This time the Mounties
didn’t get their (right) man

Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun, Aug. 3, 2010


RCMP Commissioner William Elliott and his senior officers say they are “working through” their issues, as if their mismanagement was only a personal therapeutic concern.

The latest internal strife revealed among the Mountie brass is far more disconcerting after years of public soul-searching and supposed government action to repair a national icon battered by egregious misconduct.

Why do we still hear such bitter squabbling among top officers?

These alleged grown-ups were even going over each other’s head to complain to the prime minister and public safety minister.

Elliott was supposed to be the solution to this long-recognized pyrrhic infighting and ego-driven head-butting that has plagued the force.

But he stepped in it coming out of the starting gate in July 2007 — immediately acting as if he were a Stetson-ed veteran demanding the public understand the pressure and walk a mile in Mountie boots.

It reeked of a wannabe urban-cowboy cop looking for friends.

Now we hear complaints he is arrogant, verbally abusive and insulting to his staff. There’s even one accusation that he threw papers at an officer.

Former commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli was turfed for exactly this kind of infallible imperial style — which the troops translated as “seldom right but never wrong.”

Elliott appears to be a clone: an Ottawa insider with a father’s overweening sense of I-know-best and a crony’s sense of entitlement.

No matter how many $44,000-a-shot behavioural improvement courses he takes in Arizona, he’ll never get it.

We have heard nothing but criticism of the RCMP from inquiry after inquiry — Air India, Maher Arar, Robert Dziekanski — not to mention the apology that might not have been an apology, the internal pension scandal and related financial shenanigans.

Every report on the force comes to the same conclusion: Overwhelming problems need to be addressed, the Mounties are the “poster boys of dysfunction.”

This is an anachronistic organization using outdated training methods and a paramilitary structure out of step with today’s need for civilian oversight and accountability.

Yet Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’ response is to order yet another report, this time by the ultimate insider, former CSIS director Reid Morden.

The truth is we don’t need another report.

We need the force to be reimagined, restructured and its culture reborn.

No single police agency can do what the RCMP is attempting: Everything from local traffic control and gang suppression to international organized-crime investigation and federal law enforcement.

It is unrealistic. Front-line policing and national security work require different personnel and different skill sets.

In his three years at the helm, Elliott has failed to make any significant inroads, be it changing Mountie culture or transforming the force.

The prime minister wasn’t wrong to appoint a civilian to lead the RCMP: He picked the wrong civilian.

He needs one with effective people skills committed to radical reform.

Regardless, given the latest revelations, the British Columbia government should ask if it’s really worth the savings to have this crippled, badly run organization police most of the province.

How much damage did the Dziekanski tragedy cost us in tourism? How much for the public inquiry? How much has the rest of the misconduct cost in lives lost or families maimed, in subsequent investigations and inquiries, in lost confidence in the legal system?

Isn’t it time to recognize a broken institution and establish a better one — take the best of what the Mounties have to offer and jettison both the Ottawa-centric power structure and the 19th-century barracks-room nonsense?

Why is Victoria inexorably moving toward renewing the RCMP contract that expires in 2012?

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