EDITORIALS, LOCAL NEWS

Sex, Hookers and the Thin Blue Line

Berlin 2013

It didn’t take long for Winnipeg’s elite crime reporting duo to dig up the dirt regarding the criminal charges laid against Winnipeg Police Officer Remi Van Den Driessche (39).

Yesterday, the WPS announced the officer was charged with nine (9) serious crimes that include;

  • Sexual Assault
  • Breach of Trust x 2
  • Extortion x 2
  • Criminal Harassment x 4

Van Den Driessche was released on a promise to appear and is presently on administrative leave pending a review of his employment status.

A day later Winnipeg Free Press reporters Mike McIntyre and James Turner tell us the allegations involve five (5) adult women who range between twenty-four (24) & thirty-two (32) years of age.  Some of the women are believed to have worked in the sex trade while other’s have contacts for drug and robbery offences.  One woman has no criminal history.

The allegations against the officer suggest he was using his authority as a police officer to extort sexual favours from the women.

The Winnipeg Police Association indicated they have yet to review the matter but caution against any rush to judgement.

Experience tells me that’s good advice.

After graduating from the Police Academy in 1987 I was assigned to work one of the seediest areas the city had to offer.  The “low track,” as it was called, was the area located around the Main Street Hotels and included Higgins Avenue, Martha Street, Maple Street, MacDonald Avenue and others.

Over the course of the next decade or so I would literally come to know hundreds of women who worked in the sex trade.  The majority of them came with significant issues regarding drug and alcohol addiction, criminal behaviour, communicable disease (HIV, Aids, Hepatitis, STD’s), emotional & mental health issues, homelessness and poverty to name but a few.

Many of these women were victims of some form of historical sexual abuse during their childhood or teens.  I’ve always seen sex trade workers as vulnerable women who are often victim’s of crime, marginalization and public indifference.  That said, sex trade workers can be extremely dangerous people who frequently victimize their clients and degrade the safety and security in the neighbourhoods where they ply their trade.

The relationship between the police officer and the sex trade worker is often mutually beneficial.  The police officer benefits by developing a source of useful information regarding the identity of pimps, drug traffickers and the criminal element.  The sex trade worker benefits by developing an ally in the criminal justice system who may cut her slack on the streets, help her with outstanding criminal charges or give her informant funds (cash) in exchange for actionable intelligence.

Some of the most productive police officer’s I’ve met were officers who had the ability to cultivate and maintain professional relationships with informants.  The information extracted from informants can be difference makers when it comes to criminal investigations.  Police informant participation in a criminal investigation dramatically increases the potential for operational success.

Police informers and sex trade workers present many dangers to police officers who are eager to have an impact on crime.  The greatest danger is the risk of being manipulated by street wise, slippery criminals who often have more experience than their police officer handlers.

This is especially true of sex trade workers.

Sex trade workers often try to enhance their relationships with police officers by offering gratuitous sexual favours.  I had many such offers from sex trade workers looking to exchange oral sex or intercourse for their freedom once I effected their arrest for outstanding warrants, drug charges or other criminal misdeeds.  Sex is nothing more than a tool for these women and they’re not afraid to use it to their advantage.

Long before I ever entered into the world of Law Enforcement, I recall my father sharing some paternal wisdom as we drove by a prostitute on the stroll in Vancouver.  “You know something son, the only time one of those girls takes a bath is when they get caught in a rain storm,” he joked.

He also told me, “Never shit in your own back yard.”

Moral code, communicable diseases and professional suicide aside, his crude words of wisdom always stuck with me.

I was never tempted by the offers.

Things may not be so black and white for other people who work the Thin Blue Line.  Police officers, like the public we serve, are flawed creatures who make mistakes, have lapses in judgement and struggle with a variety of addiction issues like alcohol, drugs, gambling and of course, sex.  

(A recent Canadian study suggests 1 in 10 adults or 10% of the population struggle with a sex addiction.)

One thing is certain.

The charges are sure to be contested unless the Professional Standards Unit has secured irrefutable evidence in the form of inculpatory video recordings or wire tap conversations.  In the absence of this type of evidence the case is likely to go forward.

Sex Trade Workers often come to court with significant issues surrounding their credibility.  Their evidence is always heavily scrutinized and often rejected as unreliable by Judges and juries alike.

I don’t recall ever meeting Constable Remi Van Den Driessche and make no assumptions regarding his guilt or innocence.  If he’s guilty, his lack of judgement will surely translate to loss of career, respect and standing in the community.

If he’s not guilty, it occurs to me, much of that damage has already been done.

Let’s  just hope it doesn’t take five (5) years to figure it out.


Update;

April 10, 2018

Constable Remi Van Den Driessche (43) acquitted of all charges.

The officer testified in his own defence, denied the allegations against him and told the court he was only trying to be a proactive police officer attempting to gain intelligence regarding the drug trade in the North End.

Provincial Court Judge Sandra Chapman said;

“I can say that ultimately, at the end of the day, his evidence, in light of some of the issues I had in terms of reliability of the Crown’s evidence, made me unsure as to whether or not these matters had taken place. And, as a result, I did have reasonable doubt with respect to all counts on the indictment.”

Van Den Driessche was represented by the unstoppable criminal defence attorney Mr. Richard Wolson who told the Winnipeg Free Press;

“He’s maintained his innocence all along, and it gives him his life back, which has been turned upside down since these charges have been laid. Even though there was a lengthy investigation with a lot of manpower involved, we were always of the view that the evidence was far short of meeting a criminal standard.”

The WPS is currently reviewing the decision.

WPA President Maurice Sabourin told the Free Press;

“We’re happy that the court system has worked in this situation. We believe the proper decision was made. And it’s unfortunate that the member has had his life put on hold for six years. If it had been a regular citizen, this likely would have been stayed a long time ago, based on the evidence.”


RELATED LINKS:

The Police Insider – “WPS Officer Facing Serious Criminal Charges”

Winnipeg Free Press – Turner & Hooch “City Cop Focus of Investigation”

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