Blue Line


May 10, 2013  By Morley Lymburner

664 words – MR BOOK REVIEW

TITLE: No Easy Ride

AUTHOR: Ian Parsons

REVIEWER: Morley Lymburner


I eagerly awaited the arrival of by retired RCMP Insp. Ian Parsons and his book did not disappoint. It’s a walk down RCMP memory lane and Parsons’ clarity of writing and skill in story telling impresses.

The book held me in rapt attention as I related to both the differences and similarities of police work to my own. Certainly the training process Parson went through was quite unique and in many ways unrelated to the rest of his career.

Parsons pulls no punches when describing the unique form of training the RCMP made recruits endure in the early years. Much of it included cruelty, mean spirited sarcasm and bullying. Some instructors saw such tactics as character building but in Parson’s troop of 33 it meant the loss of nine members over a six-week period. Considerable efforts were made to dispose of members seen as not having a suitable physical appearance.

I was reminded of an applicant once told by an RCMP recruiter that he was too ugly to be considered. Accepting this subjective comment he applied to the Halifax Police and was accepted. Years later he became the chief.

Being a second generation Mountie Parsons found himself admiring both his father and the force. It was, therefore, a natural inclination to join the RCMP and now write a book with far more experiences than he alone could share. As a child he was weaned on RCMP culture which, as the book points out, bridges a total of 64 consecutive years.

Although the book is a form of historical narrative of one man’s experiences, it also displays rare insights into the RCMP personality and how it has evolved over the years. As Parson’s explains in his preface, “The RCMP evolved from a small band of men in 1873 into a viable police organization during the early part of the 20th century.

“Initial frontier police duties demanded little sophistication, but the Force acquired expertise as it grew and assumed responsibility for almost all policing functions in the dominion of Canada. As demands on the RCMP increased, it was unable to stay abreast of this astounding growth, largely due to its high recruiting standards and limited training facilities.

“The philosophy of the RCMP has always been ‘never say no.’ This inability to decline a request is at the root of many of the organization’s problems. I strongly believe that the Force must shed some of its numerous and varied burdens if it hopes to survive as the charismatic institution beloved by so many Canadians.”

This attitude of “never say no” became abundantly clear to me some years back when an arbitrator indicated duties in federal parks were hazardous enough that some form of armed enforcement had to be present. Instead of issuing sidearms to park wardens the heritage minister approached the RCMP for assistance. It quickly agreed and in a matter of weeks Mounties were torn from such duties as undercover and importation investigations, placed back in uniform and assigned to police campers at federal parks. Fortunately someone came to their senses and began a program to issue sidearms to wardens.

One section rather telling of the RCMP personality is revealed in Chapter 10. Parsons was promoted in 1975, moved to the planning branch (euphemistically called “the puzzle factory”) and assigned the task of studying the concept of paying members overtime. One senior member disagreed with the final report, which recommended overtime payment. He stated that this would compel him to identify and promote people who could manage resources rather than competent policemen. The sudden awareness of the two separate skill-sets as a necessity for modern police work had completely eluded him.

I can imagine only a few people who could share their experiences as well as Ian Parsons. leaves nothing to the imagination about where the force has come from… and where it should be going.

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