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RCMP Employee Relations: Really?

Feb 19

“…don’t worry about it, I’ve got your back”.

–          Bob Paulson

I recently became aware of a letter being delivered to some RCMP members, on medical leave, from their employer’s “Integrated Resource Management Team”.  These members have been on medical leave for periods of time ranging from several months to several years.  The ones I am personally familiar with have suffered some form of abuse in the workplace and as a result have reacted emotionally (e.g. anxiety), find the workplace unsafe, and are unable to return until the problem is addressed.  If the RCMP were serious about addressing the past and building for the future, as Mr. Paulson has stated in his recent “Action Plan”, the employee and management relations office would attempt to resolve these members’ issues and return them to work.  Everyone would be a winner.  The employee and management relations office would have returned long term medical leave members to work and the members would feel acknowledged, included, and appreciated by the employer.

The RCMP has chosen, instead, to place additional pressure on already distraught members by presenting them with threatening letters.  The letter introduces an “accommodation process” with “accommodation options” for continued employment as a member of the RCMP.  Members are encouraged to contact a “Return to Work Facilitator” if they “wish to engage in the accommodation process”.  They are instructed that if they or their representative do not contact the facilitator within 30 days of the receipt of the letter the employee and management relations office “will proceed with your discharge from the Force”.

These letters are written with no mention of the unresolved issue that contributed to the member going on medical leave (with support from community health care providers) in the first place.  The letters are oppositional, adversarial, and authoritative.  They give the impression that RCMP Occupational Health and Safety knows best and will conclude whether the member’s  “occupational health has improved“ regardless of the progress of the member’s grievance.  The tone of the letters is far from inclusive, somewhat antagonistic and makes Mr. Paulson’s offer (“…I’ve got your back”) laughable.

This approach calls to mind outstanding examples of workplace related violence that stretch over several decades.  They range from US Postal Facility Edmund OK (1986) through the OC Transpo incident in Ottawa Ontario (1999) to what appears to have motivated Christopher Dorner’s murderous rampage in 2013.  These incidents, and many more they represent, can be characterized as multiple victim homicides, with vengeance as the main motive, precipitated by dysfunctional employee and management relations processes, and with workmates or supervisors as targets.  These types of incidents have attracted high profile media attention and terrorized communities across North America.

The prevention of violence related to the workplace, has become one of the most important issues facing large impersonal organizations, like the RCMP, today.  Unfortunately, and until recently, the study of this type of violence has been focused on individual factors.  That is, from the perspective that individuals are solely responsible for their behaviour.  This perspective has been of limited usefulness in the attempt to identify the genesis of human behaviour.  Experts today tell us that individuals do not behave in  vacuums and that behaviour is as much interactionally as individually determined.  Individual models of behaviour, while not entirely misguided, are terribly insufficient.  In the case of worplace violence, not only do they create a litany of ethical, moral, clinical, and scientific problems, they do not address the development of preventive methods.  They fail to recognize the contingent nature of violence and suggest that, for example, the prevention of workplace related violence requires little more than the identification of those with violent dispositions.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.

According to those who work in this area, the genesis of violence that occurs in relation to an organization, lies as much within the organization’s processes, policies, and procedures as it does within the individual involved.  Therefore the methods developed for the prevention of violence must, to some extent, derive from an examination of the organization’s human resource and employee relations frameworks.

Canada’s institutions, including the RCMP, are a reflection of our society.  They reflect in a microcosm those problems we see as important, the methods we choose to solve them, and the value we place on the people who have them.  Far too often our society and its institutions view compassion and consideration toward each other as weak, ineffective, or inappropriate.  People and their concerns (usually the satisfaction of basic human needs like security, recognition, fair play, inclusion, understanding, self image etc.) are minimized or ignored as unimportant in the rush to preserve the image of the organization, or to do its business more efficiently.  It is in this mechanistic atmosphere that difficult people can be viewed as unwanted or unnecessary rather than real people struggling with real problems.

Violence related to the workplace is the result of the rolling out of a process, too rich and too complex to derive solely from within an individual.  I’ve cited this before, however what the author says is worth reading again,

 “Violence is a process as well as an act.  Violent behaviour does not occur in a vacuum.  Careful analysis of violent incidents shows that violent acts often are the culmination of long-developing, identifiable trails of problems, conflicts, disputes, and failures”.

The equation may contain an individual who is not dealing with life’s challenges effectively, and a problem that has frustrated his attempts to satisfy basic needs, but we still cannot say we are on top of the potential for danger.  The final variable in the equation is an organization that ignores the warning signs, alienates its suffering employees and permits violence to occur.  As I noted above, violence is as much a process as it is an act; during which “red flags” appear, signifying danger that must be recognized and addressed if an organization wants to prevent violence.  No organization is perfect, and none can be expected to do it all, but an effective one must be able to recognize dissatisfaction in its employees and be willing to do something about it.

The usual methods for dealing with employee management relations in a large impersonal bureaucracy, like the RCMP, are often toxic.   As you can see by the letter referred to above they often isolate, alienate and oppose.  The alternative includes rather than isolates, supports rather than alienates, and collaborates rather than opposes.  Contrary to expectations this approach tends to defuse emotion, decrease distance between the parties and move them closer to an agreement.  Dissatisfied employees are provided with some hope and the evidence that they belong and the organization cares about them.  A dialogue is opened up with the dissatisfied employee and results in her feeling more like a participant than an adversary.  An alternative to antagonism is presented that includes exploring the employee’s complaint, providing her with a full hearing, investigating thoroughly and independently the genesis of the complaint, and an attempt to reach consensus on a solution regardless of what that solution might be.  A prolonged adversarial process is replaced by a cooperative and collaborative one with much greater chance for a mutually satisfying outcome.  Just by changing the organization’s position from “he”, or “she”, has a problem to “we” have a problem it can increase the chances of returning a satisfied employee to work.

In conclusion, I wish to refer to Mr. Paulson’s recent attempt to “boost Mountie morale”.  An RCMP “spokesman”, according to the Toronto Star (18.02.13) said he wouldn’t comment on why Mr. Paulson felt the Force needed a morale booster.  I’d like to speculate as to why.  The most comprehensive and complete data on “Mountie morale” (Duxbury, 2007) suggested that, “a disturbingly high number [particularly those in the non-commissioned ranks] do not feel respected or trusted by their employer and, in turn, do not trust the organization”.  More recently (2010) an internal “E” Division RCMP staff survey found that nearly 60 percent of employees had considered quitting their job in the six months preceding the survey.  The most troubling finding of the survey was that “morale was getting worse”.  An even more recent Ipsos Reid poll (2013) found that 61 percent of BC residents thought the RCMP treats its own employees unfairly and inequitably; and 67 percent thought that those in charge were doing a poor job of leadership.  Now add to that Arar, Air India, pension scandal, Braidwood, Donald Ray, harassment, Bill C-42, budget cuts, and the Human Rights Watch allegations and you might have an inkling as to why Mr. Paulson thought that the RCMP morale might need a boost.

So I’m speculating here, that Mr. Paulson thought this was the time to come out of the shadows and appear to be a leader.  He announced to the membership that in his estimation they do “great work” and he stands behind them.  (Make sure you request back panels in your body armour folks!).  If I was one of you, and I heard “…don’t worry about it, I’ve got your back” from the same person who approved the above mentioned letters, berated S/Sgt. Chad, believes you’re not overworked, and welcomes Bill C-42, I’d be more worried about what’s behind me than in front.

I would feel better about his having my back if he had demonstrated to me that I could trust him back there.  As it stands I don’t think I would have an emotional attachment with the man.  I think I’d be more worried about how he’s going to use his new (Bill C-42) sweeping, unchecked powers, or whether I might get one of those accommodation/discharge letters if I happened to get caught up in his toxic, adversarial employee and management relations process.  And if you are smugly reading this, thinking it couldn’t happen to you, I don’t care what rank you are, within the RCMP’s culture of fear your fortunes can change in the blink of an eye.

Dr. Mike Webster, R.Psych.

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19 Comments
  1. Rob permalink

    Sad, so very sad, but true.

  2. Mike permalink

    Good point. Actually similar letters were sent to member in NHQ but with 15 days to reply to the EMRO and this without the input or knowledge of the HSO which is against policy. The HSO got involved. And will re-write the letter and remove the threats and more. The reality is that the force can not even handle the number of medical discharges all at once but the bluff is working because many members have decided to resign instead of going through the process.

  3. Jean Marc Villeneuve permalink

    All I know if a Female RCMP Officer is being attacked by a senior Officer she can use as much force as neccesary to stop him. Why does she not? C X Time

  4. Anonymous permalink

    I think they’re trying to serve me but I’m not too concerned about that because I have contacted the document serving company, twice now, to let them know to phone me before they come over so that I know they are coming and we can make an appointment. I knew how to contact them because they left a sticky note on my door. What I am concerned about is that my partner found a male lurking in my private, dark driveway the other night, saying that he was looking for me and he wanted to serve me with ‘documents’. He told my partner that he was a courier. Really, after dark, in my driveway, hiding behine my vehicle?

    After what the RCMP have said about me publicly, on a national level, I have never felt more vulnerable and exposed. I dare anyone to lurk in my driveway again.

    Oh, and by the way, my doorbell no longer works because the RCMP broke it when they were trying to order me back to work and my son was afraid to go to school. They were outside of my house for an hour and a half pounding on my door and breaking my doorbell. So, Driveway Lurker might want to learn either how to knock or how to fix my doorbell.

    Catherine Galliford

    • Jean Marc Villeneuve permalink

      Hang in Kid, I am retired now, but the RCMP actually hired Agents to try to in-trap me at Meetings, shopping. They use to pop up everywhere. Since I have retired I have tried to access my service and medical file and both are sealed?? I taped every meeting I had with senior officers and kept everything away from the House. They actually had an agent threaten my family with, he would kill us all and burn down our house. When the local police got involved they disappeared. I had my brake lines cut more than once. They said they did not have a part vi going on me but it was funny everytime I went to my lawyers they showed up trying to get me to fire him. When that did not work they made my lawyer a judge. I made complaint to the BC commission investigating the RCMP and they stated they could not do anything. I gave my story to the CBC and even the reporter was threatened and ended up in Afghanistan. They obtain all my telephone bills and cell phone bills without a part vi but had a DNR running on all my telephones. I reported the political corruption at every level of Government and the RCMP. In the late 1980 to the early 1990 we where doing controlled delivery of $200,000 at the time to the West block to the deputy prime minister at the time Eric Neilson. We covered lunches etc.. All our notes were shredded, files disappeared, expenses disappeared. Investigators working on files from C Division were sent packing by orders of the Prime Ministers Office. Now the Commish has received his orders from the Prime Ministers Office to get rid of all people that have complained or made complaints, get rid of all people on stress leave because they are also the people making complaints; this is simple damage control. Senior officers are receiving bigger and bigger bonuses to eliminate anybody that complains. They will do anything to destroy you. They will use all public monies to destroy you and your family. These people are just plain dangerous. Remember you can still use as much force as necessary if you or your family feels threatened. You have no idea what these people are going to do, if they are on your property uninvited remember your powers of arrests and use of force. Local police can only attend after the fact, make sure you and your family are safe, USE YOUR USE OF FORCE. They are betting that you are weak now, if you feel threaten fight back on your property, period. I made it quite clear to the RCMP that I had rights and my family had rights to live safe without fear. The local police also knew that I would protect myself and my family period. You may think this is excessive but your life and that of your family should come first.

    • Anonymous permalink

      Over the past few years, I have had members trespass on my property, come to my home after dark, enter my home, park down the street to watch the front of my house and intimidate my girlfriend.

      I filed a criminal harassment complaint with the local PD.

      I thought I was the only one.

      • Jean Marc Villeneuve permalink

        Know lots of us throughout Canada, they tried to get me to sign a gag order before I retired, I laughed and retired after 30 years. Remember your use of force and powers of arrest.

      • Anonymous permalink

        I forgot to mention that I served my Inspector with a trespass notice with a cc to the Super.

    • Mountie's wife permalink

      Catherine, you may want to check your vehicle for tracking bugs or other such items. It has been our experience that they (the organization) are not above that sort of thing. Especially as they are trying to portray you in a certain negative light, they will be looking for some type of evidence (or make up their own). Keep your eyes open, and if it feels wrong, it is wrong.

      • Jean Marc Villeneuve permalink

        Catherine, when you find a tracking devise don’t give it back to them, they will ask for it back..Walk up to the Q and offer them coffee or call local police about vehicle being parked for hours.

  5. Mike McTaggart permalink

    Having been a member for 35 years I know that many, if not most persons on long term medical leave are legitimately there. I’ve been there myself. But, I also know there there are those who use medical leave to milk the system. I certainly don’t agree with nor would I ever condone the tone of the letter sent out to members on long term medical which in true RCMP fashion lumps all members on long term medical leave together, suggesting wide spread malingering to “rip off” the system. I applaud the HSO at NHQ for stepping in, it was the right thing to do. Unfortunately, I also understand the frustration management feels when trying to deal with the true malingerers, who in some cases spend years on the payroll with no legitimate illness or reason to be off work. One of the worst cases that I am personally aware of involved a member who spent more than five years on extended medical leave just because he was held to account for his atrocious actions towards members under his command. In the end, the only way the Force could get rid of him was to promote him (he couldn’t pass the S/Sgt. promotion test) and back date it five years just to get him to resign and avoid a long and protracted legal fight. Believe me, this guy WAS the cause of his own problems but he was smart enough to know how to manipulate the system to his own benefit. Now I know this was only one out of many thousands of members but it demonstrates the difficulty management has in getting rid of the truly “bad apples”. (the “bad apple” analogy really is over used and misused but hey!) There is a need for constant review of a members condition BY THE HSO when a member is on long term medical leave, if for no other reason than to ensure the member is getting the best treatment possible. There is also a need to get members back to work as quickly as possible. This means that there will come a time when the Force must make a decision as to whether to continue carrying the member or go begin the medical discharge procedure, lose-lose situation. The Force loses a considerable investment and the member is left with very limited support for a limited period of time.

    • Jean Marc Villeneuve permalink

      I remember that member well, he laughed all the way to the bank, a Zac and Gramelini troll that they used to destroy members. He was simply a tool and was payed off for his services after he was trapped. But let’s not forget that he was a tool of senior officers.

  6. Mike McTaggart permalink

    Hi Jean Marc. I’m not sure if we’re speaking of the same individual. The one I mention was a Division problem, who many felt had some sort of multiple personality disorder. His nickname was that of a well known movie character with just such a disorder. Way outside my area of expertise but right up “Mike the Moderator’s” alley. That being said, the point of my post was to show that there are problems on both sides of the long term medical issue. Those who are in legitimate need and those who take advantage. Although there doesn’t seem to be an easy answer, bullying by management certainly isn’t the answer. One of the very first expressions I learned as a young constable was, “the Force is famous for eating it’s young”. During my career I did a three year stint at NHQ where I had access (and a requirement to read) many of the old administrative files and believe me when I say that most of the problems facing the Force today are not new, whether we’re speaking of management methods, resource levels, promotion systems or whatever current problem you can think of. Most of these problems have been around for a very long time and have simply never been properly addressed and dealt with.

    • Jean Marc Villeneuve permalink

      May not be same individual but many Division have them also, the one’s in the blue suits were the worst, they drank, partied, used women like mattresses. I had one Inspector he would bring you into his office while picking his nose, he would pick it, roll it and flick it at me. That cost me 30 days pay, I was on the carpet because I had to go inland with another member that his wife just had a baby and his wife was still in intensive care and he ordered us to bring the little brown fucker with us. I went inland alone had 4 gun calls alone, a couple of domestics but survived, What I did cost me 30 days pay. But it was worth it.. I also worked in O Division HQ as a senior reader, I saw the games and the plots to get members. I had an officer that would not even get into the elevators with me they would wait for the next elevator. These problems have been around for decades but we use to have NCO’s that would protect junior members. Those days are gone. I saw too many members put their heads in a box and pull the trigger so they would not leave us a mess, saw too many members hanging from Det. Garages, saw too many members put papers all over their living room and end it.. I always went head on with senior officers, tape recorder in hand.

  7. Mike McTaggart permalink

    I’ve reread the posts here and I must say that, during my career I had my share of not-so-good experiences but nothing that would leave me bitter in the extreme. Overall, I had a good 35 years. Worked with some great people and made great friends. I preferred hanging with the “worker bees” and left the super ambitious to hang with each other of that ilk. I learned to document everything and that in it self saved me a world of hurt a few times. I also learned to use the grievance system to great success, albeit late in my career (grieving was just not something a member of my era did).

    I find it interesting that several of you feel that you are under constant surveillance, even after leaving the Force. My experience has always been that the Force doesn’t have the resources (surveillance, wiretaps, etc.) to cover all regular investigations let alone the priority criminal and national security investigations, so not sure where the resources would come from to monitor your activities. As far as accessing RCMP files such as your service and medical files, I believe you can access all files through the Freedom of Information people in Ottawa. When I retired I was told that my medical file belonged to me and that I could have it by simply making a request, either at the time of my retirement or any time in the future. Later requests, I was told would take longer to action because the file would be in archives.

    I know it is not always easy getting past the problems of the past, but I hope for your future happiness that all of you do just that. I wish all of you well in whatever the future brings your way.

    • Jean Marc Villeneuve permalink

      Hi Mike,

      Life has been excellent since retiring, two heart attacks in my last 3 years of service made life really tuff for the family. As for the Foce I made some great friends over 30 years and still keep in touch with a very select group of friends. As you said not all the 30 years were a nightmare. We had some great NCO”s in my junior years and some really outstanding ones in Manitoba in the 80’s. Some of the officers were assholes but the NCO’s always protected us. Only in the 1990’s did we start getting really junior nco’s notice the small cap with no experience in life or the force and no police experience. Also around this time they started promoting officers really young it became a nightmare.

      But anyway I used the grievance system liberally in 0 Division, they transfered over 350 experienced police officers into the Toronto Airport. Now that was a Det. from Hell with NCO’s from hell and officers from sub-hell. Still made some great friends but I cannot even start describing these nco’s, officers tactics and none with experience. They did not know their basic power of arrest and seemed to live in a world of their own. The force would not deal with the problem and most of us were putting in a minimum of 10 yes 10 grievances each a day.

      I had a record and they finally ordered me out of the airport, I worked for a great officer after that and never had any problems for the next couple of years. Went back North again, had some really weird NCO’s but dealt with them quite directly.

      Then I made the Mistake to take a transfer to South Western Ontario. Was promoted once they found my exams from two cycles priors. Oh so sorry you had passed we kind of had mixed them up. Yeah right. Anyway, nobody wanted to work, all they did was prepared for their next promotion. I was a drug nco, which after 9-11 also became ncoi/c of a det. while still working active investigations. Wearing 3 or 4 hats at the time with a bunch of people that did not want to work and no budgets to work them anyway. I was also loaned out to be a senior ready for the Division and then the OPP asked for me and another senior NCO by name to work Biker Enforcement. That is where it went side ways. Having to sign an agreement not to tell the force anything that we worked on, and remembering that I was still the NCO with London Drugs with Agent’s signed out on my name to report to me every day, to me personnaly, because the officers did not trust the other nco’s to do the job. Great fun.. Any way to make a long story short I and the other NCO’s working for the OPP were accused of all types of stupid things. I was suspended and the other NCO was removed from his duties. All because another senior nco was trying to make his bones again and who I had not recommended for promotion. PS she was sleeping with the Crops Officer at the time and the C.O. also, so guess what…. Anyway I hired a lawyer and we went into asking questions and grievances and asking for criminal charges on a whole bunch of people. Guess what they never answered any of my questions one day I get a call from staffing stating which section would you like to go to. I am on my second heart attack by this time and coming up to 30 years I said fuck it and retired. You will be able to read about soon in a book I am finishing you should get a kick out of it.. Especially the names. (they tried to get me to sign a gag order for a pile of money and I said no)

      Since I have retired I have had not less then 2 Agents contact me at home and offered me jobs? Really strange since my telelphone number is not even under my own name. Both my Service file and my medical file have been sealed have tried every year since retiring to obtain them. I have also been active with investigations in Canada on RCMP political corruption since my retirement. The problem is not the organization but the people within the organization that are politically corrupt to the core. Sorry have to go have a meeting.. Retirement is great..

  8. Mike McTaggart permalink

    Jean Marc I look forward to reading your book, I’m sure I will recognize some if not many of the names. I spent many years in Dirty “D”, some at NHQ and just short of a dozen in “K”. During my years in Drugs I worked in every province from Quebec to BC and in the NWT.

    • Jean Marc Villeneuve permalink

      Are you following the Charbonneau Commission?? Very interesting some of the same people we were doing controlled deliveries to the Deputy Prime Minister office in the middle 1984’s to Eric Neilson office, $200,000 dollars at a pop.. So funny to hear those names again after the Prime Minister told A Division and C Division the investigations were over period..I loved my time in Dirty D, great guys great NCO’s did all my time north of the 58 Par. The only fly in the honey was Denis Heald and Inspector Mcdougal.. two power crazy people with no ethics..But the older NCO’s took care of us and kept them away from us as much as they could..Good times, Good work, Good people.

  9. The Abscess has burst… the News Media should be made aware of the bullying and back stabbing tactics that has been going on for TOO many Years. Our Oath of Office,,,, what about their responsibilities as Supervisor and Work Safety…

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