He joined the force in 1982, became staff sergeant while still only in his 30s, a significant achievement; he garnered performance reviews that characterized him as “outstanding” or “exceptional” of leadership caliber. Stenhouse was one of the Mounties’ top undercover specialists in Western Canada. In the spring of 1999, Stenhouse sent a package of Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) policy documents to Toronto journalist Yves Lavigne. The package included letters from fellow officers criticizing the force’s way of handling investigations into motorcycle gangs, which at that point was considered the RCMP’s No. 1 law-enforcement priority. One was a memo Stenhouse himself had written, arguing for more coherent, targeted investigations into suspected gangs—instead of the turf-based system that divided the force into intelligence gatherers and criminal investigators. (And further divided the drug squad into units based on commodities such as illicit drugs, with the result that cops were chasing after small-timers with drugs in their possession rather than focusing on the kingpins.) The more contentious part of the package marked “confidential” and “for police eyes only” included memos and minutes of the national strategy committee meetings to combat outlaw motorcycle gangs, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police policy-making group.
He felt Lavigne would use the documents as background to understand the frustrations of frontline officers. “It never crossed my mind he would publish them the way he did,” says Stenhouse. When the memos hit the fan, Mountie honor forced him to ’fess up. Within hours of Lavigne’s book Hells Angels at War hitting the stands in October 1999, Stenhouse sent e-mails to superiors and fellow officers outlining what he had done. “I didn’t want someone else taking the blame for this,” he says. The Internal rumor mill was already pinning the rap on someone else. Close colleagues were shocked. So were his superiors. There may be consequences, they told him, but in the meantime, continue. In this instance, oddly enough, that meant going forward as a candidate for management ranks.
Then, three months later, everything suddenly changed. Stenhouse was suspended from duty. That is still his status two years later. The RCMP has tried (and failed) twice to suspend him without pay—an extremely rare initiative. They also wanted to charge him with a criminal offense, only to tell the Alberta justice department there were no grounds. And earlier this spring, the force held a disciplinary hearing in Edmonton, one that went on for ten days over seven weeks, heard from almost 25 witnesses, and in the end—in very harsh and uncompromising terms—ordered Bob Stenhouse dismissed, an order he is appealing more for reasons of honor than anything else.