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Outside psychologist’s notes still “under control of” RCMP

An RCMP member, under investigation for allegedly uttering threats and unlawful use of a firearm, complained that the force denied her access to information gathered during its investigation. She did not receive a copy of a videotaped interview or the notes and psychometric data from interviews with a psychologist.

The privacy investigator determined that some of the information she sought in the videotaped interview with an RCMP investigator contained information about other people—an exemption under the Privacy Act. The force was able to remove these segments and provide her with the remaining information.

More problematic were the psychologist’s records. The RCMP did not have copies of the material since the services were provided, not by a staff member, but by an outside professional on a fee for service basis. Pressed by the investigator, RCMP staff obtained some of the information but the psychologist refused to provide the psychometric data and what he termed his “personal notes” unless served with a court order. He argued that disclosing the material would breach his profession’s ethical standards.

The RCMP’s attempts at persuasion yielded nothing until the OPC wrote formally to the former Commissioner advising him that since the RCMP had hired the psychologist to assess the member, all the information prepared or created for the assessment was “under the control of” the RCMP for Privacy Act purposes. The psychologist eventually provided his notes, as well as the psychometric data which the RCMP sent to the complainant’s doctor for explanation and interpretation.

Our Office concluded that the complainant eventually received the appropriate information but her complaint was well-founded. We reminded the RCMP that personal information collected on its behalf by outside experts is still under its control and thus subject to individuals’ access. Contracts should make this clear.

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