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Yeah, it was an odd title for me to write, so don’t feel strange if it feels weird to read it! Over the past many years there has been very little to give any of us hope when it comes to the RCMP. Scandal after scandal has headlined every newspaper and television station across the nation; stories of RCMP members killing civilians or brutally beating them for sport, stealing both from others and from the RCMP itself, allegations that RCMP members themselves have sexually assaulted their fellow female RCMP members… I could probably write the list for a month and not be finished.
I actually thought that William Elliott, the former RCMP Commissioner, might do some good. It was the right idea to put a civilian in charge for the RCMP after the corruption and entitlement-laden reign of Commissioner Zaccardelli finally came to an end. After all, something had to change, right?
But the RCMP itself refused to change, refused to he held to account for its actions and inactions on so many horrifying fronts. Elliott wasn’t one of “them”, so they weren’t about to listen to a word he said about anything, right from Day 1.
I guess I viewed that whole William Elliott fiasco as just one more piece of evidence that the RCMP had lost any credibility or integrity that it once had.
So what exactly is it that gives me a renewed sense of optimism now that a lifelong RCMP member has again taken over the top job?
It’s hard to quantify, really, but it starts with what I’ve watched him say on television and what I’ve read attributed to him in the print media.
Paulson actually seems to comprehend that the average Canadian doesn’t think very highly of his force. That alone is a massive difference from past heads of the force. For what seems like forever, Elliott’s term aside, the RCMP has not given a rat’s behind what anyone thought of them, their arrogance and their increasingly corrupt ways.
Paulson actually seems willing to acknowledge there are a great many flaws with the RCMP and its internal culture of secrecy and covering up for bad cops.
It’s about time.
I write about bad RCMP members on the pages of this blog all the time. It’s not like I’ve ever had a shortage of stories to write about. The exact opposite is the case. The more I write about the failure of the RCMP to deal with their dirty laundry, the more people contact me and share their horror stories with me about what they have suffered at the hands of a force intent on protecting itself at all costs; a force willing to toss any and all civilians under the bus, as it were, so long as the force saves face.
Just last week I had another woman contact me about the horrors inflicted upon her family by yet another band of thug RCMP members in the British Columbia interior.
I recently watched the CBC documentary on the RCMP’s handling of sexual assault claims by numerous female RCMP members against a single RCMP man, who was transferred to British Columbia immediately following those allegations being made public.
He’s been here ever since, and has risen in rank. In fact he was promoted shortly after his case before the RCMP internal review board docked him a single day’s pay for his actions.
That documentary horrified me but it certainly did not surprise me. If RCMP members are going to treat the general public with a complete lack of respect and dignity, it only makes sense that attitude would manifest itself inside the force too.
The comments that I found particularly encouraging from Paulson were the ones that echo the sentiment I express here in the pages of this blog week in and week out… that far too many RCMP members abuse their authority and have absolutely no accountability for their actions.
That the head of the RCMP came out and publicly said as much tells me there’s a new sheriff in town and he doesn’t much like the way things have been going.
I suppose the last thing that gives me hope is that Paulson is an ex-fighter pilot with the Canadian Air Force.
While I’ve only ever known one former Canadian fighter pilot (and test pilot) personally, that man has more integrity in his little finger than most Canadians have in their entire body. He tells the truth and doesn’t much care if someone doesn’t like it. He explains what is wrong and what is needed to be done to correct the problem in clear, easy-to-understand statements. He takes no crap from anyone.
Paulson appears to be cut from that same cloth.
The most promising thing I think I’ve heard come from him, though, is in regards to the long-standing policy of continuing to pay RCMP members who have shamed themselves and the RCMP with their criminal conduct. Paulson has said he wants to see swifter discipline including suspensions without pay.
"I want to give our members the benefit of the doubt, but we shouldn't have a presumption-of-innocence approach to managing discipline when it comes to matters that are plainly made out and are outrageous," Paulson said.
"The organization's integrity calls for some leadership from me and commanding officers in order to act swiftly in order to preserve and protect the integrity of the RCMP."
I’ve railed against the policy of rewarding bad cops with paid vacations since I began writing this daily blog. It’s a policy that encourages bad behaviour and it must end. That Paulson is willing to go there is a very good sign.
“I don’t want to appear heavy-handed, but we’re going to act,” he said.
That is something the government appears to be backing as well.
In addition to calling on Paulson to deal with the culture of silence and the culture of secrecy inside the RCMP, the government has formally brought in the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP and charged them with getting to the bottom of the sexual harassment issue within the force.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said that it was “not about dealing with individual complaints but getting to the bottom of a system that seems to be failing members of the RCMP.”
Paulson has taken that challenge seriously and in addition to the external review being done by the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, he has ordered his own internal review of all outstanding cases of sexual harassment.
“I want a full, fair and thorough look at how we handle allegations of sexual harassment so we can get to the bottom of the problem, fix it and get on with the critical work of keeping Canadians safe.”
Now before you think I’m all “ra ra Commissioner Paulson”, let me be clear.
Talk is cheap.
Anyone can say the right things at a press conference a few weeks after being sworn in.
It’s like an old boss of mine once said to me the day he hired me.
“Anyone can look good in an interview. Anyone can look good and work hard for a few weeks or even a month or two. The real test is this: how hard will you be working after you’ve been here for six months or a year?”
Well, Commissioner Paulson? You’ve been saying all the right things…
Now it’s time to DO all the right things and rid the RCMP of its thugs, rapists and thieves, and in so doing bring back some integrity and honour to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.