On her days off, RCMP Const. Alice Fox often worked at her desk, listening to classical music and writing up her files.
An average impaired driving file — the kind that Fox worked with most often — could take between two and six hours for an officer to write up. But Fox didn’t care.
“I would do my paperwork on my own time just so I could get on the road and get ‘em,” she said. “Because you know what? It’s real time saving lives.”
The hours Fox took to complete her paperwork would later become part of a conflict with her unit commander, Marc Alexander, that would lead to her filing a lawsuit alleging that she was harassed by Alexander between 2011 and 2013 because of her dyslexia. In the lawsuit, she also claimed the harassment towards her continued after her leave of absence in 2013.
Fox also claims in her suit that the alleged harassment and delays with the RCMP grievance process worsened what she believes was an already-existing post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition caused by traumas she suffered as a first responder.
None of Fox’s claims have been proven in court. Fox’s lawsuit is currently in the exchange of documents phase, where all parties provide relevant documents to the court. Alexander’s lawyer, Ravi Hira, declined a request for an interview on behalf of Alexander because the lawsuit was still before the courts.
Fox’s experience was included in a May 2017 report on harassment within the RCMP compiled by former auditor-general Sheila Fraser. The report looked at how the RCMP dealt with harassment claims made by four RCMP members, and made recommendations for change. The report found that bullying and harassment remain serious problems within the RCMP, noting that only major changes would make a difference, and that outside oversight would be needed for those changes to be effective.
Fox: the traffic cop
But back in 2007, when Fox had just been transferred to the newly created Greater Vancouver Integrated Road Safety Unit and was working under unit commander Manjinder Kaila, she said it was “absolutely the happiest time in my life.”
It was Fox’s first time working traffic with the RCMP, and she had a passion and a talent for catching impaired drivers.
“I don’t know where she got it from or how she did it,” Kaila said. “She just did.”
Some nights, Kaila said, Fox would be able to get three impaired drivers in a night. “I know it doesn’t sound like much, but I can tell you many officers struggle to find a single impaired over a weekend,” he said.
Like other employees, Fox had her struggles. One of those was paperwork. Kaila, wanting to take advantage of Fox’s skills on the road, developed a system to help her with her paperwork.
He would start the file for her, put down the basic information when she first got an impaired driver. Then Fox would be on her own to finish the files. Sometimes, Kaila would structure Fox’s day shifts so she would be able to finish her crown council reports.
“Was it more than your average person? Yeah it was,” Kaila said about the oversight required on Fox’s paperwork. “But she produced a hell of a lot more than your average person.”
No one knows how she was able to get so many impaired drivers. Partly, Fox said, her skill was just a knack, a talent that rose up as she tackled impaired driver after impaired driver. But she says it was also partly because of her low-levels of post-traumatic stress.
“PTSD is actually a good thing for policing, because you’re hyper vigilant,” said Fox. “You’re in your calm when poop’s hitting the fan. That’s when we’re dynamite.”
“Why do you think I was so good at impaireds?” she continued. “I’m on 24-7.”
Fox’s success as a constable in the RCMP was recognized by Alexa’s Team, an initiative that honours high-producing cops. To be a member of Alexa’s Team, police officers must have 12 or more impaired driving investigations in a year that result in charges or prohibitions.
In 2009, Fox was inducted as a member of Alexa’s Team for the number of impaired drivers she removed from the road the previous year. For her work in 2009 she was elected to the all-star team, meaning she had 34 or more impaired driving charges or prohibitions during the year.
For her work in 2010, Fox was recognized as the top performing Alexa’s Team member, meaning she had the highest number of impaired charges and prohibitions of any police officer in British Columbia.
Kaila left the Greater Vancouver IRSU in October of 2010, and “when I left,” he said “I’m confident that [Fox] was at the peak of her career.”
Enter the harassment complaint
Filling Kaila’s now-empty managerial role was Marc Alexander, an RCMP member who had been involved in traffic and vehicle accident work since the early ’90s.
Fox and Alexander had worked together before, in the Maple Ridge RCMP detachment back in 2005.
Fox claims that at that time Alexander had said she had ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and told her she should be locked in a room. She also claims the RCMP had informed Alexander of her dyslexia and dysgraphia, learning disabilities which affect one’s ability to read and write, when he started as a watch commander in Maple Ridge.
In Alexander’s statement of defence, he alleged he was not informed of her disabilities. He agreed that he said he thought she had ADHD, which he claims he brought up because of her poor paperwork. Rather than saying she should be locked in a room, he claims that he suggested she go into an empty office and lock the door so she could complete her paperwork without being disturbed.
None of these claims have been proved in court.
Fox did not file an internal harassment complaint for that incident, and was later transferred from general duty to being a school liaison officer. She took a year-long leave from Maple Ridge sometime after that, and after her leave was transferred into the newly-created road safety unit.
Fox and Alexander didn’t speak again until he was posted to IRSU in January 2011.
For Fox, the situation between 2011 and 2013 was tense. In her statement of civil claim, she alleges that she was “openly chastised for [her] paperwork, file management, hand writing and exhibit handling” during her time as an RCMP member under Alexander’s command. Alexander denies this in his statement of defence.
“It’s hard enough to go out on the road,” Fox said about the alleged harassment. “When you come back to the office and it’s crazy, that’s when people get sick.”
On Jan. 28, 2013, a few days after Fox claims Alexander said he was going to discipline her for mistakes in a file — which Alexander denies in his statement of defence — Fox left the unit on medical leave for stress. In February 2013, she filed a harassment complaint against Alexander.
Fox claims the situation became even worse from there.
She claims — and Alexander denies — that Alexander maliciously altered her files and solicited public complaints against her.
Sheila Fraser weighs in
Former auditor-general Sheila Fraser examined Fox’s files for her May 2017 report to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. Fraser didn’t prove Fox’s files had been altered; rather, she examined how the RCMP dealt with Fox’s claim of tampering.
According to the report, the RCMP didn’t deal with Fox’s claim appropriately.
“While the decision-maker concluded that the supervisor’s interventions did not have an adverse effect on the actual police investigation” outlined in the claim, the report said, “it remains that the organization did not deal with the substance of her complaint.”
Fraser’s report also examined the RCMP’s overall response to harassment and grievance complaints. It found that “the RCMP grievance process did not provide a viable option for dealing with harassment complaints due to lengthy delays in the process” — something that Fox felt keenly when she first was on leave.
The report also said “the investigation process, generally carried out within the complainant’s division, often leads to perceptions of bias and conflict of interest” — something that is quite clear in Fox’s statement of claim and subsequent interviews.
Code of Conduct investigations are usually undertaken by a member’s commander, or another person in the chain of command, and attempt to solve conflict with remedial rather than punitive measures.
All of this together — the alleged harassment and the RCMP grievance process — is what Fox said led to her official diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It would have been PTSD, but not debilitating” without the harassment, Fox said. “Marc [Alexander] brought me to a whole new level; I call it the tipping point.”
“I shouldn’t say it was Marc,” she added. “I would say it’s going to be senior management, because they were willfully blind.”
Fox has named both Alexander and the RCMP in her suit. Because of the RCMP’s unique relationship with the federal and B.C. provincial governments, Fox’s lawsuit has been filed against the Crown both federally and provincially.
If the lawsuit isn’t settled before the exchange of documents is finished, it would then go to examinations for discovery and finally to trial. If the lawsuit goes to trial, the whole process could take several years.
Although Fox wants to move forward, she’s willing to stick out the lawsuit to the end.
“See, I’m willing to settle if there’s accountability,” she said. “Not if there’s not.”
This is the second in a series of articles on Alice Fox’s journey through the RCMP and her struggle with PTSD.