The RCMP should judge its officers by their professional conduct, not their sexual preferences, BDSM activists are saying after leaked photos of an officer on a consensual fetish website have caused a public uproar and led to calls for the officer’s resignation.

The photos became public when Vancouver Sun columnist Ian Mulgrew published them July 5 and described them as “sexually explicit torture images reminiscent of the pig-farmer's crimes.”

The photos allegedly depict Coquitlam Corporal Jim Brown, a veteran RCMP officer who played a purportedly minor role in the Robert Pickton serial killer investigation when he referred a tipster to investigating officers in 1999.

According to Mulgrew, the officer in the “graphic pictures . . . appears to wear only his regulation-issue Mountie boots and an erection as he wields a huge knife and a bound naked woman cringes in terror.”

Leatherwoman Tillie King tells Xtra the case is a perfect example of why people feel pressured to hide their sexual preferences.

"It highlights why people stay in the closet," she says. "They could lose their jobs or their children. Those are pretty high risks to take in life."

King says people are judged the moment they step outside the norm sexually.

"For straight people, what they do in bed is never brought into the public light as to whether or not they can do their job," she points out.

She likens the situation to the RCMP witch-hunts in the 1950s and ’60s when queers in the RCMP were seen as security risks.

"People in his position often stayed closeted for a reason, and we all know the price of that," King says. "This will push a lot of people back into the kink closet. That could be potentially tragic."

Gay Vancouver psychotherapist and leatherman Bill Coleman agrees. The officer should be judged on his ability to do his job, not by photos of him in a sexual situation.

"Now you see a picture of him and now he can’t do his job?" Coleman asks. "It doesn't change peoples' behaviour; it just becomes more closeted, and we know how dangerous being closeted can be.”

"He should be judged on his record as a police officer and not on a picture of him," reiterates Coleman, who testified as an expert witness on BDSM at the Little Sister's vs Canada Customs trial about BDSM book seizures.

"I am a sexual being and people can't pretend that I am not. If they don't like that, that's their problem," Coleman says.

Black leatherdyke Kona agrees. The officer’s ability to do his job has nothing to do with his sexuality, she says. "Every single person in this world does something sexually that offends someone else."

Both Kona and Coleman say the situation could put a chill on the BDSM community.

Kona fears Vancouver's BDSM community could be tarred and play spaces could become harder to find. "People are going to step back. How many people are going to go underground?" she asks. "How many people are going to go hunting for perverts in Vancouver?"

Ironically, both Coleman and Kona note, it’s people in the BDSM community who tend to have a greater understanding of the dynamics of power in human relationships — something Coleman says would inform how well a police officer does his job.

Coleman points out that BDSM practitioners engage by consent. That's a long way from the mainstream media depiction of the officer sadistically subjugating and torturing a woman against her will.

Kona thinks someone with an axe to grind against the officer deliberately leaked the photos. She is concerned that members of the fetish website not expecting to be outed or judged will now face judgment from those without an understanding of the nuances of BDSM.

"Now there's going to be a lot of tourists on there uninvited," Kona says. "There's going to be a huge onslaught of people
. . . that are going to pick apart the way the community speaks about itself, the way they talk about relationships."

Kona does not exempt the officer from criticism. "As a steward of public trust with a sophisticated knowledge of the law, he was stupid. He did not manage his personal life well," she says.

The officer has been placed on administrative duties pending a code-of-conduct investigation — despite his commanding officer’s apparent reluctance to pursue the matter.

"The alleged issue was deemed to be off-duty, non-criminal, adult consensual activity during which the individual was not representing himself as a member of the RCMP, and thus it did not appear to legal services to meet the threshold for a code-of-conduct violation," Superintendent Claude Wilcott reportedly told Mulgrew.

"Despite this legal opinion, a code-of-conduct investigation is underway to determine if there are any additional facts and ensure the fullest review possible,” Wilcott reportedly continued.

“While I agree the staged images are graphic, it's important to note that they appear only on an adult site catering to those who seek them out," he added.

In a statement issued July 5, RCMP BC Assistant Commissioner Randy Beck says the Coquitlam detachment commander "first became aware of the existence of some graphic staged photos in December 2010. However, at that time, the detachment commander believed they existed only on the officer’s personal flash drive and thus, after consultation, he did not believe it met the threshold for a Code of Conduct violation."

When the commander discovered in March that the photos were also online, Beck says, another investigation began. The Richmond RCMP is now leading that investigation, he says.

"While we must strike a balance between an individual’s rights and freedoms when off duty and the RCMP Code of Conduct, I am personally embarrassed and very disappointed that the RCMP would be, in any way, linked to photos of that nature," Beck says.

Kona tells Xtra she is "horrified" by the situation.

She says it reminds her of Jack McGeorge, a US ex-marine, ex-Secret Service agent with a doctorate in the field of chemical and biological terrorism. McGeorge, who died in 2009, was a UN weapons inspector in Iraq. He, too, came under fire for his involvement with the BDSM community when, in 2002, a Washington Post article attempted to discredit McGeorge as the hunt for supposed weapons of mass destruction was underway.

McGeorge tendered his resignation to chief weapons inspector Hans Blix, but Blix refused to accept it. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's office also supported McGeorge. The US National Coalition for Sexual Freedom said news agencies targeted McGeorge because he was a respected SM community leader and educator.

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