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RCMP commissioner advocates change for RCMP

Jonathan Milke (Fort Saskatchewan Record) – Retiring RCMP commissioner William Elliott preached that changes to the national police force are both needed and should continue despite his resignation.

“The changes must and will continue” he said. “Change is necessary; change is happening; each individual must identify and bring about change.”

His visit to the local detachment last Thursday coincided with the change in command for Alberta’s RCMP K-division and was a chance for local constabulary to meet and ask questions. Elliott noted his visit to the Fort marked about 100 detachment visits during his term but was his first since announcing his resignation a week prior.

Elliott advocated greater independence from the federal government and noted the importance of community support for RCMP. He compared the response to the RCMP in Alberta to the response in B.C., where there are still isusses about use of force, particularly in the wake of Robert Dziekanski’s death.

The emphasis on change was repeated often; “we need to not repeat the mistakes of the past and address policy shortcomings.”

He said skeptics within the organization do so “because they’re not seeing what they want to see.”

Elliott concluded by telling city officers to “raise issues at whatever level will get the issues resolved.”

Mayor Gale Katchur emphasized the RCMP’s “roots run really deep” in the Fort, pointing out flags, pins and city symbols that contain imagery from the organization.

She added the RCMP are “part of our heritage” and the city has “an excellent working relationship” with the local detachment.

Following the mayor’s welcome, the floor was turned over to the assembled members of the detachment for questions or concerns.

The first question was one of specific changes Elliott was proudest of in his term.

He began by pointing out the changes in RCMP recruiting, mentioning the “reengineered recruiting methods” which resulted in hitting recruiting targets.

He mentioned changes to external investigation policies so the RCMP could have outside agencies investigate incidents to avoid conflicts of interest. Eliott said this was vital because it “demonstrates it’s not the RCMP as the problem,” so “people begin to understand the RCMP isn’t standing in the way of investigations.”

He emphasized RCMP upper management had “been successful in establishing an environment where change is sought,” adding “We’ve done a good job at picking people for senior leadership in the force” who are willing to ask tough questions and work together even when they disagree about issues.

“The world is much different now than in the past,” he said, “and expectations for leadership are much different.”

Elliott went on to re-emphasize the importance of change, this time mentioning it in context of changes in leadership. He noted a number of commanding officer posts were changing this month, and he felt the upper management positions should change every three or four years.

He hinted the need for change had led to his decision to resign as commissioner, saying it was “a lot behind my leaving.”

He answered questions about leadership training and mentorship for junior members, saying each area needed improvement.

The question of a media presence was raised, with the questioner wondering whether the senior members of the RCMP should be more proactive in their protection of the constabulary within the media.

Elliott responded, saying, “We’re not nearly as good as we need to be at dealing with the communication,” but added “we do more senior interaction with the media than in the past.”

He added the RCMP does get positive media but don’t notice it as much. “We pay far more attention to all the negative things as opposed to the positive things.

“Where we are proactive, often the media doesn’t report it,” he said, giving the example of an op-ed piece he wrote for The Globe & Mail, but which the paper chose not to run after asking him to trim it for length.

Elliott said the RCMP gets most things right, but the media’s attention focuses on the few dozen that go wrong. He said the challenge is for the RCMP to focus on the positives and learn from the negatives.

Finally, Elliott was asked about his personal opinion on tasers, and he made it clear the answer was his own, not the official position of the RCMP commissioner’s office.

An example was given of a rowdy house party some officers had been called to. Upon arriving, the officers were attacked by drunken party-goers and defended themselves with tasers. The officers were overwhelmed and beaten by the partygoers and would have had to resort to shooting their aggressors had they not used tasers.

He said the use of tasers constitutes a serious use of force, but he felt they do save lives. “They save more lives than they take” and “are useful tools.”

Elliott’s primary message was delivered among his parting words.

“The best way to earn the trust and confidence of the public is to do our best and to own up when we make mistakes.

“I am very optimistic with respect to where we are and where we are going.”

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

Comment Feed

9 Responses

  1. Agreed sickntired. There are those that hail those times as the golden years of the RCMP. A time of “hockey transfers”, a time of a days notice to pack up and spend 2 months somewhere else. And as you point out a time of just do what you were told without question. Sort of like the military.

    You definitely got “a pissed-off miscreant” with the punitive transfer, however you also got some of them to leave the organization, but some to straighten out as well. That being said, in modern times it is not an avenue anymore. And you certainly did not get a press release identifying a member under investigation and all the details.

    Agreed that the laws have not fully enveloped the RCMP and its interaction with its employees. A situation that other segments of employers also have to grasp. The employees actually have rights. A novel concept for some.

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    Deepthroat2011.02.24 @ 16:20
  2. Deepthroat: “No longer can the RCMP summarily fire or even punitively transfer miscreants to a posting beginning with Fort or ending with Creek. A powerful deterrent no longer available to hold persons in line. Your promotion in present times does not depend on your continuous high level of service, but how well you can articulate anything few things you have done.”

    Can’t argue with this. However, problems began when non-miscreants were subjected to these same sanctions. I’m talking about members who butted heads with their supervisors or were treated badly for whatever reason and pushed back. The problem with unfettered hire-fire-demote-discipline power is that it tends to be applied to everyone. And of course transferring an actual miscreant to the boonies doesn’t address the problem at all. It just leads to a pissed-off miscreant. The current laws, while often unwieldy and expensive are in place in an attempt to force the RCMP to (a) deal effectively with problem members instead of sweeping issues under the rug and (b) actually prove that the members they punish deserve to be punished. Obviously they’re not doing so well at either but that’s another letter …

    And you’re correct about promotions. Too often substandard behaviour and actual wrongdoings are ignored in favour of the you-pat-my-back-I’ll-pat-yours exercise that is our promotion system.

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    sickntired2011.02.23 @ 21:20
  3. I think you will find that the lack of accountability trends upward as the govt hold over the organization tightened over the years. (Combined with the fact that the RCMP never advertised its dirty laundry with media releases.) A quick transfer, demotion or lack of promotion was standard. Also involved in the milieu is the removal of authority from the RCMP in respect of hiring and firing. I have put the blame on the hiring directly on the government and present labor laws. No longer can the RCMP summarily fire or even punitively transfer miscreants to a posting beginning with Fort or ending with Creek. A powerful deterrent no longer available to hold persons in line. Your promotion in present times does not depend on your continuous high level of service, but how well you can articulate anything few things you have done.

    Discipline is more often than not met with whines of harassment, favoritism, bullying etc. Mechanisms to cope with either side are long, cumbersome and are not clearly defined thanks to case law. The RCMP are not alone in that quarter.

    Society is mostly to blame as everybody gets a ribbon and its your God given right to do whatever you wish to in life, OR you will hear from the lawyers.

    There was no “deal” reached by the government and the RCMP. The government hobbled the RCMP only as governments can do, with rules, regulations, laws, policy, lack of money, and of course drawing the Commissioner into the cabinet where he could be told what and where to do his business. You control the head and the boy follows. If your boss the Sol Gen says that you do not investigate, what are you going to do? The RCMP did not agree with being politicized, but you think they were allowed to speak out? No. The silent Force. Make do.

    When you have the senior ranks run like the government is run, what can you expect? You seem to like the present and outgoing Commissioner. Well, would a “leader” interested in change and issues have a working lunch (at taxpayer expense) with the two largest detachment commanders from the Province of BC and never even inquire as to their problems? Never discuss any issues or solicit input? Typical government hack. If you bury your head in the sand, there are no issues and you do not need input. Lanny does not like Knecht. Doesnt say why when asked. Let me guess. A yes man for Elliot no doubt, and as per the govt modus operandi, will get a top spot.

    Every study and recommendation entreats a removal of the organization from the government, but who has final say? The govt.

    The decisions on the pension affair were the sole purview of the last Commissioner, and we can see how that turned out. Your tax dollars will be put out again in the near future as the pension administration is brought back into the government fold.

    “Of course I do understand the lower you are on the totem pole the better chance of you being held accountable, well at least there is the possibility or maybe I am mistaken??”

    Of course not. The average working officer has higher ranks, the courts, the case law, the CPC, the media, and all the whiners to keep him accountable.

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    Deepthroat2011.02.23 @ 02:12
  4. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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    D2011.02.21 @ 19:20
  5. The government would still be responsible for the actions of the RCMP through the civilian board. Who do you think the board would report to? The govt of course. Its just that the govt could not manhandle the organization as they can now. The RCMP is governed by a federal statute, and that would not change.

    There was a time when the Commissioner was not in the government. There was also a time when the RCMP could investigate MP’s without restrictions. The initial moves to control the RCMP began with the Skyshops affair and the Dredging scandal, followed by a few MP corruption / influence peddling investigations that scared the government of the day. Could not have the RCMP running willy nilly after the MP’s because they do not know the intricacies of politics. Right. They cannot even execute a search warrant on an MP until they get the green light from the tri-partite committee. Speaking of covering ones derriere….

    Where is it going? One would like to think that it is going where the govt does not set hiring quota based on race, strangle the organization with the Treasury Board, dictate actions politically et al.

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    Deepthroat2011.02.21 @ 00:27
  6. If the RCMP separates from the Government and goes out on their own and mess up, who’s going to pay for the damages and is this wise to have a police force who is not accountable to anyone roaming the streets of Canada?

    Haven’t we not seen enough serious issues within the operations of that police force to be concerned still and in other countries who have employed the services of a secret police forces were there not some serious civilian issues hidden?

    Where is this going?

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    Poor Performance Reports2011.02.18 @ 15:06
  7. How’s the guy “retiring” when he only put 3 years in?

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    JohnnyG2011.02.18 @ 00:28
    • Yeah, that’s interesting. He actually has 23 years service as a federal government employee (including his service with the Force) ~ but that leaves him short of the magical “24 and 1 day” ~ wonder if he’s getting a special “package”?

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      ScarletRider2011.02.18 @ 16:06
  8. Make sure Elliott & the Conservative Government, which is Progressive hire the right man for the job. Rod Knecht is not the right person. You can’t teach an Old Dog new tricks.

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    lanny2011.02.17 @ 19:18
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