A Mountie who was fired after he showed a revealing photo of himself to an assault victim and exchanged sexual texts with her during an investigation fought successfully to get his job back by arguing he was denied a proper hearing.
An adjudicator pointed to flaws in the way the case against Const. Andrew Scott Hedderson played out, reinstated him and awarded him back pay, according to a decision recently made public and posted on the RCMP’s website.
The adjudicator also ordered a second hearing but Hedderson had since resigned from the force.
The case dates back to March of 2017 when police were called to a parking lot in Surrey, B.C. where a man had assaulted his girlfriend — referred to as ‘Ms. W’ in RCMP documents.
The man, identified as ‘Mr. P’ in those documents, was released on bail on the condition that he not contact Ms. W. He breached that order almost immediately after his release.
Both Ms. W and Hedderson provided statements as part of the RCMP conduct board’s investigation into what happened next.
RCMP conduct boards look into the most serious cases of police misconduct — ones where dismissal is on the table. They are formal, court-like processes and the adjudicators have the legal authority to order disciplinary measures, such as loss of pay or dismissal.
According to the original conduct board decision, Hedderson — who, in his statement to the conduct board, referred to himself as a “a fairly charming dude” — became the lead investigator on the breach file. The decision says Hedderson visited Ms. W at home and that the RCMP officer claimed he tried to build a rapport with her in order to obtain a statement to charge Mr. P. with a breach of his conditions.
Hedderson told the conduct board he felt that she was “kind of flirting” with him and that he tried to use that in order to make her comfortable enough to provide a statement.
Hedderson, who recently had become single at the time of the incident, told the board he did not mind the flirting as he “was going home to an empty apartment” but that the day subsequently “went completely pear shape,” says the conduct board decision.
According to that decision, Hedderson said he asked Ms. W if she had any pictures of her injuries and that she showed him naked photos of herself in response.
Ms. W told the conduct board that she showed Hedderson a picture taken before a shower but hadn’t realized it showed her breasts.
In her statement to the board, Ms. W said she was embarrassed and that while Hedderson had told her not to worry about, he said he now felt he had to show her something in return. Hedderson told the board Ms. W was the one pushing for a photo.
Showing pic ‘was my big mistake,’ says Mountie
Hedderson told the board that after he got a statement from Ms. W, they came up with a plan together to deal with any attempts by Mr. P to contact her. He said he was trying to leave Ms. W’s home when she made another comment about seeing a picture, and that he then showed her a photograph of himself wearing “very, very tight boxers.”
“It’s essentially a dick pic. You could pretty much see a whole lot of everything,” he told the code of conduct investigators.
“That was my big mistake.”
Ms. W, meanwhile, told the board it was Hedderson who pressed her about looking at a photograph of himself.
Hedderson told investigators that he was “fairly certain” he initiated the series of texts after his meeting with Ms. W.
It was “definitely sexual in nature,” he said.
Ms. W told the board Hedderson’s messages were about him being “hard” and the size of his “package” and said he wanted to thoroughly check her out or perform “a deep thorough check.”
During the conduct board process, Hedderson called the relationship consensual “despite being horribly inappropriate and unprofessional.”
The RCMP investigation found 323 text message exchanges between the two on Ms. W’s phone over the span of 11 days.
Hedderson told the board that, a few days into his exchange of texts with Ms. W, he started to panic and tried to shut it down in order to avoid compromising the breach file. “In retrospect I’d already … screwed it,” he added.
Hedderson told the board that when he told Ms. W he had a date, she became “incredibly upset” and sent text messages saying she could not trust police, which escalated to her threatening to take down his career.
Ms. W confirmed those exchanges, telling the board she was “rude and calling him a pig and saying he was disgusting and unprofessional.” She said she accused him of using her when she was “vulnerable” and referred to the fact that he could lose his job.
Hedderson told the conduct board he eventually blocked her number but didn’t tell her.
Situation led to charge against Mr. P being dropped
Ms. W told the board she continued to reach out to Hedderson about Mr. P breaking his conditions.
Hedderson, meanwhile, told the board he was concerned for Ms. W’s safety. He told investigators that, in retrospect, he should have called 911 or the non-emergency line.
“I think any of them I should have called, frankly … It’s my job and…I f—d it on that, eh,” he later told investigators.
In May 2017, Mr. P was arrested on a warrant. The domestic violence Crown counsel in the Surrey Crown counsel office spoke with Ms. W, who asked that the charges against Mr. P be dropped because she was four months pregnant and wanted him in the baby’s life.
When Ms. W attended her ex-boyfriend’s court hearing, she told Crown counsel that Hedderson had showed her sexually explicit pictures of himself and had sent sexual texts. The domestic violence Crown counsel said Ms. W also expressed fear of Hedderson and the police.
Because Hedderson never declared the misconduct, the Crown withdrew the breach charge against Mr. P.
A conduct board investigation was then launched.
“The fact that Crown counsel was compelled to stay the charge for breaching the no contact condition due to the actions of [Hedderson] is but one example of the consequence of the conflict of interest he created, not to mention the impact on the public interest, as he utterly destroyed his credibility and objectivity as an investigator,” wrote the conduct board in its original decision.
The conduct board released a decision on the merits of the allegations in April of 2018.
That came as a surprise to the other parties to the case, who had been expecting a chance to argue that Ms. W should testify and make comprehensive submissions on the allegations.
The conduct board issued its final decision recommending that Hedderson be dismissed from the force in December of 2018.
“Given the wholly unacceptable form and nature of the sexual misconduct,” the board wrote, keeping Hedderson on the force “would clearly imperil the public’s confidence and trust.”
Hedderson awarded retroactive pay
Hedderson appealed, arguing the board denied him his right to procedural fairness by not holding an in-person hearing and by prematurely rendering a decision on the merits.
In a decision issued late last year and recently made public, adjudicator Steven Dunn sided with Hedderson, arguing the conduct board’s “decision strikes directly at [Hedderson’s] right to be heard.”
“I find the board breached the principles of procedural fairness by: not informing the parties that it intended to render a decision on the merits without an oral hearing or further written submissions, not allowing the Parties to test the credibility of Ms. W in direct testimony and cross-examination and, not providing the Appellant an opportunity to make comprehensive submissions on the allegations and the evidence,” Dunn wrote.
The original decision was quashed and Dunn ordered a new hearing before a different conduct board.
Dunn also ruled that Hedderson should receive retroactive pay and allowances dating back to December 2018.
Attempts to reach Hedderson were unsuccessful. His representative during the conduct board hearing did not respond to CBC’s request for comment.
Corp. Alex Bérubé, a spokesperson for the B.C. RCMP, said Hedderson resigned from the force this month, meaning there will be no second hearing.
A spokesperson for the RCMP’s union refused to comment on the case, citing privacy reasons.
Bérubé said all conduct appeals are reviewed “with the goal of ensuring that our processes are effective and consistent.”
The case is just the latest pointing to issues with the RCMP’s conduct procedure. The national police has been accused for years of imposing inadequate sanctions on Mounties in cases of harassment and sexual assault.
The federal government has promised to review how the RCMP disciplines its members.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino’s post-election mandate letter tasked him with launching “an external review of the RCMP’s sanctions and disciplinary regime to determine the adequacy of existing sanctions and whether they are applied properly and consistently.”