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Outspoken B.C. psychologist draws RCMP complaint

Aug 12 2012

The RCMP has blacklisted a B.C. police psychologist critical of the force, refusing to pay for Mounties' medical bills if they continue to use his services.

Mike Webster said he received a letter from the RCMP saying his patients would either have to find another doctor or pay the medical bills themselves.

Webster accused the national force of trying to punish him for his long-standing criticism of it, but said the ploy would only hurt its members.

"I am a critic and they don't tolerate criticism," Webster said from his home-based practice on Denman Island.

"I cannot believe one little old psychologist like me can bring the RCMP to its knees and that they would have to resort to this."

Webster has long criticized the RCMP as an organization that is "making its members sick" and said that would continue unless wide-ranging reforms are made — the first of which should be a union to better represent members.

Webster said he's appalled the RCMP would meddle in its members' mental health care.

"If you look in the police universe, no other police service has its nose in its members' health care," he said.

In its letter to Webster, dated Aug. 1, the RCMP said, "your lack of objectivity in both your clinical work and public commentary towards the RCMP have weakened your effectiveness in treating your RCMP client base. Based on their assessment of your execution of your professional duties, the RCMP is terminating funding for your services immediately."

The RCMP has also lodged a formal complaint with the College of Psychologists of B.C.

The letter said the complaint was based on observations that "you have not maintained a consistent focus on the clinical needs of your RCMP clients. Instead, your focus tends to be on the need for the RCMP to change organizationally."

Webster treats about 25 Mounties who are on sick leave because of conflicts within the workplace. He said many of them have depression and anxiety issues but are under pressure to return to work.

"I, in good conscience, cannot return my patients to a toxic workplace," he said. "I can't do that."

Chief Supt. Brad Hartl, B.C. RCMP human resources officer, said that the force's top concern is getting its employees healthy and back to work as soon as possible.

"We have to ensure tax dollars are going to those services that can accomplish that in the most effective way, and to those who are putting the needs of our employees ahead of any personal agenda they may have," he said in a statement.

The RCMP have added or removed other care providers in the past to ensure employees receive the best care for the funding provided, Hartl said.

Cpl. Chris Hughes, a Coquitlam RCMP officer who has been on sick leave since December, said she was worried her treatment would suffer if she was forced to switch to another psychologist.

Hughes said the RCMP's issues with Webster should be dealt with in a way that doesn't affect its members.

"The RCMP just doesn't seem to like him being vocal," Hughes said. "They should be looking at themselves and saying, 'What can we do better to avoid these problems in the future?'

"This is just another way to sweep the real problems under the rug, to avoid dealing with the real issues."

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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