RCMP would accept watchdog

Independent oversight welcome, commissioner says

Kim Bolan, Vancouver Sun, March 20, 2010

RCMP Commissioner William Elliott says the force welcomes
greater independent oversight of allegations against Mounties,
both in British Columbia and elsewhere.
Photo: Ian Lindsay, PNG, Vancouver Sun


RCMP Commissioner William Elliott says the force will be able to work out a deal with the B.C. government that includes an independent agency overseeing all the police in the province, whether municipal or Mountie.

Elliott said he expects a draft agreement for a new contract for the RCMP in B.C. will be negotiated by the end of 2010.

In a wide-ranging interview Friday, Elliott said the RCMP welcomes greater independent oversight of allegations against Mounties both in B.C. and elsewhere.

“We are very willing to work with the province and with Public Safety Canada and others to come up with a tailor-made solution that works for the people of British Columbia.”

B.C. Solicitor-General Kash Heed has said he wants the RCMP to be governed by the B.C. Police Act as part of any renewal of its contract with the national force, which expires in March 2012. Elliott said it would be hard to enforce provincial legislation on the federally regulated RCMP, but that a separate contract or voluntary agreement could be reached.

“The way to provide for us to be, for example, subject to investigations by an independent agency that might be set up for police more broadly in British Columbia is for us to do that either by contract or voluntarily,” Elliott said. “It is in our best interests to participate. Frankly, it saves us real problems. It turns the heat down considerably when one of our officers is accused of doing something that they should not have done, for us to be able to say we have turned over this investigation to someone else.”

He said negotiations for a new 20-year contract for the 9,500 RCMP employees in B.C. are going well. “My expectation is that the contract in British Columbia will be renewed and that we will find ways to accommodate the interests of the government of British Columbia and British Columbians in the new contract,” Elliott said.

“I think the way we have gone about these negotiations is very much principle-based. There is more than one way to skin a cat and I am optimistic that we will get to a resolution generally and specifically on this issue of our accountability that will work and be acceptable for everyone.

“I would hope that we will have an agreement pretty much fleshed out this calendar year. We are working very hard towards that.”

Elliott said a civilian review agency may be the “gold standard” of investigation, “but that is not practical everywhere.”

He said the RCMP has already responded to public concern over high-profile cases such as the 2007 death of Robert Dziekanski after Tasering, by implementing new, tougher policies.

He said one policy “makes it very clear that we would like to not have to investigate any employee of the RCMP for any serious wrongdoing in future. We are encouraged at a number of developments with respect to those areas which are critically important to us, because really, at the heart of this is the public’s faith in their police force. And that’s an absolutely essential requirement.”

Elliott said he doesn’t understand the notion “that suggests we, the RCMP, are not in favour of external investigations or not in favour of independent oversight and review. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Two reports expected to be critical of the RCMP are expected about June. One is Thomas Braidwood’s report on Dziekanski’s death, and the other, by inquiry commissioner John Major, will deal with the failings of the 1985 Air India bombing investigation.

Elliott said the RCMP has not waited for reports to implement necessary changes.

“It is fair to say that our policies, training and accountability regime associated with Tasers are better and stronger now than they were. ... I predict that we will make further changes. I can’t predict exactly what either Braidwood or Major are going to recommend, so I can’t commit to implementing their specific recommendations.”

He admits that public confidence in the RCMP has taken a hit with recent scandals, particularly in B.C. Just this year, allegations surfaced that a leading investigator on the Surrey Six murder file had an affair with a witness. And during the Olympics, 12 Mounties were sent home because of inappropriate conduct.

“We are never, unfortunately, going to get to a situation where no Mountie ever missteps again. I think we have to work very hard to instil in our officers and our employees the importance of appropriate behaviour and the importance of the values of the RCMP,” Elliott said. “We are only going to be able to gain and maintain the trust of Canadians if we can demonstrate that we are serious about continuous improvement.”

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