Former Surrey Mountie says he was forced out by the very bullying he speaks out against
A Surrey police officer whose youth anti-bullying presentations have earned praise from coast to coast says harassment he's faced at work has forced him to resign from the RCMP.
In late 2012, Tad Milmine, who is gay and was ostracized as a teen, began sharing his story with youth. It was the suicide of Ontario teen Jamie Hubley, a gay 15 year old who battled years of bullying and depression, that sparked Milmine to take action. The former RCMP officer knew he had to use his own experiences to help give youth hope. He created a website (www.bullyingendshere.ca) and began giving school talks, on his days off and at his own expense, telling kids how he overcame adversity and achieved his dream of becoming a cop. His talks were an immediate hit, and to date he's spoken to about 60,000 youth and received more than 9,000 emails through his website. The Leader awarded him a Community Leader Award in 2013 for his efforts.
Initially, he says, his superiors supported, and even promoted, his anti-bullying work. But about a year ago, Milmine felt things starting to go sideways.
It began, he says, shortly after he transferred from Surrey RCMP to the B.C. RCMP unit. It was early 2013 that he was sent to an RCMP psychologist – a move he found odd. He attended the set appointment, the purpose of which was never made clear, passed with "flying colours" and continued his anti-bullying work outside work hours.
By May, he was offered a full-time gig working in an anti-bullying role within the RCMP. But there would have to be changes, due to strict policies. Milmine would no longer be allowed to operate his website or support any anti-bullying initiatives outside the RCMP, and the email interactions with youth – some of which had proven vital – would be monitored by several other people.
Milmine says he respectfully declined.
"I didn't create Bullying Ends Here so that I could have an office job," he says. "I did this so that I could have a connection with youth. It's nothing to do with policing, I'm just a fellow human that wanted to let youth know they're not alone."
He went back to regular police duty, but in the months that followed, says he faced a barrage of road blocks when it came to his outside youth work, including warnings and an ethics complaint that his actions contravened RCMP policy stating such external activities be pre-approved by human resources.
Milmine has been on stress leave since last November, but has continued his presentations with the blessing of his doctor.
The conflict with the RCMP came to a head last Thursday (March 6), when he says his bosses sat him down and told him he had to cease his talks and involvement with Bullying Ends Here until he had the requisite RCMP permission. There was no indication how long the process would take.
"I get, on average, 30 to 100 emails every single day from youth. I can't ignore them," said Milmine, adding he already has presentations booked across Canada through June.
"I was going to be disciplined in one way or another," he says. "I can only guess it would have been code of conduct and as a police officer, that's the last thing you want. I don't want something like that being on my record."
Instead, he resigned.
In a statement, RCMP spokesman Sgt. Rob Vermeulen denied Milmine was forced out. In fact, he said, the force has supported him fully and was "shocked and disappointed" with his unexpected resignation while the policy conflicts were being worked out.
"While we were very supportive of Tad's work, the RCMP does have clear policies and guidelines with respect to financial transparency and accountability in secondary employment that applies to all employees. These policies are in place to protect both the organization and its members," said Vermeulen, noting there are strict conflict of interest guidelines about the solicitation of funds, the image and uniform of the RCMP and the perception the RCMP is involved in soliciting funds. "While we respect Tad's passion, and have made every effort to accommodate him, we had also hoped that Tad would work with us to find the balance between his outreach efforts and the operational needs of his detachment, regular assigned duties and adherence to HR policies."
Milmine says he does not charge for his presentations, does not wear his uniform and doesn't mention the RCMP, only that he's a police officer. Though he's upset about his resignation, he holds no grudge.
"I'm very proud to say I was a Mountie, proud of the fact they gave me the opportunity to be a police officer. It's just a shame that it's ending this way."
But with the RCMP door closing, another has already opened. Milmine has taken a position with the Calgary Police Services, which is well aware of his anti-bullying efforts. He leaves Surrey next week.
"I just want to talk to youth. It's so simple."