The RCMP is a mess and needs fix­ing.


National Post (Latest Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - Colin Kenny Se­na­tor Colin Kenny is for­mer chair of the Se­nate Com­mit­tee on Na­tional Se­cu­rity and De­fence. Ken­

The f ed­eral gov­ern­ment is seek­ing a new com­mis­sioner for the RCMP. Canada’s na­tional po­lice force needs new man­age­ment and, l ast June, for­mer New Bruns­wick Pre­mier Frank McKenna was tasked with de­vel­op­ing a short list for the prime min­is­ter.

Prospec­tive can­di­dates be warned: this will not be an easy job. Be­fore ac­cept­ing the po­si­tion, any can­di­date should ap­pre­ci­ate the is­sues they will have to ad­dress.

Stick to polic­ing, not pol­i­tics

The first is the in­creas­ing po­lit­i­cal­iza­tion of what’s sup­posed to be a po­lice force. Here are a few no­table ex­am­ples: ❚ In De­cem­ber 2005, at the height of the fed­eral elec­tion, the Moun­ties took the highly un­usual step of an­nounc­ing that then-min­is­ter of fi­nance, Ralph Goodale, was the sub­ject of a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion, only to an­nounce his ex­on­er­a­tion in 2007. Po­lice don’t an­nounce when some­one is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but rather when they’re ready to lay charges. ❚ Dur­ing the 2013- 2015 in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Sen­a­tors Mike Duffy, Pa­trick Brazeau, Mac Harb and Pamela Wallin f or sup­posed mis­spending, the gov­ern­ment dumped their cases on the RCMP in an at­tempt to make what was a po­lit­i­cal prob­lem into a crim­i­nal prob­lem. (Duffy was even­tu­ally ac­quit­ted of all 31 charges laid against him. The cases against Harb and Brazeau were then dropped and Wallin was never charged.) ❚ Since l ast win­ter, t he RCMP has been i nves­ti­gat­ing the vice- chief of de­fence staff, Vice- Ad­mi­ral Mark Nor­man. The cur­rent gov­ern­ment, up­set by the al­leged leak of a cab­i­net con­fi­dence re­lat­ing to a naval con­tract, co- opted the RCMP into launch­ing what seems to be a fruit­less in­ves­ti­ga­tion — in Ot­tawa, the city that leaks like a sieve, lit­er­ally hun­dreds of peo­ple have ac­cess to cab­i­net doc­u­ments. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is a venge­ful act of pol­i­tics that has ma­ligned a good man’s rep­u­ta­tion.

A po­lice force can only be ef­fec­tive if it stays out of pol­i­tics. The next com­mis­sioner of the RCMP will do well to re­call these in­ci­dents and work to avoid rep­e­ti­tions.

Es­tab­lish­ing more ef­fec­tive over­sight will also be a chal­lenge. David Brown’s 2007 re­port RCMP Gover­nance and Cul­ture Change called for a civil­ian man­age­ment board to bring the force in line with ev­ery other po­lice ser­vice in Canada. Un­der his pro­posal, the com­mis­sioner would be solely re­spon­si­ble for polic­ing, and the civil­ian board would deal with ad­min­is­tra­tive mat­ters. Right now, the RCMP com­mis­sioner is treated like any other deputy min­is­ter — there is no recog­ni­tion that all peace of­fi­cers have taken an oath that re­quires them to work in­de­pen­dently of gov­ern­ment.

Brown ar­gued that a civil- ian board would pro­foundly change the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the gov­ern­ment and RCMP in a num­ber of ways: be­ing an in­de­pen­dent source of ad­vice to the com­mis­sioner; pro­vid­ing the com­mis­sioner with more flex­i­bil­ity in man­ag­ing re­sources; strength­en­ing the force’s abil­ity to un­der­take strate­gic plan­ning, etc. A civil­ian board would also pro­vide a buf­fer be­tween po­lice and gov­ern­ment.

Even af­ter a 4.8 per cent raise in 2017, first class con­sta­bles in the RCMP are paid $13,000 less than the top po­lice ser­vices in the coun­try. The gov­ern­ment claims that mem­bers are bet­ter off than vir­tu­ally all po­lice ser­vices be­cause of the benefits and pen­sions they re­ceive. How­ever, its pre­sented no ev­i­dence to sup­port this claim. Un­der­staffing is also a chal­lenge. Ac­cord­ing to the Brown Re­port and the po­si­tion paper “To­wards a Red Serge Re­vival,” the RCMP is lack­ing be­tween 4,000 and 7,000 reg­u­lar mem­bers. Last year, there were 1,300 funded po­si­tions that the Moun­ties sim­ply could not fill and nearly 1,000 po­si­tions that sat va­cant due to long term sick- leave, parental leave or pro­fes­sional train­ing.

There’s a num­ber of prob­lems. New re­cruits, whose av­er­age age is 28, are paid be­low min­i­mum wage ($ 500 a week) dur­ing their 26 weeks of ba­sic train­ing. These folks have stu­dent loans, fam­i­lies, and mort­gages to man­age. Who wants to start a ca­reer by go­ing into debt? Also, the long doc­u­mented his­tory of sex­ual ha­rass­ment, abuse and bul­ly­ing has made the RCMP unat­trac­tive to prospec­tive can­di­dates.

The burnout caused by un­der­staffing means many are leav­ing the RCMP to join other po­lice ser­vices with bet­ter pay and work­ing con­di­tions. This leaves the force with no swing ca­pac­ity to deal with press­ing threats or shift­ing pri­or­i­ties. Fol­low­ing the ter­ror­ist at­tack on Par­lia­ment Hill in 2014, Com­mis­sioner Bob Paul­son was forced to move 500 mem­bers from or­ga­nized crime to counter ter­ror­ism. As a re­sult, some 300 in­ves­ti­ga­tions into or­ga­nized crime have been put on hold.

The RCMP is a mess, and the next com­mis­sioner will have to take on the task of fix­ing it. Reg­u­lar mem­bers are at­tempt­ing to union­ize, and that may pro­vide some help ad­dress­ing their griev­ances. But given the glacial pace of change in Ot­tawa, it could eas­ily be years un­til the union i s es­tab­lished. Be­fore ac­cept­ing the po­si­tion, a prospec­tive com­mis­sioner will need as­sur­ance from the prime min­is­ter that po­lit­i­cal sup­port will be there. Oth­er­wise, we’ ll all just be look­ing at more of the same.


The fed­eral gov­ern­ment dumped in­ves­ti­ga­tions into sen­a­tors, in­clud­ing Pa­trick Brazeau, above, onto the RCMP to make a po­lit­i­cal prob­lem a crim­i­nal one, Colin Kenny writes.


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