’s supervisors were aware of his struggles with his health and the work load,” the lawsuit says.
“The plaintiff was aware of, or had witnessed personally on a number of occasions, members in the unit breaking down and crying while working on files.”
By fall 2010, the lawsuit says, Wardrope was showing symptoms of having a nervous breakdown. He approached his supervisor and broke down, crying and telling him he was “falling apart,” the suit says.
The supervisor promised to transfer him out of the unit but the transfer didn’t happen until 10 months later and Wardrope’s health was irreparably damaged, the suit alleges.
None of the allegations has been tested in court.
The lawsuit is filed against the Attorney General of Canada and the B.C. Justice Ministry, but the ministry said the RCMP was responsible for responding.
The RCMP said it could not comment on Saturday and would reserve its response for the court process.
Wardrope alleges his supervisors failed or neglected to respond to the serious concerns he reported to them about his mental health and the risk it posed to his safety.
He also alleges the conduct of his supervisors was “harassing, intimidating and/or an abuse of authority.”
As a result of the negligence, the lawsuit alleges, he has suffered extreme mental and physical ailments, including PTSD, suicidal thoughts, serious depression, severe anxiety disorder and chronic pain with severe cramping and spasms.
He is seeking general damages, special damages, past and future loss of income, diminished loss of earning capacity and various other damages.