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The RCMP at the Point of No Return

The RCMP at the Point of No Return

By Darryl T Davies


The colossal understatement of the year has to be that from Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.  In a recent interview when he was asked about the idea of civilian oversight for the RCMP he commented “It would be a massive change in the way the institution has operated for over a century” and “require careful thought”.  Just how much careful thought is needed to recognize and take action to overhaul the management of the RCMP at RCMP Headquarters?  Consider their performance in recent years.

First, it is now widely recognized from the ruling by provincial court Judge R. Leslie Jackson that the RCMP grossly bungled and mismanaged the delivery of equipment to front line officers, such as patrol carbines and body vests. By failing to exercise duty of care they placed their front line officers lives at risk. In the view of many this contributed directly to the number of officers that were shot and killed in Moncton in June 2014.  It is remarkable that nine years earlier when four Mounties were killed in Mayerthorpe by a deranged gunman, that RCMP officers were seriously lacking in adequate firepower and body vests.  Despite overwhelming evidence the RCMP did nothing substantive to address this gap in the arsenal of the rank and file.  Much like our current public safety minister Ralph Goodale they claimed they needed to give the matter careful thought.  For RCMP management nine years evidently was not enough time but this was not a view shared by Judge R. Leslie Jackson when he convicted the RCMP in September 2017 in a Moncton courtroom.

Second, the RCMP paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars earlier this year to members of the rank and file who were bullied and subject to sexual harassment for years. The fact they did not fire one single officer in the senior ranks who was responsible for this predatory behaviour defies logic but then again if history is anything to go by with the RCMP they probably needed time like nine years to study the problem.

Third, then we have RCMP management who are so out of touch with what’s going on in their organization that they were not even aware that some of their employees were running around stark naked and flashing their genitals to all and sundry at the RCMP Police College. What a ringing endorsement for an organization that is fixated on its public image. 

Fourth, this past March both the Auditor General of Canada and the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP released damning reports highlighting the fact that the RCMP is in every sense of the word a dysfunctional organization.  Both reports set out clear recommendations outlining what is wrong with the organization and how to fix the problem.  Despite this fact the public safety minister has stated on the record that he needs to study the problem.  There have been innumerable reports that have been produced in the past five years setting out a blue print for changing the RCMP and yet not one public safety minister has had the wherewithal to have their recommendations implemented. 

Any organization that operated the way the RCMP have operated would have been disbanded years ago. How many public safety ministers and how many years does it take for governments to fix a problem?  In many respects we should be grateful for the fact that we have independent and impartial courts of law in Canada or nothing would change for the better.  For many observers who are knowledgeable about the problems in policing, public safety ministers have been carrying around a picket fence with them for so long that the best they can offer when confronted with a major crisis is to sit on it. The fact that nothing changes is a sad commentary but it speaks clearly to the fact that when it comes to fixing the RCMP the problem is due to the four horsemen of political inaction namely inertia, ignorance, apathy and cost.

Fifth, in recent years there have been an inordinate number of lawsuits launched against the RCMP. Many of these lawsuits have been filed by individuals in the rank and file who have endured years of horrific abuse and maltreatment. These lawsuits have been filed at considerable cost to the taxpayers of this country and this is largely due to the fact that RCMP management are so incompetent that they can’t see or refuse to see a problem when it’s staring them in the face.  Earlier this year a judge called the RCMP’s treatment of a sergeant ‘outrageous’ in a bullying case.  The judge described the RCMP’s actions against Sgt Peter Merrifield as reckless and awarded the plaintiff $41,000 in lost wages for delayed advancement and $100,000 in general damages. The judge slammed the RCMP for its lack of credibility and forthrightness in defending the case.

In recent months a number of very brave and honourable members in the RCMP rank and file like Corporal Patrick Bouchard have been speaking publically about the way they have been treated by senior management in the RCMP and its inadequate leadership.  Although it’s an internal disciplinary offence to criticize the RCMP in public a number of very courageous members within the Force have called out the organization for its dysfunctional and lack lustre leadership.  In my view these officers should receive the Order of Canada for having the courage to speak out about the malignancy that is infecting the highest levels of the organization.

Sixth, recently the former president of the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada Rae Banwarie tendered his resignation from the RCMP.  In doing so his letter chronicled the reasons for leaving the RCMP.  When people of his calibre give up on the organization it should send a clear message as to why so many members are quitting the force and why the RCMP’s recruitment program is floundering. Rae Banwarie’s letter should be read in the House of Commons to every member of parliament so they and all Canadians can learn about the extent of the problems in our national police service.  It’s a fair question to ask who wants to work for an organization that as BC psychologist Mike Webster stated a few years ago will make you sick?

When you factor in the rampant patronage at RCMP headquarters and the view by some observers that they are using archaic and obsolete training methods one could cogently make a case that the RCMP is already at the point of no return.  If there is any luminosity in this bleak picture it’s the rank and file.  Despite serious staffing shortages that are causing occupational stress for RCMP members the vast majority of them are continuing to provide our communities with stellar policing services across the country often at great cost to their health and personal lives. This is not the time to be making  political platitudes while the institution is at the edge of the abyss. 

Instead of wasting time claiming he is going to study the problem, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale should do something concrete and now.  For starters, he could make major management and structural changes at RCMP Headquarters.  The evidence that management is to blame for the RCMP’s Pandora’s box is overwhelming. In addition, he should immediately take measures to establish a civilian review board so that it’s in place before the next Commissioner is appointed.  Finally, he can make the process for selecting the next Commissioner of the RCMP transparent, open and accountable.  The time for studying the problem has long passed.


Darryl T Davies is an instructor in criminology and criminal justice in the department of sociology and anthropology at Carleton University.  Professor Davies was a crown witness at the Labour Canada trial against the RCMP in Moncton, New Brunswick. 

Comments (13)

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CS November 16, 2017 9:13 am

This problem is two fold. There are serious concerns with management for sure. I have worked along side the RCMP for 18 years now. Some very good hard working individuals. Some I saw come in as a recruit and have seen them move up to Inspector, proud to know them. Others, I wonder how they got in at all. I would say in my experience it has been 50/50 for management skills of Detachment Commanders. At my current location I have seen 6 Commanders in just over 12 years. This sight is used as a promotion jumping board. But there were 2 of the 6 that were horrible managers, including the current one. There is almost a mutiny going on. White shirts have come in, and met with the "people", yet there hasn't been a single change. "stuff going on in the background" routine again. The officers are supposed to be held to a higher level, yet they get away with ridiculous sometimes illegal things. Management "sweeps it under the carpet" or moves the problem so it is someone else's. But now, the new recruit coming is a different breed altogether. One that has grown up with social media. Personal cell phones on the side of the desk for offices and civilian staff alike. It's a different breed of officer. I won't say they are not a "family" per se, but certainly not one hung up on traditions. Gone are the social clubs of Detachments, the new officer has too much going on outside of work to put any extra time in at the office. And if they feel management doesn't have their back, then this is even more so. The old boys club is out of touch with the new policing. new systems in place that are supposed to help the officers, actually create more work for them, either they are already out of date, or are so cumbersome to operate. So they are expected to get there files done in a certain amount of time, but also get your butt out there and do the proactive policing. They get pulled in a tug of war and shutdown. Either want a new location, a new unit that doesn't deal with files, or get out to go to municipal policing. Some here said that RCMP needs to be disbanded and start over, well be careful, there may not be enough people to man the RCMP at all.

CS November 03, 2017 11:38 pm

Wow...this article was absolutely on point, and disturbingly accurate. In truth, this entity is long past the point of no return, rather its a carcus on life support. The TBC (Government) and by extension Goodale, do not care, as most government officials rest in the security and peace that larger, more resourced municipal agencies provide. As for the rest of Canada who cares right??? As a active member of this spinning upside-down pyramid, I can only say that without question, the public has no idea how anemic staffing is across the country, the " more for less " BS, that has been peddled endlessly by management, to stay in business, is all just smoke and mirrors. It is a complete miracle that the good people like the ones i work with, show up for work day after day, eternally long-suffering and optimistic that somebody with a functioning organ between their ears, will step up and free them from the "madness." The Canadian public has been kept in the dark, members are being abused and exploited, and there's no conceiveable end in site. Bottom line, do your homework, if you are seriously considering this entity as an employer, as a "place to make a difference" you need your head examined. The days Harol spoke of are all but dried up and gone, the only way forward is to pull the plug and see a future with a completely reworked model from the ground up. Any other substitute that attempts to salvage ANY aspect of this cancer ridden bio mass, will be a doomed enterprize, watch and see.

Darryl T Davies November 03, 2017 12:00 am

Fundamentally I don't disagree with the response from Harol because I know the difficulties a bureaucratic system can impose on an organization that functions based on a paramilitary model. However many of the issues I am raising are the direct result of appointing people as Commissioners who have no formal education, no leadership abilities and who possess communications skills the size of a postage stamp. There have been excellent reports (ie. Brown report) that could easily have addressed these issues years ago. Both the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP and the Auditor General have made solid recommendations that could address many of the problems facing the RCMP. Change is never easy in a large organization such as the RCMP but there are solutions if only politicians like Goodale would take the action required rather than sitting mute on the sidelines while the institution collapses. The Canadian military while not awash with the extent of deviant behaviour that we are witnessing in the RCMP have leaders who are stepping up to the plate and making the tough decisions. Failing to equip officers with patrol carbines following the Mayerthorpe tragedy is a case in point. The crown prosecutor in his summing up at the trial against the RCMP in Moncton New Brunswick stated that the RCMP 'grossly mismanaged the firearms file'. What is remarkable is that some of the people in the RCMP's use of force section who were responsible for the firearms file were actually promoted during Paulson's Watch. Does this make sense? Even Judge R Leslie Jackson on the first page of his 'Decision' stated that it was 'noteworthy' that no individuals were facing charges. In the view of many observers the fact that criminal charges have not yet been laid against some individuals in the use of force section and some senior managers in the RCMP is inexplicable. It is clear that when it comes to making the right decisions senior management of the RCMP have neither the ability, competence or leadership acumen required to ensure the safety and well being of the rank and file. You don't have to give the RCMP separate employer status to fix many of the problems I have identified in my article (ie rampant patronage, bullying and harassment of individuals etc). Some police critics believe that Goodale should start the process by immediately giving senior management at RCMP Headdquarters and across the country their termination notices because they have completely failed the rank and file and the Canadian public. What is needed in the RCMP is credible, competent and good leadership at the top. This is something that sadly has been lacking in the RCMP for decades. Darryl T Davies

Sadie Horne November 02, 2017 3:54 pm

Although many changes have occurecd within the Force over the years,changes that have been made & are currently in place obviously are not wonders of work------time was when a person applied to join, tough restrictions were in place,restrictions that were followed to the letter during the training process & utilized by serving the various deployment areas extemely well--relations between serving members & comummities were also excellent.Time has arrived,I 'm afraid,for the name RCMP be replaced---the back-up support was there for the field workers---something many present-day serving members will say is sadly lacking---this degenerates the true meaning of policing for well trained officers & field police--perhaps the application forms can be scrutinized by experts to be 100% certain the right candidate has been chosen to join the rank & file of becoming a recruit--no exceptions by recrutiing officers or by candidates----consider a Force called Canada:s United Force---nit RCMP_because the RCMP of years ago was highly held in esteem by general public---nit so today,And when today you hear young members say that NBODY has your back means there is a serious problem--once these problems begin to harvest it was and still should bet the direct responsibilty of the derachment commander to get to the root of the situation---not about what some higher-ranking officer thinks or feels.Police procedure must always be adhered to at ALL times.Today many members are overworked with little time felt for family ,friends,social events,etc.etc.etc.Too much political interefenve negatively affects the "On the beat"cop.Some officers who have been promoted onve or 2x,now wants a 3rd promotion----therefore his interests are in his ownn back pocket,not having concernes for thise officers going on street duty every day and night.Why is this so i very difficult for the governments to recognize??????Know why,these same people move in similar social circles,thereby hand-glading with the politicans---for their own carreers----totally of no venefit or improvernments for street cops hopefully soon Goodale & the PM will be enlightened to the real source of this problem & as in years past,pay attention to present day serving members,their families,their thoughts of providing proper protection to everyone----more money,more recruits,would definetly help BUT only if used in proper manner.dr inus

Harol November 01, 2017 2:40 pm

As a thirty four year veteran of the RCMP, I read Mr. Davies' comments with interest. While I agree with much of what he said, he simply does not understand much about the internal workings RCMP. I can speak from personal experience as to the difficulty when it comes to discipline and redress for Members who have breached policy (including law) and much worst the public trust. The RCMP is bound by Federal Government policies and as such, are unable to address many serious matters in a significant way. In addition to discipline, hiring practices, internal advancement, budgets and where funds can be spent are all at the whim of Federal dictates. Hence even if the Force had capable managers in place they would be largely unable to manage effectively. There are very capable and incredibly frustrated senior level managers in the Force who are bound by Federal policy. Unless the RCMP is given Separate Employer Status (SES), and exempted from the largely inappropriate dictates of Treasury Board Canada, the RCMP is doomed to fail. The RCMP is a high profile portfolio and one which TBC doesn't want to relinquish. Simple as that and I don't care what that organization has to say. I could draft a lengthy list from memory as to how inappropriate some of these dictates aree. One would think that it wouldn't take an Einstein to understand that managing a police force that serves a very geographically diverse and culturally sensitive country is not the same as running a bureaucratic office in a large urban center and yet that's what the RCMP is strapped with. It will never be an effective Force able to serve its public until the Force is set free from TBC. As for the current senior management practices in the RCMP - well I cannot argue with Mr. Davies - the record speaks for itself and none of it is complimentary. Criticize RCMP management if you will sir (they deserve it) but understand the constraints placed on management.