May 29 2010 EDMONTON - For the second time in a row, RCMP Commissioner William Elliot has promoted Alberta’s top Mountie to be his right-hand man.
RCMP Deputy Commissioner Rod Knecht, who heads up the force in Alberta and northwest Canada, will take over the role of senior deputy commissioner July 1 when Bill Sweeney retires.
This will be the second time Knecht has replaced Sweeney, who was in charge of Alberta and northwest Canada before leaving in 2007 to help Elliot try to overhaul the RCMP’s reputation.
Knecht said he doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that two consecutive senior deputy commissioners were plucked from overseeing the territory that covers Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
"It’s a very diverse area and it’s actually 51 per cent of Canada’s land mass," Knecht said Saturday.
"It’s a tremendous training ground, in the sense that you deal with five different and distinct governments at the provincial level, approximately 200 governments at the municipal level, and they have very different approaches."
Knecht, the commanding officer for RCMP’s ‘K’ Division, was born in Red Deer. He joined the RCMP as a 19-year-old in 1977 and has served in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
In 1997, he led the RCMP’s special task force that laid criminal charges against the Canadian Red Cross Society following the tainted blood scandal.
He took command of the Toronto drug section in 2001 and after 9/11 was responsible for risk management in the Toronto area.
He became Alberta’s second-in-command in 2003 and was the officer in charge of criminal operations when James Roszko shot four young Mounties outside Mayerthorpe in 2005.
Knecht was made Alberta’s top Mountie in 2007.
Some of his proudest moments have to do with gains he achieved for ‘K’ Division’s 2,200 officers, including having them covered under the Alberta health care system.
"We weren’t before. We were treated as non-residents of Alberta, and that created a lot of problems for our members: difficulties getting prescriptions, difficulties in getting doctors, and actually we ended up having to pay a lot more for medical than the average Albertan."
The move to Ottawa will mark his 15th - and, he said, his last - transfer.
He described his new role as "doing all things RCMP for the entire country." Knecht will work to continue a transformation the RCMP has been attempting since disgraced former commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli was forced to step down.
Knecht said the RCMP has made great strides since a 2007 commission investigated the culture and governance of the force.
"What we want to do now is create an atmosphere and a culture of continuous improvement," he said.
"We want to heighten and maintain public confidence that we’re there for the public in delivering the best police service we possibly can for them."
The new commanding officer for ‘K’ Division has not been determined. Knecht said he’ll be sad to leave Alberta, where he’s lived for the last seven years.
"Quite frankly, it’s become home to my wife and my family and my two daughters. We’ve really enjoyed our time here."
h1. EXECUTIVE DIGEST
h2. May 28 2010
MONTREAL - The Canadian government says it’s ratcheting up its efforts to combat contraband smokes. The feds announced a series of new initiatives Friday on the heels of a lashing from advocacy groups who say they haven’t done enough. Page 2
h2. May 29 2010
The RCMP says it has figured out what went wrong when it bought two different computer systems that can’t communicate with each other. Page 3
h2. Jun 02 2010
CALGARY - Police have laid charges including attempted murder against a man who allegedly stabbed an RCMP officer numerous times. Page 6
h2. Jun 02 2010
GATINEAU, Que. - Five police forces launched a series of raids against an organized crime ring in the western Quebec region of Outaouais on Wednesday. At least 200 officers were involved and more than 20 people were arrested. Page 7
h2. June 02 2010
COLE HARBOUR, N.S.The RCMP are welcoming the latest member of the force — Crosby the dog, named for Canadian hockey great Sidney Crosby. Page 7