RCMP needs civil­ian man­agers

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION - John Roe

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.

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