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Killer cop

Jocelyn Hotte used his elite RCMP training to stalk and kill his ex-girlfriend. Why did police ignore her call for help? And why have they done nothing to address the secret shame of conjugal violence amoung cops in the years since the attack? What will it take for the hidden abuse to finally hit home?


BY Alex Roslin

Photo of Jocelyn Hotte

The mood in the car had been festive until the SUV that was tailing it rammed it from behind, sending everyone flying. Lucie Gélinas, who was at the wheel of the little Hyundai Accent, was panicking. “What do I do?” she asked. “What do I do?” Then the SUV smashed into the car two more times.

It was the evening of June 23, 2001, and Lucie was driving south on Highway 13 with three companions—her downstairs neighbour Hugues, his cousin Pierre and Pierre’s childhood friend David. They had crossed from Laval to Montreal and were headed to the Boite à Marius tavern to celebrate St-Jean Baptiste Day. Lucie’s ex-boyfriend was driving the SUV. Their six-year relationship had ended three weeks earlier.

Lucie tried to steady the wheel as she dialed 911 on her cell phone. “We are on the 13 south, the 13 south,” the 37-year-old mother of three shouted to a Sûreté du Québec police dispatcher. “Hurry up! Hurry up!”

As the two cars turned onto the busy Métropolitan Expressway, the windows came apart on both sides of the car. Glass flew everywhere. In the passenger seat, Hugues felt as if an iron bar had hit him in the mouth. A bullet entered his left jaw, smashed through his teeth, shredded his tongue and then exited through the right side of his face.

David, who sat in the rear behind Lucie, raised his left arm to shield his head. Two bullets struck his forearm, fracturing it. “He’s shooting at us! He’s shooting at us!” said Lucie. “Get down!”

Pierre, seated in the back beside David, was too stunned to react. Lucie turned and pushed his head down with her hand. “Get down,” she said. Pierre and David crouched as low as they could in the cramped rear of the car. Pierre realized Lucie was struggling to drive as she talked to the police dispatcher, so he took the cell phone from her hand.

He shouted into it, trying to make himself heard over the screams of his fellow passengers and the sound of wind and traffic pouring in through the shattered windows: “Hey, listen, we are being shot at! We are being shot at, tabarnac. There are two injured people in the car.”

“You are being shot at by whom?” asked the dispatcher.

Pierre asked the others in the car: “What’s his name?”

“Jocelyn Hotte!” Lucie screamed. “Jocelyn Hotte! Jocelyn Hotte!”

“Jocelyn Hotte! A guy from the RCMP,” Pierre said. “He is just behind us. What do we do, osti?”

The dense traffic on the 40 forced Lucie to slow down. She continued to scream her ex-boyfriend’s name over and over again as she passed office buildings, car dealerships and highway billboards. “Jocelyn Hotte! Jocelyn Hotte!”

She made her way to the juncture with the Décarie Expressway, which leads south to downtown. Here, the dispatcher heard her piercing shriek over the phone. A bullet had passed through the car door and hit Lucie in the thigh, cutting through muscle and lodging in her knee. She sideswiped other vehicles as she struggled to get away from Jocelyn. But the 17-year RCMP veteran, a crack shot on the force’s VIP-protection squad, was trained in advanced driving tactics and easily kept pace. He collided with her car again and again while reloading his 9 mm Smith & Wesson police sidearm and peppering her car with bullets.

“Hurry up,” Pierre shouted to the SQ dispatcher.

“Is he still shooting at you?” asked the voice on the phone.

“Yes, yes,” said Pierre. “He is just behind us.”

The dispatcher still seemed confused. “Who are you? Jocelyn?” he asked.

Pierre was getting exasperated. “No, no! I am not Jocelyn! He is Jocelyn—Christ, the guy shooting at us! Hurry up, man.”

“Still on the 40, sir?”

“Hey, we are being shot at,” Pierre answered. “Do you understand?”

Pierre had still not dared to look back. As traffic forced the car to slow down, he lifted his head to peek to the rear. He screamed as he felt a sudden jolt and then lost his breath. It felt as if he had fallen on his back. He dropped the cell phone and slumped onto his left side.

“I think I was hit in the back,” he told David when he could breathe again.

“No, I don’t think so,” said David. He put his hand on Pierre’s back, and when he pulled it back it was covered in blood.

“Don’t move,” he told Pierre.

“Sir? Sir? Answer me, sir,” the SQ dispatcher said. “They got him.”

Lucie had to slow to 50 kilometres an hour as she hit the dense traffic around the Décarie interchange. Jocelyn pulled up parallel to the left side of the car and opened fire from two metres away.

Hugues, seated in front, was shot three times. One bullet ripped into his hip; a second tore through his left shoulder and into his chest, cleaving apart his left lung; a third sectioned two nerves in his hand and severed an artery. Barely conscious, he did not feel any of the injuries.

Lucie was shot, too. One bullet fragmented as it passed through the rear car window. The fragments ripped through her headrest and hit her left jaw. Another bullet penetrated her upper left arm and chest. A third shell chopped into her left shoulder. It splintered her shoulder blade and spine and lodged in the back of her neck. The fourth, fatal bullet struck her behind her left ear, passed through her brain and exited three centimetres above her right ear.

The vehicle was soaked with blood. The car slowed as it arced toward a concrete barrier. “Brake, brake, brake!” shouted David. The car hit the barrier and veered back into the middle lanes, rolling several car lengths before it stopped amid the traffic.

David lay on top of Pierre. Neither man budged as he heard Hotte’s vehicle pull up on the left. They listened as his engine revved two or three metres away. They could not hear Lucie or Hugues in front or see what had happened to them.

The SQ dispatcher’s voice was still coming through the cell phone. “Hello? I can’t hear you. Hello, sir?”

The dispatcher heard a gunshot. Then a man’s voice: “Help.” Another gunshot. “Help.” Another shot. “Help, help.”

“Hello?” asked the dispatcher.

Several minutes passed before the dispatcher heard someone speak again. “Help, help, help!”

Pierre and David were looking for the phone but couldn’t find it. The dispatcher heard Pierre pleading: “Hurry up. There are a lot of hurt people. Quick. Quick. Quick.”

Meanwhile, Jocelyn decided he was thirsty. Tailed by a convoy of police cruisers, he drove to a Petro-Canada station in Laval, where he was arrested after buying a 7Up.

*

Lucie gélinas was devastated when jocelyn hotte broke   up with her in late-May or early-June 2001. Those who knew her described her as warm, soft-spoken and easy to befriend. Even a casual acquaintance would quickly notice that she was someone who wanted to be liked. That may have had something to do with a traumatic childhood incident. When she was 10, a deranged neighbour shot and killed her father. Gélinas often spoke about her father to friends.

Gélinas and Hotte lived within a four-minute drive of each other in the bucolic old village of Ste-Dorothée, a picturesque community of historic stone homes, pastry shops and flower nurseries around which had grown the subdivisions and strip malls of the island of Laval. Gélinas struggled to pay the bills and care for her two children from previous relationships. (A third child, the oldest, did not live with her.) She worked as a nurse in a seniors home and earned extra money by working for the Hotte family’s fruit and vegetable farm in Laval.

Gélinas had met Hotte in a bar. He was five years older than her and had three kids of his own who lived with his ex-wife. Hotte was moody and reserved, and he bottled up his emotions, almost never speaking about his personal life to co-workers. A court psychiatrist would later describe him as sexually fragile, jealous and narcissistic.

Gélinas’s relationship with Hotte was stormy with frequent break-ups and reconciliations. They had briefly tried to move in together, but their children had bickered too much, so they abandoned the project.

After a couple of sleepless nights shortly after Hotte ended their relationship, Gélinas headed up to the apartment of her neighbour, Hugues Ducharme, to commiserate over a beer. He suggested they go out to a bar. There, Gélinas met a tall, friendly man with whom she spent the night. Her new friend was so easy-going and uncomplicated that she seemed to easily forget her tumultuous past relationship. Days later, when Hotte changed his mind and decided he wanted to get back together with Gélinas, she told him she was no longer interested.

Hotte started to stalk Gélinas. According to witnesses who testified at his murder trial, he frequently drove past her apartment, wrote down the licence plate numbers of vehicles stopped near her home, parked his vehicle outside the seniors home where she worked, and pushed his way into her apartment and checked her pager to see who had called. Gélinas was growing frightened of his increasingly strange behaviour. She told co-workers about the harassment and that she was afraid for her children’s safety. One night, according to the testimony of nurse Marie-Josée Mantha, who worked with Gélinas, she called home 10 times to make sure her children were OK. One witness testified that Gélinas had told him Hotte offered her money and presents to have sex with him, but she refused.

Gélinas was worried enough that she asked her new boyfriend not to come to her apartment in case Hotte saw him. But a relative of Hotte’s saw Gélinas walking with another man and told Hotte. The Mountie flew into a rage and went to confront Gélinas on the evening of June 17, 2001. Later that night, she called her new boyfriend in tears. “She said she was afraid she would suffer the same fate as her father,” Denis Gauthier testified in court. “I said, ‘Call the police.’”

Gélinas’s panic-stricken 911 call to Laval police would provoke controversy at Hotte’s murder trial and raise questions about how police respond to cases of cops accused of domestic abuse. “My ex-boyfriend, he’s in the RCMP, I got death threats,” Gélinas told the dispatcher in a weak voice. “He said, ‘I’m giving you your last chance. Your father got shot.’ He’s crazy. I’m really scared.” (Hotte, testifying in court, denied stalking or threatening Gélinas.)

Two Laval police constables, Nathalie Rufer and Joël Sirois, were sent to Gélinas’s home, where she told them Hotte was stalking her and that he seemed to be depressed and acting strangely. She also let the officers know about an earlier incident in which the RCMP had disciplined Hotte for stalking a female Mountie. The woman had eventually quit the force and moved to New Brunswick. The RCMP had taken Hotte’s gun, ordered him to receive counselling for depression and briefly placed him on administrative duties. But Hotte was later welcomed into the force’s elite Executive and Diplomatic Protection Section, which guards dignitaries such as Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe and President George W. Bush. Hotte qualified as a crack shot and learned to drive at high speeds, drive backwards and in convoys, make sudden right or left turns and stop his vehicle on a button.

The two Laval officers listened to Gélinas for 30 minutes. They then suggested she replace her locks and change her phone number, and left. They didn’t write a police report or contact Hotte or the RCMP to check on his mental state. Their only other action was to write a cryptic note in the night police log: “Call unfounded, manipulation.” Six days later, Gélinas was dead.

In December 2002, a jury found Hotte guilty of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder. He got an automatic life sentence with no parole for 25 years, plus concurrent sentences of 20 years for the attempted murder of Pierre Mainville, who was paralyzed in the incident, and 15 years each for Hugues Ducharme and David Savard. (Hotte can apply for parole after 15 years under the so-called faint hope clause.)

But the survivors don’t consider Hotte to be the only guilty party. Last June, Ducharme, Savard, Mainville and Mainville’s parents sued the city of Laval, saying its police department could have prevented the tragedy. They accuse police of ignoring warning signs that Hotte was troubled. In their lawsuits, the plaintiffs seek $1.7 million, saying that the city’s cops should have taken Gélinas’s call more seriously. They say Rufer and Sirois ignored the Laval police department’s directive on conjugal violence, which calls for weapons to be taken from an individual if there are “reasonable and probable” security concerns.

Three years later, Mainville sits in a wheelchair in his lawyer’s office in St-Jérôme, a sleepy town 40 kilometres north of Montreal where he has lived most of his life. The 29-year-old will never return to his job as a car test driver. He was paralyzed from the chest down when Hotte’s bullet struck his T3 vertebrae.

Mainville’s mother moved in to help him care for himself. He takes eight pills a day—down from 14 a day initially—in an attempt to control violent spasms that continually wrack his lower torso, but he says they don’t help very much. “I have erectile difficulty, I need a catheter to go to the toilet, I have uncontrolled incontinence,” he says. He still sees a psychologist once a week. “With an accident like this, you close in on yourself,” he says. “I go out less among people. People look at me more than before. You don’t necessarily want to be seen.”

Mainville says he remained conscious that night as an ambulance crew carried him from the banged-up car to Montreal General Hospital. “I asked the surgeon if I would live,” he says. “He said, ‘I don’t know.’” Mainville spent seven hours in surgery while doctors removed the bullet from his back and implanted metal plates along the sides of his spine. He stayed in the hospital for 17 days, then spent a month in a rehabilitation centre learning how to adapt to life as a paraplegic.

Mainville’s two companions from that night are also still in therapy and haven’t returned to work. Childhood friend David Savard, who is now 32, testified at Hotte’s trial that he had a hard time concentrating and couldn’t go anywhere near a highway. “I stay in a lot,” he said. “I can’t stand noise. If someone comes over, I feel like a target or in a state of danger.”

Mainville’s cousin Hugues Ducharme, now 34, was shot five times and had 10 operations on his jaw and shoulder. He testified that his left arm is virtually non-functional and that he had suffered terrible psychological scars. “My curtains are always closed so no one knows I’m home,” he said. “I’m afraid someone will come in. Often I don’t answer the intercom or door. It’s very hard for me to go outside.”

Jean Bernier, the lawyer for Ducharme and Savard, says the attack is all the more tragic because it was preventable. “These people can’t work, they can’t restart normal lives,” he says. “If the RCMP had been informed before, they might have taken away [Hotte’s] gun.” Bernier is currently exploring whether to file a second suit against the RCMP.

Jacques St-Pierre, the SQ investigator who handled the case, agrees the RCMP should have been informed. “It’s possible [Gélinas’s death] could have been prevented,” he says. “When you are in the presence of a police officer in a case like this, you should take action because this individual is armed. You shouldn’t take chances.”

St-Pierre retired from the SQ in 2002 and is now commander of the municipal police force in L’Assomption, a suburb east of Montreal. “What [the Laval police officers] should have done is make a police report, and they should have informed the RCMP,” he says. “If [Hotte] needed help, they would have been able to help him.”

Even Louis Bouthillier, the Crown attorney who prosecuted Hotte, agrees. In an interview, he says he encouraged the three survivors of the attack to explore a civil lawsuit. “He was a time bomb, this guy,” he says of Hotte. “Someone should have set off the alarm, but nobody did. The only one who tried to do it was Lucie Gélinas, but she was met with indifference, at best, from the Laval police.”

At Hotte’s trial in 2002, the presiding judge, John Gomery, also had harsh words for the two Laval police officers. He said one of them, Joël Sirois, had clearly changed his court testimony in an apparent effort to downplay how worried and afraid Gélinas was at the time of her June 17 call. “It’s difficult for me to swallow [the officers’] version of the events, but I understand they are probably a little uneasy about what happened after they effectively refused all help to this woman,” said Gomery, who was later appointed to head the federal inquiry into the sponsorship scandal. “It’s not exactly what we want from our police corps. She reports a death threat, and the police act without even taking a report. I find this incomprehensible.”

During a break in the trial, even Hotte’s defence lawyer agreed that the Laval police should have done more. “If the RCMP had been advised by the Laval police of the incident, they might have taken action, and this might not have happened,” Joanne St-Gelais told reporters. “Lucie Gélinas would be alive, and Pierre Mainville wouldn’t be in a wheelchair. Mr. Hotte should have been given treatment; he should have gotten medication. Obviously, whenever police arrive at a conjugal violence call, they should be prudent and make sure they take all necessary steps. If they had done more, we probably wouldn’t be here.”

*

What did the laval police and rcmp learn from all this? Apparently, not very much. Lt. Gilles Moreau, head of internal affairs for the Laval police, said his unit did an investigation into the conduct of Rufer and Sirois, but he refused to disclose the results. The Gazette reported that the two officers were cleared. Moreau also wouldn’t say whether his department has changed any of its policies on dealing with officers accused of domestic violence. “We’re going to reserve any comment,” he said.

The RCMP, for its part, says it did not change any policies after the tragedy. “This is an isolated incident,” said Sgt. Jocelyn Mimeault, a spokesperson for the force. “The important thing is we have internal mechanisms in place to recognize early signs of stress among members.”

Steve Drummond and his wife Daisy (not their real names) couldn’t disagree more. The former Mountie says violence is common in the personal relationships of RCMP officers and that the force offers little support to troubled members. Steve Drummond was kicked out of the RCMP in the mid-1990s after he pleaded guilty to assaulting his wife over several years. He later got counselling, and the couple is now back together.

He said the first time he was violent with his wife was after the couple’s son fell ill and nearly died. He slipped into a grave depression, which was aggravated by the constant death and terrible accidents he saw on the job. He said the RCMP did not give him any support and ignored his worsening state until it was too late. “I was told to shake it off,” he said. “I was a train wreck waiting to happen.”

Daisy Drummond said she and her mother both pleaded with the RCMP for counselling for her husband, but the requests went unheeded. She said she called the Mounties and municipal police on two occasions after being assaulted, but they didn’t lay charges. Steve knew he had a problem and started to see a private therapist. But the RCMP complained that the sessions were taking too much of his time, Daisy said. Finally, after a particularly bad assault, Daisy called the police again. “I knew it had to end—for my safety and his and that of our children,” Daisy said. This time, the RCMP went to the opposite extreme. Steve was arrested, charged and kicked off the force.

Steve said it was well known in the RCMP that many of his Mountie colleagues abused their wives and girlfriends, but nothing was done to stop them. “It’s all about image,” he said. “They let it keep going on, hoping that it won’t get out. There is no support.” Daisy agreed: “There is always that image that if you do ask for help they’ll look down on you. I think it’s pretty much the same in every police force. It’s like an alcoholic who says he doesn’t have a problem.”

The case of Jocelyn Hotte may be unusual only because it was so extreme and so public. Studies show that a staggering amount of domestic violence is concealed behind the walls of police officers’ homes.

In a sign of how hidden the problem is, the person who uncovered it did so by accident. Leanor Boulin-Johnson, a professor of family studies at Arizona State University, had wanted to research how women deal with conflict and stress in male-dominated jobs. Her focus was policewomen. She needed the collaboration of police departments, but couldn’t find any willing to help. “Our women are doing just fine,” one commander told her. “They’re just doing a great job, and there’s no conflict.” She spent a year knocking on doors before she found a police chief in a mid-sized suburban department near Washington, DC, who was willing to participate.

When Boulin-Johnson started her preliminary interviews, she quickly stumbled across a more urgent theme for her study: abuse at home. One after another, the wives of cops were unburdening themselves of terrible stories. “I have something I want to talk to you about, and I really don’t care what you want to talk to me about,” one woman began.

The woman talked almost non-stop for two hours. She started describing how wonderful her husband was. “He’s a great police officer who is very effective on the street and cares about prostitutes. He takes the time to talk to them about getting off the street and changing their lives,” she said. “Sometimes, he cares so much that he has sex with them.”

She then revealed that her husband was beating her up.

“Why don’t you go to a shelter?” Boulin-Johnson asked.

“I can’t,” the woman said. “I’m afraid of the police department finding out and firing my husband. We have children. Who will support them?”

Boulin-Johnson presented her results in testimony to a US congressional committee in 1991. She said 40 percent of the 728 male officers she interviewed admitted they had “gotten out of control” and behaved violently with their spouses or children in the previous six months. Of 479 spouses, 10 percent reported being physically abused by their mates at least once, and an equal number said their children were physically abused. The rate of abuse, said Boulin-Johnson, was probably underreported due to fear.

“To me, these statistics are neither cold nor distant,” Boulin-Johnson told Congress. “During the course of our study, an officer dedicated to our efforts committed suicide, two women officers shot their husbands, a male officer killed his estranged wife, and dozens of spouses in stable marriages shared with us heart-rendering testimonies about their work-family tensions and hardships.”

“It’s a horrible, horrible problem,” said Penny Harrington, a retired police chief from Portland, Oregon, who is now a consultant to the US Justice Department. “Close to half of all 911 calls are for family violence. If the statistics are true, you’ve got a two in five chance of getting a batterer answering your call. That’s one big reason why the public should care.”

*

But it took tragedy for us police departments to start taking the abuse more seriously. Like Jocelyn Hotte, Los Angeles Police Department Officer Victor Felix Ramos showed plenty of signs that he was troubled. In May 1992, the 29-year-old father of three showed up at his wife Melba’s workplace, pointed a gun at her, shoved her, hung her by a hook in the bathroom and trashed her office, according to an account in Los Angeles Magazine.

Ramos confessed his actions to his police superiors, but they did not file charges or call internal affairs. Instead, they arranged for him to take a short vacation. He was back on patrol in two weeks. At home, the violence continued, according to media reports. Melba Ramos showed friends her bruises and told them Victor was shoving and threatening her. In one argument, he was reported to have put his 9 mm Beretta service pistol to his head and threaten to shoot himself. When Melba filed for separation, Victor was distraught. He told friends he did not want to live.

In August 1992, Ramos knocked down the door of Melba’s apartment and burst inside, where he fired more than 20 shots into her and her boyfriend, stopping only to reload. He then killed himself with a bullet in the heart.

The LAPD’s response contrasted sharply with that of the Laval police and RCMP after Jocelyn Hotte’s shooting rampage. The LAPD launched a wide-ranging investigation of how it handled officers accused of spousal abuse. LAPD Inspector General Katherine Mader’s report in 1997 was the first inside study of “officer-batterers,” as they are sometimes called, anywhere in the US or Canada.

Mader found a massive cover-up going back years. Known batterers on the force usually got only mild, in-house discipline and rarely faced criminal prosecution. Many internal investigations “lacked objectivity or were otherwise flawed or skewed,” her report said.

Mader reviewed 227 investigations of abuse allegations against officers between 1990 and 1997. The allegations had been upheld in 91 of the cases, but only 28 resulted in a criminal charge. Just four led to a conviction. Officers with a criminal conviction were usually not fired. More than three-quarters of the abusive officers had no mention of the incident in their performance records. Twenty-nine percent went on to get a promotion.

Was the LAPD worse than other departments? Mader’s staff couldn’t find out. They contacted numerous agencies across the US but found that none kept tabs on domestic-violence allegations against officers. It looked as if the LAPD was not the only department letting the problem slide.

Mader’s report caused an outcry in Los Angeles and got media attention across the country. Melba Ramos’s family sued the city for US$23.8 million, saying the LAPD had not done enough to protect her. A jury found the city was negligent, and Los Angeles City Council agreed to pay US$2.15 million to settle the case in 1997.

As controversy mounted in LA over the Ramos case, the US Congress took action by adopting the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban in 1996. The statute prohibited anyone with a misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence from buying, possessing, selling or transporting firearms and ammunition, even if they needed a gun for their job. Despite vociferous opposition from the police and gun lobbies, there was no exemption for America’s 900,000 police officers and 1.2 million soldiers.

Other US police agencies started to realize they had a huge liability issue on their hands. They wondered how many Victor Ramoses they had in their ranks, about to saddle their departments with costly, embarrassing lawsuits. In 1998, the Federal Bureau of Investigation organized a landmark conference on police spousal abuse at its Behavioral Science Unit in Quantico, Virginia.

There was also a breakthrough at the International Association of Chiefs of Police, based in Alexandria, Virginia. In 1999, the group developed a zero-tolerance “model policy” on abusive cops that it recommended for adoption by its 19,000 member chiefs in 89 countries. The policy calls for:

  • Thorough investigations of abuse allegations against cops.
  • In the event no charges are laid, a report explaining why.
  • Safety measures for police spouses and their children, especially during separations.
  • Better screening and training for new hires.
  • Measures to combat the infamous blue wall of silence, including sanctions against officers who fail to report abuse by fellow cops.
  • Automatic firing of officers convicted of domestic violence.
  • Public reports about domestic incidents involving cops.

While all this was happening in the US, things have been strangely silent north of the border. No one has studied how widespread police spousal abuse is in Canada, and no studies seem to be in the works.

There is no Canadian equivalent of the US gun ban for domestic-violence offenders. The model policy of the International Association of Chiefs of Police has gone largely unnoticed here, too. The RCMP, Laval police and most other Canadian police forces have yet to adopt the model policy. Peter Cuthbert, executive director of the 900-member Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, says he has never even heard of his parent organization’s guidelines and has no plans to push for their adoption. “This association is not going to sit and demand that chiefs adhere to that, unless it’s legislated.”

The major police forces refuse to release internal affairs records on officers involved in domestic abuse. Many Canadian departments do not compile any statistics on the problem at all.

“We’re aware that, yes, [domestic abuse by officers] has happened in the past,” said Heather Russell, a spokesperson for the RCMP’s F Division in Saskatchewan. But she said there are no figures: “We don’t break it down.” Corporal Pierre Lemaitre, an RCMP spokesman at E Division, covering British Columbia, said he has no information on rates of domestic abuse by Mounties in the province. “I can’t track anything down here,” he said.

Some Canadian police officers, however, believe abuse among cops is a big problem here, too, and that rates are just as bad as in the US. Superintendent Rita Westbrook is a veteran of Ontario’s Waterloo Regional Police Service, where she is a divisional commander and the longest-serving woman on the force. “We are probably reflective of what’s going on in the US [in terms of police domestic violence] because our cultures are similar. We differ in a lot of ways, but we are more similar than we are different,” she said.

Jacques Letendre, a former chief inspector with the Sûreté du Québec, served 29 years in the provincial police force and retired as the head of its internal investigations division. He later served a term as a commissioner of the National Parole Board. “It’s very seldom that there’s a [policing] problem in the US that is not a problem in Canada,” he said. “Research on other types of police deviance shows that if something is happening in the States, we should not close our eyes to it in Canada.”

Meanwhile, locked away in his cell in a federal prison in Quebec, Hotte is hard at work on an appeal of his verdict. He admits to shooting Gélinas and her companions but says he was depressed and overworked. He has offered to plead guilty to manslaughter and, before his 2002 trial, rejected a Crown proposal of a sentence of up to 16 years. He insisted on serving only 14 years.

When he took the stand in his own defense, Hotte testified that he had worked 70 to 80 hours a week in the months leading up to the shooting spree, including long shifts guarding foreign dignitaries at Quebec City’s Summit of the Americas in April 2001. “I had my feet on cement all day long,” he said. “I was gassed twice. The hours were long. It was quite traumatizing.”

Hotte denied stalking Gélinas but admitted he had spied on her at her apartment building on the night of June 23, 2001. When he saw her at Hugues Ducharme’s place, along with Mainville and Savard, he decided to drive to RCMP headquarters in Westmount to retrieve his sidearm and two bullet clips from his personal locker. Hotte later told a psychiatrist he thought Gélinas was going to have an orgy with the other men. He returned just in time to see the foursome drive off for their night out. “In my head, it snapped,” he said. “I lost control. Anger invaded me.” He lamented having emptied his gun at his ex-girlfriend’s car because he had no bullets left to kill himself. “It would have been better to keep two bullets to commit suicide.”

After the shooting, Hotte was incarcerated in Montreal’s Pinel Institute, a forensic psychiatric hospital, where he tried to kill himself. His mother told reporters during a break in the trial that her son was taking 320 pills a month to control severe depression.

Hotte’s problems did not produce much sympathy in the courtroom. “I read in the newspaper that Jocelyn Hotte takes a lot of pills,” said Pierre Mainville during the sentencing hearing. “I wanted to say that I take more pills than him because of what he did. I found that funny.”

Judge Gomery, in his remarks before pronouncing Hotte’s sentence, expressed incredulity that the RCMP officer had not shown any remorse. “That’s a little bit the problem with Mr. Hotte,” said Gomery. “He only thinks of himself…. I never heard one word of remorse about this from the accused.”

Hotte was granted leave to appeal his criminal conviction. The case was scheduled to be heard October 20.

*

Alex Roslin is a Montreal writer whose work appears in Saturday Night, the Montreal Gazette and High Times. He is writing a book about police officers who abuse their spouses.


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