Working plan 'A' while preparing for plan 'B'

Morley Lymburner
December 11, 2011
By Morley Lymburner
Congratulations to new RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson. His appointment from within the ranks is a coming of age for this much challenged police force. Let’s hope the reigning government supports him in making the necessary changes outlined in the Brown Report of 2007 – but I am reminded of the old saying that life is really all about how you handle plan ‘B.’

Congratulations to new RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson. His appointment from within the ranks is a coming of age for this much challenged police force. Let’s hope the reigning government supports him in making the necessary changes outlined in the Brown Report of 2007 – but I am reminded of the old saying that life is really all about how you handle plan ‘B.’

Paulson certainly is starting out with a strong footing. With eight provinces and three territories now locked and loaded to 20 year contracts, complete with federal subsidies for 20 per cent of their policing costs, a lot of pressure has been removed from the top. It is hoped the myriad of promises to those jurisdictions can now be quickly addressed and accommodated.

Other issues have loomed since Brown made his 49 recommendations and more are on the horizon. It is incumbent upon the new commissioner to keep ahead of these issues and not let them pile up.

I last published a list of suggestions for a better RCMP in 2007 and curiously enough most, if not all, still need addressing. Here is my new and improved list, which can also be ignored.

  • Reconstitute the change management team: created after Brown was released. This advisory board slowly melted away after releasing one Pollyanna report. Little was ever heard from it and it never produced a substantive progress report.

  • Create an association (not a union) with binding arbitration rights. The current loose knit organization of member “representatives” elected in each detachment advises compatriots who run afoul of discipline regulations. They do not negotiate wages, benefits or working conditions and only work within the system management currently permits. Every other Canadian police service has associations, which have proven to be the first line of defence against management abuses. There is no better way to determine the wants and needs of the membership.

  • Create a civilian oversight or police services board, a proven second line of defence against management abuses in every other Canadian police service. The RCMP would be well served by one in each province. There is no better way to determine community wants and needs.

  • A working agreement restricting how officers are used, setting minimum staffing levels and overtime pay and governing rules for transfers, would be a good start.

  • Overhaul the draconian RCMP Act. Patterned after 19th Century military regulations, it threatens officers with hard jail time for any breach, even after they leave the force. Although it’s nice to see the lash is no longer used, modern police acts aim to make better employees rather than set punitive retribution for wrongdoings.

  • Create a civilian public complaints commission with true investigative powers. Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit has developed considerable expertise and has earned credibility with both police and the community. They are the model.

These actions can be done immediately. Here are some “blue sky ideas:”

  • The RCMP’s main purpose should be to improve standards by working with police colleges, conducting internal audits and developing regulations and technology to improve and encourage inter-force co-operation.

  • The RCMP was formerly seen as a low budget or union busting alternative to established agencies. The onerous task of recruiting, training and outfitting such a large agency is a monumental task. Each province should recruit their own officers and send them to Depot for training.

  • The RCMP should be responsible for all cross boundary law enforcement and combating organized crime on a national scale.

  • If the above occurs, the RCMP could get back into internal national security and counterintelligence. With a more centralized focus, it would be a perfect fit.

  • The RCMP could become the national special investigations unit; independent investigators ready to look into police corruption and serious injury or death resulting from police actions.

  • Develop and maintain a college of “best practices” and a police research institute. Depot or the Canadian Police College could become a “train the trainers” facility for all other police agencies.

  • Continue to maintain current cross jurisdictional databases such as CPIC and AFIS but also work on bridging the information sharing gap between agencies with varying hardware and software.

A federally funded police service should be actively involved in a myriad of projects. One of the biggest opportunities for saving money and resources is to stop duplicating the enforcement duties of other federal agencies. The Canada Border Services Agency, which is constantly under utilized and stubbing its toes on the RCMP, is just one example.

In the meantime, let’s get behind the new commissioner and wish him all the best. He has a tough job ahead. Let’s see how he moves ahead with those plan ‘A’s and how eloquently he can shift to plan ‘B’s when necessary.

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