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Opportunity for RCMP

Ian Mulgrew (Vancouver Sun) – Commissioner William Elliott’s departure after four horrible years as the first civilian to lead the RCMP is an opportunity to truly reform the dysfunctional force.

Although he arrived with much promise, Elliott will leave in July a disappointment -the job he was supposed to do unfinished. His promises to bring openness, transparency and accountability proved hollow; someone else must finish the job that, at best, you could say Elliott only started.

From the tragic death of Robert Dziekanski to the reports that he was abrasive, bullying and didn’t play well with others, his tenure saw the onceiconic force portrayed more often as a scarlet-surged embarrassment than as a proud national symbol.

Things got so bad, the government had to call in former spy master Reid Morden and pay him to offer an assessment of the mess.

Public inquiries into the Air India terrorist bombings, the massacre of members at Mayerthorpe, Alta. and the Taser-related death of Dziekanski have documented so many failures in training, operations and leadership that sweeping change can no longer be delayed. Elliott’s departure is the opportune time and the Tories have taken an encouraging first step.

The government says it will consult the House of Commons committee on public safety to establish the selection criteria for the next commissioner.

That provides an opportunity for an actual discussion on the future of the RCMP and the kind of national police agency Canadians want.

First and foremost, I think, it is time to transform what is organizationally a 19th-century military relic into a 21stcentury civilian force more like the FBI or New Scotland Yard. This is a 30,000-person, $5-billion-a-year operation run like the colonial army.

It’s time to get rid of the ar-chaic “depot” training regime and consign the phoney northwest-frontier-cowboy play-acting to where it belongs -the police museum.

It’s time for the RCMP to get out of contract policing for municipalities and provinces.

It’s time to establish a meaningful public oversight system with teeth, and it’s time to separate the force’s operations from the political powers that be.

There are plenty of problems to be addressed -all itemized in numerous recent reviews and analyses.

Some say some of the recent problems and outbursts were a result of frustration within the ranks with the slow pace of reform and that the government, not Elliott, should shoulder responsibility for that. Perhaps. There is no question the glacial pace of change hasn’t helped.

The Commons committee heard from two of Elliott’s fiercest critics -former assistant commissioner Mike McDonell and deputy commissioner Raf Souccar, who was essentially benched two months ago as part of a shuffle of senior management.

They’re the Mounties who went over Elliott’s head last summer because of consternation over his management style, or lack thereof.

So many senior managers have left under Elliott, in fact, that an internal successor is difficult to see -beyond his loyalist, senior deputy commissioner Rod Knecht, and we definitely don’t need a yes man.

Regardless, the government shouldn’t be looking inside the RCMP for the next boss. Sure, the candidate must be familiar with its unique culture and the criminal justice system.

But more than that, we need someone who can bring real reform and continue the new tradition of civilian leadership begun with Elliott’s appointment.

The RCMP must be modernized and its role must be more clearly defined.

Elliott’s replacement must be equipped to carry out that mandate and he or she must get the government support necessary to implement change.

Is that too much to ask?

Categories: Broken Force, Commissioner of the RCMP, Senior Management.

Comment Feed

7 Responses

  1. I am not so sure about that lanny. It is not a decision in the purview of the rank and file that the RCMP have a civilian oversight board or not. With unanimous recommendations from all sides the government will have to do something, however feeble. The officers in the RCMP can only affect the representative program and not the oversight. I am quite confident that the government could care less about the SRR views on external oversight. I do not see the government giving up control of the organization through the Commissioner either.

    As for the replacement of the Commissioner, the debate will rage for and against present officers, or civilians, or government hacks, but the truth is nothing will change unless an independent entity assumes control with wide latitude for implementation of policy.

    Instead of inaction by the government there should be an ongoing dialogue as to what the control of the organization should look like. Independent and civilian to start. Perhaps a judicial component, an organizational efficiency component, a financial standards component, and perhaps a labor component. I really do not think its rocket science.

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    Deepthroat2011.02.24 @ 20:19
  2. Deep Throat it ain’t gonna happen. I 100% believe that there should be a civilian board to make S@#T happen but the current DSRR’s are out there trying to convince the general duty members that it’s a bad thing. It’s all divide & conquer, split the vote or the members & the management will win. The RCMP need a RADICAL change, from an outsider to make the right changes.

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    lanny2011.02.23 @ 00:18
  3. The only way to ensure that there is some accountability on the part of senior management is to have a civilian oversight board in place and functioning as soon as is practicable. This would mean that you should remove the Commissioner from the government and make him/her accountable directly to the board for the actions of that office and that of senior management. The board could be responsible for promotions at the senior level based on accepted management practices and not those of the RCMP system.

    We are all familiar with the ways of government and one can easily see those machinations reflected in the “handling” of the RCMP organization.

    Justaguy is quite right in his first point. The Brown report was quite succinct and had actionable points. There have been two Duxbury reports and several internal blind studies to guide reform. Because the reforms will take money, the government has balked at implementation. Because the Commissioner is a Deputy Minister, he does what he is told. Because the treasury board will not fork over the money for reforms you have inertia.

    At least a civilian board could issue public reports and if nothing else embarrass the government into action. Studies have suggested this. Why no action?

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    Deepthroat2011.02.18 @ 20:38
  4. Very well written article, lacking in some history but it was very well presented.

    It was good for the force to see someone in there that did not come up from the ranks and files of the RCMP at the time when Commissioner Zarccardelli had to resign in disgrace for his part in leaking untrue information to the Americans, which led to his apparent torture and a 10 Million dollar Canadian settlement to this individual. But the best one is the force was so stirred up because they could get no one to act against this Commissioner that it took several of his high ranking police officers to expose his part in a pension scandal in Ottawa.

    The one I will remember reading about and the best one was when they gave Commissioner Elliot a gun, fear spread like wild fire and when he showed up in Barrie during the G-20, like he was in charge of the RCMP in Canada, well that was the last straw he had to go. The Commissioner’s job in Ottawa is to stay put and shine his boots and look pretty and he broke the unwritten rules in this one.

    I agree with the writer here, where is the responsibility of the Governments of the day in maintaining their silence. Is this issue going to die off with Commissioner Elliot’s replacements or are we going to see some real changes? Right now no one seems to know.

    I think Commissioner Elliot has done a good job since his hands probably were tied to some degree over there in Ottawa by politicians and his leadership, as he tried to stabalising and bring order to the RCMP in the face of all those bad reports coming out on some of those dirty members.

    What is concerning to all of us now is if the right person is not chosen to head this force we will be sinking to new lows and more innocent people will be hurt inside this national police force and out there in the general public as the big fish swim away.

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    Poor Performance Reports2011.02.18 @ 14:48
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    D2011.02.18 @ 10:02
    • I think you two should give your head a shake for a couple of reasons. 1. Do you really think Mr. Elliot did anything worth while and don’t forget he had the Brown Report to work with during his full term. He did absolutely nothing other than dismiss a few who spoke out against his lack of a personality – perhaps the same reasons why so many junior ranks dispise their NCO’s etc. Everyone looking out for they themselves period. 2. If you think you will find any member in a position to take the Commr’s job that isn’t from the so called “old boys club” your wrong again as they are all products of the command and control era. Why is it that there are so many members married to members who are each commissioned officers? Are they both so called high fliers? Or could it be that they have just bought into the system with a little nudge from the Old Boys.

      The Mounties have always been slow to change – just look back at the holster issue when they were months and years behind other police forces.

      I think the answer is quite simple, hold them accountable to their position including the Mission, Vision and Core Values. Thats included throughout RCMP policy but yet its also totally disregarded too, Another lip service if you will. Maybe it is time to disband the RCMP since they have proven it time and time again that they don’t want to change and never mind the public if they can get away with it. They treat the members on a multi tear system and dispite having lost court cases(Smith fr NB), many harassment cases, plus many other breaches in civil and sometimes criminal law, they would still rather hide it, deny it and try to get away with it as opposed to learning and actually attempting to resolve conflict. They may not be able to prevent a members actions but they can sure deal with internal conflict long before it goes public and to court etc. and certainly before their lack of appropriate action costs several hundred thousands and millions of dollars. Hmmm, just how can they really accept a so called bonus at those highest of ranks? I wonder why the RCMP dont take advantage of this site and keep us in line? Where is Mr. Bass now and the many others who read on here. I bet they have much to say but with words alone, why bother. Reminds me of the little boy who cried “wolf!.” And regardless of what they may say, where were they years ago when the dirt started coming to the surface? Yep, the organization sure advanced through the years….and doesn’t the future look great…

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      justaguy2011.02.18 @ 14:35
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    lanny2011.02.17 @ 19:06
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