In July of 2009 Central Saanich Police Sergeant David Berndt was vacationing in Armstrong, British Columbia. RCMP members found him passed out at the wheel of his vehicle, and once they woke him up, he produced his Saanich Police badge in an effort to make his troubles go away. In doing so, he managed to create a whole new set of problems for himself.
His conduct, the subject of a September 2011 public hearing by the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner, resulted in his being found guilty of two counts of violating the Police Act.
According to news reports, Berndt’s wife had called the RCMP because she was concerned for his safety. That call led to RCMP Constable Komlos finding him passed out at the wheel of his vehicle, which was described as “littered with empty beer cans.”
On top of passing his badge in an effort to make the RCMP constable go away, he was also angry, rude and belligerent to the female constable who, for obvious reasons, didn’t take kindly to the treatment she was receiving.
For reasons unknown, the issue remained undiscovered by Sergeant Berndt’s superiors at the Central Saanich Police Department (CSPD) until December of 2009, five months after the event. At that time RCMP Constable Komlos told a CSPD supervisor about the event.
That led to the internal discipline of a suspension and reduction in rank. That reduction in rank also reduced Sergeant Berndt’s paycheck, that appears to be the primary motive for his disagreement with his punishment.
He requested a public hearing in an effort to have the rank (and subsequent paycheck) reduction overturned.
Having already tried digging himself out of two holes unsuccessfully, I guess Sergeant Berndt was praying the old adage “the third time’s a charm” would come true for him. Letting ego get in the way of the facts is never a good plan, and that appears to be what happened here.
Instead of making sure the facts were on his side as well as his emotions, Sergeant Berndt called for a public hearing believing he could sway the decision by Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner adjudicator Alan Filmer.
He was wrong.
John Waddell, lawyer for the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, said the "improbable version of events" given by Berndt "was crafted to protect his reputation and his income."
Adjudicator Alan Filmer obviously agreed, finding Sergeant Berndt guilty of two counts of violating the Police Act.
Submissions on the issue of discipline for these violations were submitted and on November 4, 2011 the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner released their ruling on punishment.
Reduction in rank is an extremely severe discipline, and is unsupported by any of the precedent cases referred to me by Counsel. I appreciate that Central Saanich is a relatively small police force, but the issue to be dealt with in this matter is basically one of alcoholism. The reduction in rank does little to solve that problem. I intend to find, and do find, that Sergeant Berndt should be retroactively returned to the rank ofsergeant, effective November 4, 2010.
It is my view that since the date of the original disciplinary hearing on November 4, 201 0 (almost one full year ago), the intent of the Act as expressed in Section 126(3) has been accomplished.
Overall, I feel that Sergeant Berndt has paid a considerable penalty for his conduct on the evening of July 22, 2009, in Armstrong, BC, and that the following is adequate discipline for his three derelicts:
- Derelict s#1 - a written reprimand;
- Derelict #2 - advice to future conduct; and
- Derelict #3 - a written reprimand.
This discipline, together with the return to rank as indicated herein, is consistent with the intent of the Police Act.
So, in the end he gets what he wanted... a return to his former rank and paycheck.
Instead of being angry and belligerent with a female RCMP constable… what if he’d actually acted like a reasonable human being and treated her with the simple respect due any police constable in this situation?
We’ll never know, will we?
Sergeant Berndt’s ego, not his intellect, seems to have dictated his actions in this case from beginning to end.