RCMP S/Sgt. Bob Meredith, announcing his retirement, said:
I’m going away with a feeling of great pride having served for thirty years in what is truly a great and iconic organization. The RCMP is a wonderful organization because of . . . exceptional individuals doing amazing work in a myriad of fields.
The Vancouver Sun’s Ian Mulgrew has a quite different view of the force:
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“This is an anachronistic organization using outdated training methods and a paramilitary structure out of step with today’s need for civilian oversight and accountability.”
These irreconcilable views neatly describe typical internal and external appraisals of Canada’s once iconic police service. The retiring officer dedicated his adult life to the organization and denial of dysfunction is an understandable defense mechanism. Admitting truth of the unpleasant characterization offered by Mulgrew would degrade Meredith’s lifelong employer and, by logical extension, his own career.
Denial of inherent deficiency is pervasive among police insiders. The attitude guarantees continuation of difficulty and explains why little has changed despite intense scrutiny of RCMP governance and resultant prescriptions by organizational experts. Command staff think with one mind. People who don’t accept the required conventions are simply not promoted to senior ranks. The RCMP hierarchy is entrenched and its collective code is entrenched. Only radical change will enable essential improvements yet the Harper Government lacks nerve to force a meaningful reorganization.
While the present civilian commissioner wages lonely wars with his command, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’ orders another report. We don’t need more reports; these have already been done. Today’s problems are little different than what they’ve been for years. The Official Opposition is no help. Ignoring history, Liberal MP Scott Brison claims that appointment of a civilian “started this mess” and never-elected-to-anything Sen. Colin Kenny says, “It would be a mistake to appoint another civilian.”
As Ian Mulgrew writes, “We need the force to be reimagined, restructured and its culture reborn.” Stephen Harper appointed the civilian commissioner but William Elliott has played the game according to RCMP rules. He joined the effort to undermine CPC Commissioner Paul Kennedy and he’s delayed and obfuscated important issues, initiated changes but allowed them to be sidetracked. Harper and Elliott need to show the public and the entire RCMP membership that things are changing. Start first by reforming the command after removing those sensitive souls who believed themselves treated impolitely.