William Elliott was the first civilian Commissioner of the RCMP. An immutable failure while heading Canada’s once esteemed police agency, Elliott departed recently. Like disgraced predecessor Giuliano Zaccardelli, this man with little police experience is headed for an Interpol sinecure. The RCMP is further punished by having to pay his salary for at least three years while he develops U.N. partnerships in New York to identify international criminals. (Using mirrors, perhaps?)
After senior colleagues denounced Elliott’s leadership, The Globe and Mail’s Daniel Leblanc wrote this in November 2010:
According to the complainants, Mr. Elliott threw temper tantrums, failed to listen to his officers, acted disrespectfully and suppressed dissent. There were also concerns that he didn’t understand police operations, and that he failed to build, or even maintain, links with other police forces inside and outside of Canada.
Mr. Elliott, however, faced the mutineers head-on and got the support of the Harper government…
After the RCMP paid $44,000 for Elliott to take three days of “executive coaching” in Scottsdale, Arizona, he completed a purge of the force’s senior executive, with Deputy Commissioner Raf Souccar and others pushed out the door. A contributor to rcmpwatch.com — an online community of insiders and pro-police traditionalists — faulted Elliott’s ways :
His disdain for the “little guy” in his cross country trips shows, and therefore other than sycophantic types fawning support, his style does not engender trust, optimism and desire to follow through with meaningful change.
Not surprisingly, Elliott was paving his own road out a few months later. Despite support from loyal associates in the Harper Government, the RCMP’s mounting list of public failures and scandals testified the police service was spiralling into greater turmoil under its civilian Commissioner. The three year management experiment had to end.
Unfortunately, the Conservative Government provided lucrative rewards to Elliott despite his incompetence. Canada has reached an incongruous place where low-profile workers who perform inadequately earn discharge with little or no severance but high officials gain generous rewards, even after ruinous performances during brief periods of appointment. To ordinary citizens, the disparity is reprehensible, an unacceptable element of aristocratic entitlement authored by officials who hope for similar treatment for themselves in comparable circumstances.
Elliott put the best public face on his removal but it came days before Parliament’s public safety committee was to hear testimony from former senior RCMP officers about management disorder. That Elliott’s tenure was a costly failure is made clear by comments to the Globe and Mail by his replacement, new Commissioner Bob Paulson:
“Admitting to a culture of bullying and a legacy of botched investigations, the Mounties’ new commander says his police force faces obsolescence if it doesn’t get its act together – and quickly.
“RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson says his mandate is to “clear-cut” problems that have taken root so deeply in the police culture that some Mounties are now embarrassed to tell neighbours where they work. Speaking to The Globe and Mail editorial board after a month on the job, he gave an assessment of internal dysfunction so candid that similar remarks would be almost unthinkable coming from the head of any other corporate or government entity…”
Commissioner Paulson’s frankness is both unusual and refreshing. Certainly Canadians are not surprised by anything Paulson said but they might be surprised at his directness and honesty. He is making clear to his members, and the public, that real change is necessary, that platitudes are inadequate. It is a good start down what will be a difficult road.