RCMP needs civilian managers
The institutional rot eating away at the RCMP must be cut out and replaced with something more solid, humane and lasting. And now is the time to do it. This urgent need for profound change was driven home by three separate reports released this week that exposed deep, structural failings in Canada’s national police force.
Its continuing inability to deal with the harassment of officers and their widespread mental health problems has created a toxic workplace that cannot remain unaltered.
Taken together, these reports fully justify the historic reorganization of the RCMP that the Trudeau government is now considering.
And when this shakeup comes, there must be a strong, new role for civilians in managing the force.
Strike one against the current RCMP management came from the report from the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP which said the force suffers from “a culture of dysfunction.”
Citing complaints that police managers had abused their authority, the report said bullying and harassment remain serious problems within the RCMP.
And because senior leaders in the RCMP have failed to deal with these problems, the report concluded that only major changes to the force will fix things.
Strike two against the RCMP came from former auditor-general Sheila Fraser who criticized the force for its “insular” nature after she reviewed the case of four members who sued the RCMP over workplace harassment. Fraser, too, is demanding substantial reforms. Strike three came from current Auditor-General Michael Ferguson who slammed the RCMP’s mental health policy which was introduced in 2014.
Mounties are often involved in traumatic incidents such as shootings and standoffs.
But Ferguson discovered that 20 per cent of RCMP members who seek mental health treatment never return to active duty or are discharged from the force.
“Overall, we found that the RCMP did not adequately meet its members’ mental health needs,” his report says.
These are damning indictments of RCMP management — and mismanagement.
But this is not just a case of saying three strikes and the old way of running the force is out.
The issue of workplace harassment in the force has been studied in 15 different reviews in the past decade.
Yet these problems remain pervasive and under-reported.
As the auditor-general’s report reminds us all, the RCMP is “only as strong as its members.”
Based on the findings of these three reports, we believe the RCMP will never be able to meet the public’s needs as long as it cannot meet the needs of its own officers.
The solution to its failings must clearly involve enlisting more civilian expertise in running the RCMP.
There are several options open to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.
One that seems especially attractive would split the management of the force.
Operational matters would be left to RCMP commanders.
But administrative and financial matters would be handled by more capable civilians who had not advanced through the entrenched, change-resistant RCMP culture.
The Canadian Forces and the New York Police Department already have a dual management structure.
It could be the cure for what ails our RCMP.