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The Time is Out of Joint

Nov 26

It would be understating it to say that the RCMP is an organization in crisis.  The past year has seen very little change since the Public Safety Minister Vic Toews appointed Bob Paulson as the Commissioner of the RCMP.  In fact, some critics could rightly argue that Paulson’s appointment has only exacerbated the problem.  When Toews introduced Bob Paulson to the Canadian public at a press conference on parliament hill last November he made it crystal clear that the new Commissioner’s top priority would be to deal immediately with the avalanche of harassment allegations being brought against the RCMP by female and male members within the Force.  Here we are one year later and it’s a fair question to ask the federal government exactly what has the Commissioner accomplished.  In a recent letter fired off to Bob Paulson this past week by Vic Toews it’s clear that the RCMP doesn’t even have a plan in place let alone a strategy to address the problem.

When you factor in the lack of action by the RCMP when dealing with outrageous examples of police misconduct and criminal activity you have to wonder what has been going on at RCMP headquarters and in particular in the province of British Columbia which has the largest percentage of serving RCMP officers.  Consider the case of Shane Parker at the RCMP detachment in Terrace British Columbia.  A videotape in the police lock-up captured a hand-cuffed Parker being pepper sprayed in the back seat of a police cruiser, dragged out on to the concrete floor and pummelled repeatedly by an RCMP Inspector.  While this went down four other RCMP officers stood around watching and did nothing.

Despite the fact a formal complaint was lodged by Shane Parker’s family against the officer, the RCMP took so long to investigate the incident that in the end they wrote to the family claiming that because the timelines had passed for conducting such investigations no disciplinary action would be taken against the officer involved.  In addition no criminal charges were laid even though there is no statute of limitations for the criminal offence of assault or assault causing bodily harm.  Indeed, its incidents like these that have irreparably damaged the public’s respect and trust for the RCMP which an Angus Reid poll shows is less than 28% in that province.

So a fair question to ask Bob Paulson is where is his action plan to deal with the myriad disciplinary problems of its members?  Do we also have to wait another twelve months before the Minister of Public Safety will demand an action plan in eleven days to deal with this problem?  Canadians have a right to know why the current commissioner of the RCMP has not produced a strategic plan to address these problems.  In media interviews Paulson claims that his mandate has been as he put it “overshadowed by the harassment allegations”.  Strange but that is exactly what his priority was when he was appointed Commissioner?

It doesn’t take twelve months to produce an action plan with definable goals, timelines and measurable criteria?  So why do Canadians have to wait another eleven days for an action plan to be produced?  If you juxtapose the interview Paulson and Toews gave Canadians back in November 2011 with the Minister’s recent letter blasting Paulson for inaction you really have to wonder if the left arm knows what the right arm is doing.

In some respects Paulson may not be totally to blame for this fiasco because you can’t deliver something you don’t have in the first place.  In June 2011 the Public Safety Minister sent a list of proposed criteria for selecting the new leader of the RCMP to the House of Commons public safety committee.  In that letter sent to the chair Kevin Sorenson Toews explained that the next RCMP Commissioner, “will need to demonstrate exemplary leadership skills, have a proven aptitude for strategic management, deal sensitively with issues relevant to the RCMP’s many stakeholders and to Canada’s diverse population, and implement a corporate vision that will be endorsed by the RCMP and its stakeholders.”

When you examine Paulson’s background and his record on the job since taking office some might argue that he doesn’t possess any of these qualifications.  His letter to S/Sgt Chad hardly exemplifies leadership skills or sensitivity, his failure to produce a timely action plan on key priorities shows he doesn’t have the experience, aptitude or training for strategic management and Toew’s letter merely corroborates this fact.  Finally it’s clear that he does not have a corporate vision in place today that will be endorsed by the RCMP and its stakeholders.

Under the category of “personal suitability” Toews stipulated that the new Commissioner must have “superior interpersonal skills” but given Paulson’s tirade against S/Sgt Chad some members in the RCMP may feel that he even fails this litmus test.  Based on these measurable criteria some cake poppers could argue that Bob Paulson is simply not the right person for the job even if by some supernal miracle he produces a plan in eleven days on gender equity within the RCMP.

In my opinion, Vic Toews and the federal government have a lot of answering to do to the Canadian public and the rank and file of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for ‘failing’ to keep their promise to reform the RCMP.  As for Paulson he should seriously consider the words of the Elizabethan playwright William Shakespeare who wrote:  “the time is out of joint oh cursed spite that ever I was born to set it right.”

Yours truly,
Darryl T Davies
Professor of criminology and criminal justice
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Carleton University
Loeb Building, Room C-762
1125 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, Ontario
K1S 5B6

  1. Anon permalink

    Well said, this is what happens when Politician get involved. This is a good example of why the RCMP need to be removed from it’s political masters and answer to an independent board, that has the power to steer the RCMP in the right direction.


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