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RCMP: What is a Commissioner’s Legacy?

Sep 30

I’m a little late to this party, but stay with me on this, I think it is an important question, and so it should be, for any Member.

For the record, I am retired, having served 25 years in 2 Divisions, during my service. I was diagnosed with PTSD 12 years after I retired and, as I learned through treatment, I had a rather sophisticated way of dealing with my PTSD driven issues, which really began within my first 5 years of service. All of the details of how I came to the point of developing PTSD, 7 incidents, all close in time, some life threatening, some just impossibly disturbing, are not as important, generally speaking, as how I got there.

Today, and every single day, for decades, I wake up with some level of fear, caused by my anxiety. Some days are better than others, but that anxiety is always playing in the background. So, for me, physical fitness has been my medication, making me more tolerant of my circumstances, on some days, than on others.

But, back to my question, what is a Commissioner’s Legacy?

Like many Members, I served under several different Commissioners. Before and since I left the Force, I have contemplated, on a number of occasions, what benefit the average Member of the Force has gained through the service and leadership of any given Commissioner, including the current one. I can’t think of anything. Perhaps there are Members who benefited, personally, from being in the inner circle, and they will disagree with me, but I’m talking about the general membership, as a whole.

Shouldn’t a leader of any police organization strive to better the position of his membership, whether through working conditions and related benefits, work and life balance, or any number of other efforts, including challenges to government policy? I can’t think of one Commissioner that spoke passionately on behalf of Members of the Force, when dealing with any given government of the day. Why would they, it wouldn’t be in their best interests. It was always stated; “we’ve done the best we can”, whether it was a pay increase(or none at all), or improved benefits and working conditions. I saw no real evidence, and police officers can generally recognize evidence.

I accepted, I settled, I had (and have) a love-hate relationship with the R.C.M.P. I am proud of my service, I gained much from it, but I am not as proud of the number of Members who felt that their only way to success was to abuse or step on, or over others, in order to advance their own positions. Yes, folks, those issues, and people, have been a part of the R.C.M.P. for many generations. For my part, I didn’t personally tolerate much bullshit, without questions, and I did not participate in the assassination of anyone’s character, either publicly, or privately, to benefit myself.

So, whenever I saw some issue that caused me to question a Commissioner’s motivations, I asked myself, when on the road working; “Do I feel safe”?, in whatever given situation. My consistent answer to myself was “No”, because I didn’t see anything the Force, as an organization, was doing on my behalf. At the grand old age of 26, I had what people might call a “breakdown”, I was clinically depressed, needed medication to sleep (to survive) and I was scared. What would happen to me? My “situation” was covered by a unit commander who did not question my request to be away for a month, on annual leave. There was no Health Services unit, at the time, and it was not questioned, nor was I offered any help. I was left to my own devices and I spent a month in hiding in the home of my girlfriend’s parents. Thank God for them, I was too ashamed to face even my own family.

I survived, but not as a result of any help, offered or given, by the R.C.M.P. When I returned, things were still very tenuous for me and I was sidelined, within the office, while I tried to pull myself together.

Did I feel safe? No, I did not.

I recall a time, years ago, when other R.C.M.P. leadership found it appropriate to have watch commanders, or detachment commanders check weapons, on a regular basis, to ensure that the ammunition being used was not something other than what was issued. I use this example because my watch commander, a man who I truly admired, because of his sincere care for his troops, regularly checked our weapons for hollow point ammunition, which he was ordered to do. He would routinely confiscate the offending ammunition, place the box in the top drawer of his desk, while at the same time informing all Members that he was then going for coffee. His message was clear, “once I’m out of the room, I expect you to collect your ammo, and get to work”. And so we did, until the next time.

Did I feel safe? No, I did not.

I did not, and my reason was that the R.C.M.P., a reflection of its leadership, at any given point in time, revealed to me that it was more important to carry inadequate ammo, than to be able to appropriately defend myself. They also often checked to ensure that the gun being carried was appropriate issue because a good number of Members, during that time, did carry more powerful weapons. The R.C.M.P. leadership knew, for many years, that our weapons and ammunition were inadequate. I knew and worked with at least one Member, murdered because his weapon was indeed inadequate. Again, I do not recall any Commissioner “fighting” on behalf of you, or me, to ensure that we were properly armed. It continues to this day.

I recall when the controversy over weapons was a heated debate into the 1990’s. The R.C.M.P. leadership determined that we were adequately armed, prior to doing a 180, deciding to upgrade to 9mm weapons. But only after many other police agencies began upgrading because of the concern for the safety of their police officers.

Does that sound familiar to anyone? Again, it continues to this day, Members inadequately armed, protected and cared for, budgets slashed, training delayed, many leaders (not all) who are still more concerned about the comfort of their own positions, than to take positions that protect the membership, in all situations, as good leaders do.

Do you feel safe?

When your benefits, in recent years, began to be eroded, contributions up, benefits down, did your current Commissioner fight for you? Or did he submit to the government demands for cuts, anywhere and everywhere?

Do you feel safe?

My contemporaries, who have served with other police agencies, have often asked me what the benefit was to being a Member of the R.C.M.P., given that we were always short staffed, often miles from needed backup, lacking in people to fill open positions, even when the number of approved positions were not adequate to do proper policing in the first place.

All Commissioners have known, in succession, that there are not enough Members to accomplish the task of our policing responsibilities. Has your Commissioner taken a stand, to tell the government that Members cannot continue to be expected to carry a load that is an impossible task?

Do you feel safe?

God Bless the Members in Moncton, who died in June, but it saddens me to see this Commissioner, like all the others before him, speaking passionately on the sacrifice of these Members and the many others who preceded them, when he and the rest have contributed not one damn thing to the improvement of the daily lives of the membership.

And to see our current Prime Minister in attendance, speaking of the senseless deaths, as if he was the biggest contributor to the care and maintenance of the Force and its Members. He has not “earned” that right. While he sleeps safely in his bed, we keep him safely protected. Of course it works for him.

In the end, your Commissioner, like so many others before him, will be gone at some point. He will, of course, get an exceptional and well paid position somewhere, and he will look back at how successful he has been, not giving a thought to you, or me. He will not show up at the regular R.C.M.P. Veterans luncheon, to socialize with other retired Members.

Like other leaders gone by, he is too good for that. And by the way, the Veterans Association is not able to do anything to improve your lot in life either. It is an organization that benefits from its association with R.C.M.P. management. They do many good deeds but, after all, they rely upon the kindness of any Commissioner to provide them with office space. They are not, and cannot be, true advocates. They are a social organization only, with many of your old tormentors, within the membership.

A Commissioner’s Legacy is one of his own making and, generally, that legacy is a benefit to the Commissioner only, the past is prologue.

So, what is a Commissioner’s Legacy?

Do you feel safe?

Don

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13 Comments
  1. DJ Motorcop permalink

    Thank you so much for your articulate and intelligent post. You have identified the single most cause of all that is wrong with the force

    • Anonymous One permalink

      I totally agree. A well written post that hits on some of the biggest issues with the force…issues that affect the members. It is so frustrating that our management (leaders?) don’t see it. It seems we could tell them this is what is wrong until we’re blue in the face but they CHOOSE not to listen. It’s all about money and politics, never the members. I am so glad I will soon be out of that circus. A circus I was once proud to be a part of (in the beginning). Now when I pass by members out on the road I feel sorry for them. No joke. I feel sorry for the lack of support they have. One good thing that has come out of this is that it has become very clear in recent years that no matter how bad it is or how bad it gets, you are not alone. Don’t give up. Reach out to members groups who offer and lend support. We are growing in numbers, members from across Canada. Many retired, many not. We all have a common bond and we need to stick together. If you think you are alone and you need help reach out to us on this site. I promise you are not alone. Knowing that saved my life and many more.

  2. A perfect example of our current commissioner.

    http://globalnews.ca/news/1578848/lunch-with-rcmp-commissioner-bob-paulson-pot-use-not-as-big-a-deal-as-it-used-to-be/

    How many lies do you see in this article?
    He states:
    “Everybody trusts one another, we have good discussions,” he says. “It’s like running a normal national police force.”

    Then he was successful because: “The reason for his success was simple: he was good at talking to people”. I recall how great he was at the town hall meeting, ridiculing people with mental illness and the email attack on Tim Chad.

    Do I feel safe? Not with people like this guy in charge.

  3. EFAMIA permalink

    Commissioner Bob Paulson’s legacy;

    – 330 RCMP former and present Members seeking resolution to Harassment.
    – Lots of talk but no walk on resolving Harassment in the RCMP.
    – Found guilty of Harassment and forced to apologize to an NCO. (Email exchange)
    – Forced to apologize for harassing and ridiculing members with mental illness.
    – Failing to deal with Mental Illness and the issue of suicide.
    – Harassed S/Sgt. Gravelle in an email (Come out of your Rage).
    – Harassed Mike Webster in an email (Gone Nuts) and complaint to the College of Psychologists.
    – Forced to apologize and repay the Gov’t for using members on duty in his wedding party.
    – Attacked members in a Senate hearing who alleged Harassment after he criticized members for airing their “dirty laundry” in public.Used the Senates privilege to hide behind.
    – continued the long used SEC strategy of failing to seek members meaningful consultation on Bill C-42 and minimizing any concerns.
    – Lied about the further erosion of benefits and pay while receiving his performance pay.
    – Lowest levels of morale than when he took his oath.
    – Leaving the RCMP worst off then when he took his oath.
    – Continued the history of poor Officer Safety record ( Carbines) and putting dollars before members safety.
    – Continued the tradition of disregarding merit by promoting friends and hangers on to high places within the Force.
    – An embarassment to the Force and obviously to the Gov’t ie. Fur Hats, Anti-terror Booklet, Opinion on Marihuana ( Lunch with the Commissioner) etc. etc.
    – Promotes a Malignant Narcissism which has undermined the RCMP and has dehumanized the members within the RCMP.

    What else can you add ?????

  4. Buck permalink

    “So all things being equal I could get my arse kicked out of here in a heartbeat”

    Not a leader, Not confident and as per his Deputy Minister Status with a sorely screwed up government.

    He is laying low to get his next patronage gift, does not care about his people.

    Commissioner Paulson’s legacy????? Ass kissing suckup without a spine of his own. Not a leader.

  5. anon permalink

    His legacy will simply be as one of the most hated, untrustworthy commissioners of the RCMP in the modern day era. The second he goes off script at any events or talks he gives, his true colors are evident. There isn’t a member I’ve spoken to that doesn’t feel this way.

    But it’s not only him. The majority of the upper management of the RCMP cares nothing about the well being of the membership at large. How do I know that? Because not one of them has the guts, integrity, or fortitude to come out in support of the non-commissioned rank and admit that the RCMP is in a state of disarray.
    They are all too interested in their own self interests, their next promotion, and how to collect their wage without actually doing anything of substance.

    Examples? We all know them. From the fallout of Mayerthorpe to the Moncton incident to everything in between. Grievances that now take 8-10 yrs to resolve, upper management that quotes RCMP policy when it suits them, however take the liberty to ignore it when it doesn’t.
    Inconsistencies across the Force when it comes to discipline and internal matters. It goes on and on.

    Does anyone but me get tired of all the emails that come out of Ottawa droning on about caring about member’s well being and health??? And then the only response is ‘we’re setting up a new section or committee to address this’. Give me a break!!

    Once, just once I’d like to see an email that calls a spade a spade from the Commissioner or his cronies…..something like this,

    “Dear Members,

    Just to be clear, we in Ottawa don’t really give a hoot about you out in the field. We’re pretty comfy here, most of us having never really done any operational policing. Just so you know, we’ve overhauled the RCMP Act so that we here in Ottawa can make even more un-informed and crazy decisions with no rhyme or reason. But the best part is if you thought there was an avenue for addressing your concerns before, well we closed all those loopholes so good luck now. Oh and we’re cutting your benefits and pay all over the board because we know that’ll improve morale too.

    Best of luck out there with your antiquated equipment, one man vehicles etc., etc. Oh, and in closing….no matter what we teach you in scenarios and at Depot, we’ll never back you up if you follow that training and something goes wrong. I’m sure you’ll appreciate that we will just throw you under the bus and destroy your life and career. Look sharp feel sharp!”

    Now THAT’s the email I’d like to see !!

  6. He’s laying low alright because it’s been said that he’s setting himself up for a possible job in Australia or New Zealand. With any luck they will be made aware of his atrocious character, lack of leadership, his disregard for his members, his raging bullying ways. Not a leader, not a caring human being. Referred to Justin Bourque as a “monster”. Well, some would say he too is a “monster”.

  7. Anonymous One permalink

    I cannot agree more on all the above comments. And now Cpl. Ron Francis is dead. I am sure he, once proud veteran member of the force, was just too hurt and destroyed by the way the force treated him. It is one thing to have PTSD and be ill because of it. It’s another to be treated like he was in response to his illness. Here was a man who served for 20 years with the RCMP and was good at his job. He obviously liked helping people and did it well because he has a good work record….for 20 years! And I don’t care what anyone says about his smoking marihuana in uniform. I am of the opinion that sometimes extreme measures are needed in extreme times. And most of us do not know what kind of treatment actually led up to him doing that, but I believe he did it for a reason. He felt like he needed to make a statement and give PTSD the attention it needed, and he did that. How many of us can say we were such true activists? Cpl Francis stood for what was right. He stood for the members, and all he asked was that the force help ALL members who were in his same shoes. He was an unselfish man who CARED about us. Need I say more? I will not sit here and judge him in a negative light. Ever.
    I know for a fact there are many many resentful, angry, bitter members and ex members across Canada because of the way the force has treated them. Many cannot pick up and move forward with their lives because the are debilitated due to the way they were treated. Broken. You can only treat a good person like that for so long before you break them. The force needs to wake up and get real. When will all this stop? As far as I’m concerned, the RCMP is responsible for Cpl. Francis’ death. Yes, I said that and I truly believe it with all my heart. He did not have to die.
    When Commissioner Paulson said we were “cuckoo” I wonder if he realizes the DAMAGE he did to all of us. And then he comes out with some Mental Health Strategy that isn’t worth 2 cents. It still does not educate members about PTSD specifically. It does not say what symptoms to look out for or what to do if you see these symptoms in yourself or a co-worker. It’s total LIP SERVICE. It’s an imaginary group of words on a piece of paper that the force can refer to whenever challenged on their commitment to mental health. It is merely a tool used to minimize their liability.
    So when will they get it right? How many times do we need to go public and tell the force what we require to be successful, happy and healthy employees?
    Then there’s the pawn, Gilles Moreau, who continually publicly spreads his sympathy and empathizes with us, but he is adamant that we need to get the help ourselves. After all, he has commented that the force is “not in the business of treating members”. That’s what he said. How shallow can one be? So smug. He needs to get over himself and quit kissing butt. I have no respect for him. I don’t recall us asking the RCMP to diagnose us, but I do know that PTSD is an Occupational Stress Injury, and one that can be prevented and at very least minimized….if the force only dealt with it properly. The RCMP needs to be held accountable to it’s members. Cpl Francis’ death will not be in vain. We are going to see this through. And that’s a promise.

  8. EFAMIA permalink

    RCMP with PTSD falling through the cracks, says advocate

    Retired Mountie and psychologist Jeff Morley says more help needed with officer suicides on rise

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/rcmp-with-ptsd-falling-through-the-cracks-says-advocate-1.2792495

  9. Anonymous permalink

    Don’t get me starred on Gilles Moreau, that pint size stupid ass … he doesn’t have the balls to return a reply to a letter after I gave him a scathing letter on harassment. They are all boot lickers and it’s no wonder they decided to settle with me out of the realm of the public, and courts. But again I will never be silenced, I have to speak out and support those who are suffering, like Ron Francis, and many others. I support the good people of the RCMP be them members, CM’s or PSE’s. This government needs to shake it up and make it whole again.

  10. Bob permalink

    I worked under the following Commissioners during my service:

    Robert Henry Simmonds (September 1, 1977 – August 31, 1987)
    Norman Inkster (September 1, 1987 – June 24, 1994)
    Joseph Philip Robert Murray (June 25, 1994 – September 1, 2000)
    Giuliano Zaccardelli (September 2, 2000 – December 15, 2006)
    Beverley Busson (interim) (December 15, 2006 – July 16, 2007)
    William J. S. Elliott (July 16, 2007 – November 20, 2011)
    Bob Paulson (November 21, 2011 – current)

    I am “hard pressed” to recall any transformative legacies by these Commissioners that contributed towards moving the RCMP forward in becoming a 21st Century policing organization of excellence. Any movement in that direction has primarily come from the men and women on the front lines of operational police service delivery; not from its leadership in Ottawa.

    Perhaps a sad commentary on the top organizational leadership.

    • Buck permalink

      Bob,

      Having served under the same leadership chronology, I must say I can do nothing but concur with your observations. My soul aches for the young members thrust into the breach who have only the wisdom of ever fewer senior members by the day to show them what it means to be a MOUNTIE.

      Buck

  11. EFAMIA permalink

    Top Mountie subpoenaed to testify at harassment trial against RCMP next month

    http://aptn.ca/news/2014/10/20/top-mountie-subpoenaed-testify-harassment-trial-rcmp-next-month/

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