Supporting a vision for federal policing

Diane Jennings
May 09, 2011
By Diane Jennings
With a focus on organized crime, economic integrity, border enforcement and national security, the RCMP "O" (Ontario) Division works closely with police partners and other law enforcement agencies to keep Canada safe and secure.  The past year was very fast paced for the division, which has primary law enforcement authority in federal matters in Ontario outside of the National Capital Region. The more significant events included the Olympic Torch Run, Vancouver Winter Olympics, G8 & G20, the Royal visit and Special Olympics. Officers from the division were also  deployed to Afghanistan and United Nations missions in Sudan and Haiti during 2010.  The RCMP's association with Ontario dates from 1873 but "O" Division did not formally begin until 1920 when the  "Royal North West Mounted Police" was reorganized into Canada's federal police force and given its present name.  It began with six detachments and had just 37 officers by 1923. 

With a focus on organized crime, economic integrity, border enforcement and national security, the RCMP "O" (Ontario) Division works closely with police partners and other law enforcement agencies to keep Canada safe and secure. 

The past year was very fast paced for the division, which has primary law enforcement authority in federal matters in Ontario outside of the National Capital Region. The more significant events included the Olympic Torch Run, Vancouver Winter Olympics, G8 & G20, the Royal visit and Special Olympics. Officers from the division were also  deployed to Afghanistan and United Nations missions in Sudan and Haiti during 2010. 

The RCMP's association with Ontario dates from 1873 but "O" Division did not formally begin until 1920 when the  "Royal North West Mounted Police" was reorganized into Canada's federal police force and given its present name.  It began with six detachments and had just 37 officers by 1923. 

Today it has 15 detachments, a headquarters in London, and more than 1,600 officers, civilian members and public service employees led by commanding officer Asst/Comm Steven White.

The division divides the province into three districts: the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), North East (NE) and South West (SW). Each has five detachments and is led by a superintendent. 

h3. GTA:

Bowmanville (Toronto East), Etobicoke (Toronto Airport Detachment), Milton (Toronto West) and Newmarket (Toronto North).

Cornwall, Kingston, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay (services 92 per cent of Ontario's geographic area).

h3. SW: 

Hamilton Niagara Regional, Kitchener, London, Sarnia and Windsor.

h3. Federal mandate

The "O" Division's strategic objectives are aligned with the five RCMP national strategic priorities:    * Effectively respond to threats to Canada's national security.  * Reduce the threat and impact of serious and organized crime.  * Reduce youth involvement in crime as victims and offenders.  * Contribute to safer and healthier Aboriginal communities.  * Contribute to Canada's economic integrity through reducing crime. 

National security: The RCMP has the primary responsibility for preventing, detecting and investigating terrorism-related criminal activities in Canada. The"O" Division Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (O-INSET) plays a critical role in investigations and is made up of employees from the RCMP, CSIS, CBSA, OPP, Toronto, York, Durham and Peel police and Ministry of the Attorney General and Public Prosecution Services Canada (PPSC). 

h3. O-INSET successes

  • June 2006: O-INSET arrests 18 members of a group allegedly planning to detonate explosive devices at significant public buildings in Ontario, including Parliament Hill and the Toronto Stock Exchange. Dubbed Project OSAGE (also known as the Toronto 18), the final accused in the case was recently sentenced to life for his participation in this terrorist group. Throughout the trials, countless pieces of evidence showed the seriousness of this threat. Innocent people would have been killed and seriously injured and there would have been extensive property damage and economic and social harm. No single agency can effectively respond to all terrorist threats. This national security criminal investigation was part of a long, resource-intensive and complex investigation involving several agencies, both domestic and international. 

  • October 2010: O-INSET and the Toronto Police Service (TPS) Intelligence Division begin a joint national security criminal investigation. On March 29 the RCMP arrest and charge an individual in the Toronto area for terrorism-related offences for attempting to participate and counselling a person to participate in terrorist activity. It is alleged that he was about to board a plane and fly to Somalia to join Al Shabaab and participate in terrorist activities. He is currently being detained pending his court hearing. The RCMP and TPS were able to obtain numerous critical pieces of evidence required to lay criminal charges. 

"The RCMP plays a critical role in the fight against global terrorism and this investigation is an example of our dedication to this important cause," says RCMP Insp. Keith Finn, OIC of O-INSET. "We will continue to work with partners to eliminate terrorist criminal activity in Canada and abroad."  

Since O-INSET's inception the Anti-Terrorism Act has been tested in the courts and the collective outcome has demonstrated Canada's ability to respond to terrorist threats and confirmed the belief that the path to their successful disruption is paved by effective investigation. 

The RCMP is also committed to continuing to play a crucial role in preventing terrorist attacks and protecting the safety and security of Canadians while respecting their personal freedoms. The RCMP established the National Security Community Outreach (NSCO) initiative to engage all of Canada's ethnic, cultural and religious communities to protect our national security. 

NSCO is part of a strategy to build mutual trust and understanding between the RCMP and communities affected by national security criminal investigations. It is based on the philosophy that effective counter-radicalization programming is about promoting a diverse community that is tolerant and inclusive, rather than targeting specific ideologies or beliefs. 

Serious and organized crime: Organized crime hurts individuals in the communities we serve, which is why  detecting and deterring it is a top priority. The RCMP works with its partners to gather and analyze information, develop intelligence and identify groups to focus on.

The RCMP Greater Toronto Area Drug Section, in partnership with the TPS Major Drug Unit and CBSA, completed a 15 month investigation into opium importation and heroin trafficking in the Toronto area in May 2010. Simultaneous search warrants executed at nine locations resulted in seven arrests and the seizure of approximately 10,000 ecstasy pills. Nine individuals face various charges including importing and possessing opium, conspiracy to import, trafficking heroin, possession of ecstasy for the purpose of trafficking and laundering proceeds of crime. 

"This investigation is a result of the collective efforts of many dedicated investigators and demonstrates that inter-agency cooperation is fundamental in tackling such complex criminal enterprises," says RCMP Supt. Rick Penney. 

"The pooling and sharing of resources from multi-jurisdictional enforcement agencies combined with cooperation from the community is critical in the successful disruption and dismantling of these criminal organizations," says TPS S/Insp. Mario Di Tommaso. 

Economic integrity: Maintaining investor confidence in Canada's publicly-traded companies and capital markets is crucial for sustaining growth. The Integrated Market Enforcement Teams (IMETs) initiative strengthens the ability to detect, investigate and deter capital market fraud by focusing resources on investigating and prosecuting the most serious corporate frauds and market illegalities. The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is home to three specialized IMET teams currently engaged in a number of investigations.

Federal policing: The "O" Division federal policing services are organized into commercial crime, criminal intelligence, customs and excise, drug enforcement, federal enforcement, and immigration and passport sections, which are found in most detachments. When combined with specialized units, they form into three areas with distinctive operational focus: Economic crime, border integrity and drugs and organized crime. 

The RCMP is also federally mandated to protect the prime minister, governor general, other Canadian executives, visiting heads of state, internationally protected persons and members of the Royal family. Protective operations is also responsible for protecting designated sites, major events, Canadian air carrier security, explosives disposal and tactical troop operations. 

Federal Operations Support Services (FOSB) supports criminal investigators through such services as surveillance,  including electronic investigations; fixed wing aircraft and a helicopter; technical expertise to investigate computer crime, including assistance with forensic analysis; oversight of the Federal Witness Protection Program; 24 hour access to the RCMP through the Operational Communications Centre.

Two additional FOSB units support Ontario's diverse communities. The Aboriginal Policing Section works in partnership with First Nations police services, the OPP, community leaders and other organizations to provide a service in line with the community needs. 

The Drugs and Organized Crime Awareness Section (DOCAS) works with federal, provincial, territorial and community partners to develop unique, long-term solutions to substance abuse issues. One of its main programs is Racing Against Drugs, a community-based drug and alcohol awareness program developed by the London RCMP detachment in partnership with the staff and students of Saunders Secondary School, Whitlock/Abby Ford Quality Care racing team and Ford Canada.

The primary objective is to use auto racing to capture the attention of young people and communicate with them through an exciting and high profile sport – one with no tolerance for substance abuse. The program is designed to promote healthy, drug free lifestyles and allow Grade 5 and 6 children a chance to experience the excitement of racing by competing on a video racing console for bragging rights. 

{Partnerships and integration}

The RCMP has participated in multi-force operations in Ontario for more than 30 years, proudly working with partners at all levels and between organizations towards effective integrated policing in detecting, reducing and preventing organized and other serious crime. These partnerships have evolved into the 'integrated' policing model that is characteristic of the RCMP today.

The "O" Division led integrated units are specialized, comprised of multiple federal or law enforcement agencies, include: 

  • Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU) 
  • Immigration Task Force (ITF) 
  • Integrated Border Enforcement Team (IBET) 
  • Marine Security Enforcement Team (MSET)  
  • Integrated Counterfeit Enforcement Team (ICET) 
  • Integrated Market Enforcement Team (IMET) 
  • Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET) 
  • Integrated Proceeds of Crime (IPOC)  
  • Regional Integrated Gang Unit (RIGU)
  • Cornwall Regional Task Force (RTF)

The integration with enforcement partners allows for greater efficiency by sharing information and working together daily using the most effective service delivery model. Partnerships with policing partners and the development of multi-disciplinary teams within the division have led to some great successes.    The Contraband Tobacco Initiative is a new integrated response to combat contraband tobacco organized crime in the Greater Cornwall Region. The CFSEU has officers from the OPP, RCMP, Cornwall and Akwesasne Mohawk police and the CBSA. Members, assisted by the Cornwall Regional Task Force, arrested two residents for possessing unstamped tobacco last October. 

Further investigation and information that contraband tobacco was being distributed led to a search warrant and the seizure of 5850 cartons of illegal cigarettes, more than $9,000 cash and oxycodone pills. Organized crime is extensively involved in the illicit tobacco market and uses profits to fund other activities, including drug and firearms smuggling.

h3. Removing borders

The RCMP's role in marine security is to enforce laws dealing with offences relating to national security, organized crime and other federal statutes, including smuggling, drug trafficking and immigration. Bridges, tolls and security booths are key indicators of international borders on land, however this line is far less distinguishable on water and has been a barrier for both Canadian and American law enforcement in disrupting organized crime. The RCMP partnered with US authorities to develop Project Shiprider – the model of a new generation of integrated law enforcement – to tackle these transgressions freely across the border. 

The project is the first of its kind in truly co-operative cross-border law enforcement. It removes the international maritime boundary and allows both RCMP and USCG officers to continue enforcement and security operations past their international border. By being able to flow freely back and forth, they can better prevent cross-border smuggling and trafficking of contraband and people.

"Cross-border criminality is a two-way street and it's good for both the security of Canada and the United States to have a more collaborative relationship together," says Supt. Warren Coons, IBET director.

"O" Division announced in March that it would join the Operational Integration Centre (OIC) at the Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan. It's intended to be a mechanism for leveraging law enforcement capabilities to detect, deter and prevent security risks or threats along the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair area. 

The OIC will serve to improve unity of effort among all federal, state and local agencies in border security and public safety. RCMP participation will aid in providing front-line personnel and decision makers with on-going situational awareness of the Detroit-Windsor maritime corridor and ultimately contribute to a more comprehensive marine domain awareness picture of the entire area.

The RCMP will place a full time intelligence analyst in the centre. Reporting directly to the Great Lakes Marine Security Operations Centre (GL-MSOC), the analyst will gather and analyze information to assist in preparing operational and strategic bulletins, intelligence reports, threat assessments and situation reports. 

"The Detroit-Windsor maritime corridor, with its surrounding rivers, channels, bridges, tunnels and other critical infrastructures, plays an important role in sustaining economic health," says RCMP S/Sgt. Steve Brown, who heads the RCMP unit at the GL-MSOC. "Maintaining vigilant situational awareness of this area is therefore important to both countries in terms of our collective economic and national security interests."

h3. The way forward

The RCMP's vision for change is to be an adaptive, accountable, trusted organization of fully engaged employees demonstrating outstanding leadership and providing world-class police services.    Leadership development and performance improvement are national priorities. Over the past few years this has resulted in the creation and implementation of supervisor and manager development programs which are strongly endorsed by "O" Division senior management.  In contrast to traditional training courses, they are one year programs supporting a transformational change in RCMP culture. 

The programs follow a national curriculum specific to the RCMP focusing on competency based management and include references specific to "O" Division and federal policing. In addition to performance improvement, they deal with a variety of concepts including coaching, leading change, ethics, harassment, workplace relations, strategic thinking, documenting performance and supervising and managing the changing generations of employees. They are offered to all employees in supervisory or managerial positions or preparing to take on such a role. 

The overwhelming response by both participants and management has been very positive, with the results a combination of improved individual leadership skills and unit performance.  

Improving ways to communicate with the public, partners and clients was the driving force behind the launch of the "O" division Facebook page last  September. Although the RCMP provides vast federal policing services in Ontario, many people do not realize it's active in the province because they don't see officers in their communities. 

 "Facebook offers us an unprecedented opportunity to not only get our message out but to establish and encourage an active dialogue and develop relationships with the people that we serve," said Jean Floyd, the division's new media specialist.

h3. CO message

With the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police marking its 60th year of being the voice of Ontario's police executives, the RCMP is very excited to join the OPP in co-hosting the 2011 annual conference and global showcase.      Contributing to safer and healthier Aboriginal communities is one of the RCMP's five strategic priorities. The focus on policing with Aboriginal Peoples under this year's conference theme "Together We Are Stronger" represents an opportunity for Ontario police to showcase their commitment to First Nations communities, while also highlighting our collaborative efforts to deliver professional policing services.

"I look forward to joining you as we celebrate this remarkable milestone and create the foundation for the next 60 years of OACP leadership, innovation and success," says White. "As the new commanding officer for the "O" Division RCMP, I look forward to working very closely with our law enforcement partners throughout Ontario as we envision new approaches to keeping our communities safe.

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