Whitehorse Daily Star

RCMP officer touched colleague without her consent

A former Whitehorse RCMP officer has pled guilty to sexual assault in relation to his on-duty conduct.

By Emily Blake on December 5, 2017

A former Whitehorse RCMP officer has pled guilty to sexual assault in relation to his on-duty conduct.

Earlier last month, Const. Stephen Knaack entered a guilty plea to one count of sexual assault stemming from an incident where he touched a female RCMP employee without her consent.

The woman’s identity is protected by the court under a publication ban.

According to the agreed facts in the case, Knaack, who was a corporal at the time, was on duty when he visited the woman at her workplace on Jan. 4, 2017.

The two were engaging in a casual conversation when Knaack walked around the woman’s desk in order to give her a hug.

She responded, “Let me stand up so I can give you a real hug,” and stood as Knaack approached.

Knaack told the woman that she was standing so that he could “grab (her) ass” and proceeded to hug her while grabbing her buttocks with his left hand.

The woman responded that there was “lots to grab,” with Knaack replying, “I like big women.”

The woman did not consent to the sexual touching.

The next day, she filed a harassment complaint to the RCMP Line Officer.

According to the Whitehorse RCMP, a criminal investigation was initiated as well as the internal RCMP Conduct process.

On Jan. 6, Knaack sent an unsolicited email to then-Insp. Archie Thompson admitting to the incident.

He wrote that it was “disreputable conduct for a member and supervisor,” adding, “There is no tolerance of this in the workplace. There is no excuse for a man to force himself on a woman.”

Knaack was suspended with pay from the RCMP on Feb. 7. He was formally charged with sexual assault on May 25.

Through his legal counsel, Brendan Miller, Knaack had requested in early June that the matter be resolved through a peace bond. The Crown, however, would not agree.

Knaack made his first appearance on the charge in territorial court in Whitehorse on June 14.

As a result of an internal discipline decision on Aug. 24, Knaack received sanctions.

Those included being demoted to a constable, made ineligible for a promotion for three years, and immediately being transferred to a location outside of the Yukon. He was also required to write an apology to the victim which will remain on his file.

Court documents state that as a result of these sanctions, his financial loss over the next three years will total at least $32,569.80 before taxes.

Knaack has been a member of the RCMP since Feb. 28, 2000. This is his first complaint of any kind by a fellow member or employee of the RCMP.

Knaack is seeking a conditional discharge.

This would mean a period of probation, including assessment and counselling as required by a probation officer. The charge would not remain on his permanent criminal record.

Sentencing in the case has been tentatively scheduled for Jan. 30, and Deputy Judge Richard Schneider from Ontario will preside.

The Crown prosecutor in the case is Benjamin Flight from Nunavut.

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada appointed an independent Crown counsel to avoid any conflict of interest, as Yukon prosecutors work closely with the RCMP.

Yukon judges were also excluded from presiding over the case due to potential conflicts.

Comments (21)

Up 0 Down 0

A Guy on Dec 11, 2017 at 5:58 pm

Who does something like this? The thought of grabbing someones derrière while exchanging a friendly hug would never even cross my mind. Then a corporal in the RCMP goes and does it in spite of all the negative press and lawsuits the RCMP has received the last few years regarding improper sexual conduct by officers.

Up 2 Down 1

Jane Smith on Dec 11, 2017 at 1:14 pm

These comments are depressing. Why was it up to the woman to tell Knaack not to grab her ass? Why didn't Knaack just exhibit a modicum of professionalism and, I don't know, not grab her ass!!!?

Up 1 Down 1

Tom Stevens on Dec 8, 2017 at 1:09 pm

Ok.. I am not sure why this is so difficult especially based on the circumstances of today with people losing jobs left right and center over inappropriate workplace behavior. THIS WAS WORK.. NOT A DATE..... I am sure this RCMP member had no shortage of legal advice and plead guilty because he was guilty and whether you like it or not, sexual touching without consent is against the law. He also was demoted because as a promoted member of the RCMP he has a responsibility to be the benchmark of standards, this is why he was punished by them. To compare the workplace to a date or a casual meeting on your own time in this present culture of workplace harassment and sexual harassment is not going to be a winner in either civil or criminal court.

Up 6 Down 0

Alan Boomer on Dec 8, 2017 at 11:56 am

it looks pretty much like consent or something that is not worthy of criminal charges.

Why couldn't she just accept an apology,

Up 9 Down 0

Kj on Dec 8, 2017 at 5:35 am

@katie
Years back I drove a female coworker (among others) home from an office Christmas party because she had a couple of drinks. Our friendship was never anything other than professional...and I certainly never flirted with her. She kissed me without consent when I dropped her off. I laughed it off, and brushed it aside. We worked together for 3 years after the fact with no issues.
Granted alcohol was slightly involved, and not on work property although part of a work event. I certainly didn’t consent to that...not playing that men are the victim but should I have charged her with sexual assault? If it goes one way it goes the other. Who would have won in that scenario?

Up 3 Down 4

Katie on Dec 7, 2017 at 3:13 pm

I find it pretty incredible the amount of people saying the women consented to her butt being grabbed. When I hug my guy friends, the hug doesn't come with permission to grope me. Good chance her response after the hug was due to being surprised someone would do that in the workplace, and trying to laugh it off. Because that is often what is expected of a women, to brush aside inappropriate behavior so as not to offend anyone/cause issues in the workplace.

Up 4 Down 2

Jeff on Dec 7, 2017 at 2:40 pm

@tom Stevens
Actually a few have mentioned that. Secondly....I don’t know them, but not everyone in the building is tasked with the murders...believe it or not there are other jobs that must still be done I’m sure to keep the wheels turning. This encounter could have taken less than one minute. You telling me 100% of your time spent at work has been head down working with no talking, joking, talking with your significant other etc? Not saying they should have been doing what they did...but common. The only job where they are hated equally for both doing and not doing their job.
@michael
So flirting isn’t consent? Again... it certainly sounds as if they were quite possibly flirting...if flirting isn’t consent then we are all in trouble. And as another poster stated, romance is dead.

Up 1 Down 6

Tom Stevens on Dec 7, 2017 at 10:10 am

Ok.. there is a point most are missing, whether it is criminal or internal discipline ( and I do think the criminal charge was overkill, so clearly he did not have the uppers support).

He was an RCMP Supervisor in a workplace situation, no place for hugging, ass grabbing, whatever to occur. With the number of outstanding homicides in the Yukon the time spent in the employ of taxpayers should be spent policing, not trying to flirt your way into another relationship.

Up 7 Down 0

Yukon Watchdog on Dec 7, 2017 at 9:10 am

From the facts reported here, it looks pretty much like consent, but there could be tons of info missing from this story. Why else would it get so far up the chain?

Up 10 Down 0

At home in the Yukon on Dec 6, 2017 at 9:43 pm

When getting our romantic signals crossed becomes criminal, romance is out the window. We all loose.

Up 1 Down 8

Michael on Dec 6, 2017 at 6:02 pm

To those of you questioning whether this is actual sexual assault and whether the woman gave "implied consent" by not objecting, here's a paraphrasing of what the law says on this subject:

1) Any "sexual" touching of another person without their consent is considered sexual assault and is a crime and can result in prosecution.
2) Whether something is "sexual" or not depends on the circumstances. It is up to the judge (or jury) to decide whether the action in question is "sexual."
Grabbing someone's butt can qualify.
3) Consent must be express. That is to say, the other party has to actively say (or do) something that communicates they're in agreement. Simply not objecting, or saying something ambiguous, is not consent and is not a defence. There is no such thing as "implied consent" when it comes to sexual conduct as far as the law is concerned.

Up 7 Down 0

north_of_60 on Dec 6, 2017 at 4:22 pm

The charges and punishment are out of line for a one time incident between two apparently consenting adults. While the comment “grab (her) ass” was inappropriate, all she had to do was say "please don't" or something similar if she didn't want that sort of attention. It appears she consented to, if not encouraged, the actions.
A conditional discharge and reduction to one year sanction would be just and appropriate.

Up 11 Down 1

Jeff on Dec 6, 2017 at 2:19 pm

@prosciencegreenie
I wouldn’t encourage you to attend a high school dance then. There is a difference between doing something with out express written consent witnessed by a lawyer and justice of the peace followed by an act of parliament prior to any contact...and someone (apparently at least friends but it would appear flirting friends) touching that person...the other objecting...and that person continues or escalates the contact. That is then wrong.
Nothing in this case says it was anything other than a one time event...they are both grown adults. In my book what makes it inappropriate is the office and supervisor environment. This doesn’t seem criminal..rather something that should have been settled out of court ideally between them as...wait for it...adults.
Again, not great for a work place but sounds like they were flirting...By this measure of evidence half the kids leaving a grade 10 dance could be charged with the same thing.

Up 2 Down 5

ProScience Greenie on Dec 6, 2017 at 11:44 am

Call me old school but I would make it not pleasant for anyone grabbing my wife/sister/daughter's ass without permission.

Up 10 Down 0

JT on Dec 6, 2017 at 7:08 am

Sounds like the two were equally joking around or flirting...he either took it a step too far, or she had a change of heart after the fact. From his admission I tend to lean to the primary in that he just took the joke and acted on it without thinking. And him being a supervisor makes it a bit worse.
Hard to know if it was truly wrong or invited without knowing their relationship. At least he admitted to what happened. Seems like a tad of a harsh outcome for these circumstances. Inappropriate and stupid? maybe (really depends on their relationship)...but malicious and patterned/repeated?..nothing to say it was.

Up 11 Down 1

Yukon male on Dec 6, 2017 at 4:49 am

She said "there is lots to grab" does this not imply consent? She could have easily said "please don't"
Ladies we men are a simple creature we think with two parts of our bodies, neither being our brain, and I'm not hungry all the time! Please, please do not send mixed signals like this, be blunt and upfront with us! If you don't want us to grab your ass in a situation like this say so, don't say "there is plenty to grab" as that is an encouraging response and our brains don't think that way!

Up 11 Down 0

This is ridiculous-charges over this?? on Dec 6, 2017 at 12:58 am

I will preface this by saying that I know Stephen and as a woman, I've never had anything other than respectful interactions with him. What gets me in this case is that it appears that they had a friendship and she stood up to hug him. It didn't seem that he forced her to hug him. He should not have grabbed her butt--however, a criminal, sexual assault charge over that? When those two officers in Watson Lake were charged with sexual assault with the nurse, they were found innocent. She said that she did not consent (and she was impaired) but no case in that one. How can you get a sexual assault charge for grabbing a butt, and the Watson Lake case involved no consequence for officers? What a messed up system the RCMP propagates.

Up 10 Down 1

jc on Dec 5, 2017 at 9:07 pm

According to her own testimony, she was a willing accomplice. Often women give men signals. The whole thing could have been settled by dialogue between them. Sometimes I think some women are developing a very vengeful attitude toward men. There are many times women make sexual advances toward men but men don't complain about it simply because men tend to enjoy it. They feel flattered by the attention. Once again I say her testimony makes her accomplice. What happened to change her mind later? Only she knows.

Up 8 Down 1

My Opinion on Dec 5, 2017 at 8:08 pm

Sounds to me as they were both very involved and it wasn't being forced at all, according to the agreed upon facts. I don't get it. I wouldn't hire a women in a mans environment ever, it is just too dangerous.

Up 10 Down 2

Juniper Jackson on Dec 5, 2017 at 3:39 pm

She responded, “Let me stand up so I can give you a real hug,” and stood as Knaack approached.
Knaack told the woman that she was standing so that he could “grab (her) ass” and proceeded to hug her while grabbing her buttocks with his left hand.
The woman responded that there was “lots to grab,” with Knaack replying, “I like big women.” A woman who says there is lots to grab.. hmmm

If I were a man, I would never never ever be alone with a woman, ever. If contemplating intercourse in addition to condoms, you should always have a consent form with you. https://www.scribd.com/doc/40083842/Sexual-Consent-Form If she won't sign it.. get thee gone...

Up 3 Down 10

good on Dec 5, 2017 at 3:20 pm

Nice to see this kind of crap is being dealt with the moment it starts. Too many women RCMP officers have been undermined by male collegues. I'm glad it's being taken seriously finally.

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