EDMONTON (Canadian OH&S News)
The RCMP was ordered to pay $100,000 after pleading guilty to Canada Labour Code charges involving an explosive device going off in a Mountie’s hand two years ago.
Cpl. Leigh Schooley, who was in charge of the RCMP detachment at Kitscoty, Alta., east of Edmonton, lost all four fingers in his right hand two years ago after he picked up a flash bang device with a faulty safety pin.
The device had been left resting in a pail of water — placed there by two other officers who believed the water would have rendered the device benign.
A flash bang device operates similar to a hand grenade, but when it explodes, it generates a bright light and booming noise.
On Aug. 14, the Provincial Court in Edmonton ruled that the national police force would pay $90,000 to two charities who help injured workers, and $10,000 in fines.
Since Schooley gets a monthly pension from Veterans Affairs Canada, he will not see any of that money. But he said the gesture is not enough to make amends for the incident.
“At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how much money because it doesn’t change what’s already done,” he said. “The biggest thing I had with the RCMP at the time was if someone takes responsibility for it — and don’t get me wrong, I played my part in it, I touched something I shouldn’t have — but I don’t think it was all my fault.”
The incident could have been prevented, Schooley said, since the two officers who placed it in the pail of water did not tell anyone that they were doing so.
“When they say it was supposed to be a dud because it was left in a pail of water for 24 hours — okay, well, there was nothing on it to say that for that first 24 hours, ‘Don’t touch,’ ” he said. “Even if they followed all their training and put it in the water and called the bomb guy, then somebody else in my detachment could have walked in and touched it. In my case, I think it sat there for six weeks.”
The RCMP said they have made changes to their training procedures relating to flash bang devices, and added that the two officers who left the device in water are receiving internal discipline.
Officer wants changes to protect others
For Schooley, his work day will never be the same.
“I’m not front-line anymore, I’m an admin guy. Yeah, well when you’ve got a thumb left on your right hand, you can’t shoot with it, you can’t do anything,” Schooley said. “I enjoyed my job. If you called me at 2 a.m. to go and arrest a drunk, hey, that’s what policing is about, it’s what I signed up to do. Now, for what I do, it’s not there at all, I’m just like a paper guy. It’s not what I signed up to do when I joined the police force.”
According to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, the RCMP pleaded guilty to charges that they violated the occupational health and safety requirements under the Canada Labour Code.
The silver lining, said Schooley, is that he intends to facilitate changes to ensure no other officer will face a similar risk.
“The RCMP is a big organization. You really feel the size of it when you’re trying to make a change within it,” he added.