Meet the new boss

Commissioner Bob Paulson won’t fix the RCMP.
Even if he wanted to try, Ottawa wouldn’t let him.
And by now, it’s probably too late

Nov. 17, 2011


Brand new RCMP commissioner Robert “Bob” Paulson
was appointed by the same people who gave us William Elliott.
Photo: Bruce Campion-Smith, Toronto Star.


If the federal Conservatives wanted to reform the Mounties, they’d have done it long ago. Instead of implementing the legislation and top-to-bottom overhaul that the RCMP needs, the government just changes commissioners.

Back in July 2007 they appointed William Elliott, an ineffectual bureaucrat who accomplished nothing. Now they’ve returned to the RCMP old guard by appointing longtime establishment man Bob Paulson. Meanwhile the steady degradation of Canada’s once-storied police force plays out in the media almost every day.

Consider the RCMP news stories of just last week and ask whether this guy can fix the Mounties — or whether anyone can.

RCMP Cpl. Catherine Galliford draws four years of sick pay before saying she was repeatedly harassed by senior officers, one of whom exposed himself to her.

Surrey Mounties couldn’t be bothered talking to two kids, let alone investigating, after they were victimized by armed robbers.

Grand Forks Mounties let a suspect get ahold of police cameras and confidential evidence in a laughably amateurish attempt at covert surveillance.

RCMP Staff-Sgt. Suzanne Denise Marie Martel proves herself to be an emotional wreck after she’s caught shoplifting in Vancouver.

An inquest into a North Vancouver RCMP shooting death of an unarmed man won’t begin until April, nearly two and a half years after the incident.

The RCMP violates Canadians’ privacy rights with its smear database.

The RCMP will investigate the complex Sino-Forest fraud allegations even though it took them five and a half years to investigate the most rudimentary fraud imaginable. (They said it was really complicated.)

A Burnaby Mountie who’s facing discipline for having sex on the job with another Mountie, as well as accusations of rape and satanism, racks up more allegations, including sexual assault, from another woman.

A series of almost unimaginable blunders in the Robert Pickton serial murder case comes to light, including the fact that Pickton’s brother told RCMP investigator Ruth Yurkiw to “return in the rainy season.” She complied.

All that in just one week.

At different times the Mounties’ problems are sad, laughable, pathetic, disturbing, offensive or scary. They stem from extremely serious deficiencies in three key areas: recruiting, training and accountability. That last problem is one that only the federal government can fix. The feds could also pressure the Mounties to improve their rock-bottom hiring and training standards. But the government has shown no interest in doing so.

Federal legislation protects Mounties’ jobs. Very, very rarely does anyone get fired. For almost all cases, the most serious penalty is a 10-day suspension, no matter how outrageous — or vicious — the conduct.

Those few who are subject to dismissal stay on full salary for years, even getting annual pay raises, while their appeals slowly drag their way through a system designed for delays.

Other cops, who’ve done nothing particularly wrong but can’t nearly handle police work, go on indefinite stress leave, again at full salary. There seem to be an awful lot of them, another indication of bottom-of-the-barrel recruiting.

Yet the Mounties like things the way they are. They’re unaccountable and, despite the fact that a great many of them should never have become police officers, they have safe jobs for life.

Ottawa should have embarked on an overhaul years ago. Its refusal to act could indicate the influence of a powerful police lobby. Or possibly some people in power have Laytonesque skeletons in their closets.

Regardless, at this late stage the RCMP is so far gone it probably can’t be reformed. The best solution would be to scrap it and start over with an entirely different approach.

You won’t see any pressure for that from the provinces, though. B.C. relies on the Mounties more than anywhere else. But, except for the ludicrous Kash Heed, no one in government is dumb enough to want a provincial police force. The RCMP might be an ongoing disaster, but the others aren’t a whole hell of a lot better. So it’s much easier for B.C. politicians to dismiss these dysfunctional deviants as a federal problem.

So much for police accountability. So much for this historic Canadian institution.

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