Systemic Disrespect: Almost half of all RCMP complaints are for abusive behaviour

It’s a shocking statistic from the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.  While attempting to find a specific decision on their website I discovered this tidbit of information:

43.6% of ALL complaints against the RCMP are for abusive behaviour and language.

That is incredible and shows a systemic problem that RCMP Commissioner Robert Paulson cannot be happy about.

I stumbled across this information while looking for some recent decisions by the RCMP Complaints Commission.  Shockingly, I discovered their website does not list a single RCMP complaint case past 2009.  I’ve written them asking where they’re hiding the rest of the decisions and hopefully they’ll respond with something other than “they are not publicly available“.

That being said, the information about RCMP complaints is displayed in a way that seemed odd to me.  After stating this:

The most common complaint issue relates to RCMP member attitude. This category can include behaviours that are perceived to be:

  • dismissive;
  • rude;
  • non-responsive;
  • biased;
  • unfair; or
  • lacking in empathy.

where they specifically state the “most common complaint issue relates to RCMP member attitude” the writers of this web page then specifically do NOT include the most telling statistic of all; 24.2% of all complaints against the RCMP are for abusive language.

Notice they specifically exclude this number from the table:

Complaints “other than abusive language” are a whopping 19.4% of all the complaints they receive, but when you combine that with the stats for abusive language complaints, 24.2, you end up with the stunning figure that almost half of all complaints against the RCMP (43.6%) are for their bad attitudes toward the mere citizens of Canada.

Is it any wonder the RCMP is held in such low esteem by Canadians?  How could it be otherwise when RCMP members clearly hold the rest of us in such contempt.

Here’s the thing that every single member of the RCMP needs to comprehend:  If you want public support, if you want we mere citizens of Canada to respect you then you must first treat us with respect.  This, according to the RCMP Complaints Commission, is something you are clearly NOT doing.

I was absolutely stunned when I saw that graph.  My mind immediately targeted the phrase “other than abusive language” and the numbers just didn’t add up.  I grabbed my calculator and sure enough, the biggest number of all was missing.

Do these folks really believe we’re that stupid?

I guess we already have the answer to that in the graph above.  Yes, they do.  They think we can’t add.  Or that even if we can add, we won’t make the connection between the opening statement, “The most common complaint issue relates to RCMP member attitude” and the graph that starts with “Attitude other than abusive language“.

The percentage is telling, even if the RCMP as a whole wants to deny the reality that 43.6% of complaints makes absolutely clear: there is a systemic attitude problem inside the RCMP.

The foundation of that attitude is as old as policing itself, I’m sure.  I doubt it was many years after Sir Robert Peel wrote his famous 9 Principles of Policing that the Fat Blue Wall was erected between “them” and “us”.


Police demand respect from us.  Fair enough, but there is a missing component here and that is the respect they must first show us.

When the starting attitude of a cop is that every single person they interact with is a criminal or scumbag until proved otherwise, they become insular and detached from the very people they ought to be most respectfully engaged with.

I remember an incident that happened a few years ago that really crystallized this for me.

It was late, after midnight I think, and I was on my way home from working in Vancouver.  I was going a little faster than I ought to have and that’s why he pulled me over.

It wasn’t because this particular RCMP member was rude in any way.  He wasn’t.  In fact he was quite decent.  But the thing that shocked me was his statement, after interrogating me as to where I lived (Lytton) and for how long (20+ years):

“Why don’t I know you?”

I was so dumbfounded by the question I sat there in stunned silence.

He walked back to his cruiser, discovered I was telling the truth, came back and gave me a warning instead of an expensive speeding ticket.  Like I said, that was rather decent of him as we both knew I had exceeded the speed limit coming down that hill.

It wasn’t until I continued driving toward home that a response to the good constable’s question came to me.

“Well, Constable, I keep to myself, I mind my own business, I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs, I don’t beat my wife and I don’t kick my dog.  Why on earth would you know me?  You have absolutely no reason to interact with me.”

But my own answer gives away part of the problem with systemic police bad attitudes, doesn’t it?

I’m not the sort of person an RCMP constable normally comes in contact with.

The sort of person they come in contact with most often are the criminals types, the scumbags if you will, of society.  I suspect it takes a very strong personality type to NOT become jaded by that; to NOT see the entire world as scumbags unworthy of respect and dignity.

The solution to this problem is not one that can come from the RCMP alone, although Commissioner Robert Paulson absolutely must address this issue and come up with ways to help his men and women understand that the vast majority of Canadians are decent folks; that as RCMP members they must, first and foremost, treat we mere citizens with respect.

That’s a given.

But I also believe there is a part for we mere citizens to play in all this as well.  In order for cops to realize, aside from being ordered to as part of their ongoing training, that there are good and decent citizens out there worthy of their respect and even (gasp!) their admiration, they must interact with us.

So maybe the thing to do for each of us individually is, the next time we see a cop on the street, is to ask them to allow us to buy them a cup of coffee and chat for a few minutes.  Maybe use a copy of this article as a starting point for your conversation.  But don’t be surprised if you’re advance is met with skepticism and distrust, at least initially.  You will likely be the first person who has ever approached them in this way.

What do you think?

What ideas do you have for changing the RCMP’s insanely high statistic for complaints of police bad attitudes?  Please let me know your thoughts in the comments area below.


4 thoughts on “Systemic Disrespect: Almost half of all RCMP complaints are for abusive behaviour

  1. hey chris,

    i thought id answer your query in regards to how to have the cops have better attitudes.

    this is an age-old problem as you noted, but where the cops are the most decent is as you suggest implicitly.

    it is where the communities are small and the cops must needs interact as real people with the citizens EVEN WHEN THEY ARE OFF DUTY BUT STILL KNOWN TO BE COPS.
    this is what makes the difference.

    where they are kept apart by huge communities and fraternal order of police lodges, and they drive around all day in air conditioned cruisers they develop the attitude that you mentioned.

    suburban cops i have always found to be the worst, because they tend to live in towns that they dont police.

    when i moved to shreveport louisiana, it took me a year to stop being suspicious of every cop, but there that actually live in town, drink at the same bars as everyone else, etc. so they are much more personable because they know you or the same people that you do.

    when they get off duty, they call non-cops to meet for a beer or to go motorcycling with or whatever.

    it is quite different than the south side of chicago where i spent most of my life.

    the key is to take the squad cars away and to make the cops walk and talk with people and business owners etc as a part of their daily routine. there have been towns that have taken this path and they have found a great net result in that crimes start to get solved when the cops interact pleasantly in with the community and ONLY go after criminals instead of spending all of their time harassing every driver at bar time, every person going 10 over coming down a hill, and every teen doing anything even remotely possible of being construed as “bad”.

    basically, they start doing actual policing instead of revenue gathering.

    when they do this, then the public begins to trust them and then they cooperate with them, and then the reverse is also true… and everyone benefits EXCEPT for big brother, because tyranny is not very successful when the police are citizens first… ie the same with the military; hense why the american constitution forbade/still forbids a standing army, which our tyrants ignore.

    the is an organization of military and police here called the 3 percenters; and they take an oath never to disobey the constitution no matter what any lesser law states or what any superior officer orders.

    have a good one chris !!

    1. Hey Jeff,

      I like how you put that… “when the police are citizens first.” That is so very true. That’s obviously the case in Kimmirut, Nunavut (Canada’s most northern territory) where citizens came to the aid of the town’s two RCMP members after someone opened fired on them. As I wrote in my article about that case, “Kimmirut, Nunavut, and Sir Robert Peel’s 9 Principles of Policing“:

      “Clearly RCMP Corporal Wendy Cornell and Constable Allan Jagoe are doing something right in this northern Canadian town. They’ve obviously earned the respect and trust of the majority of its citizens, just as Sir Robert Peel said they must.”

      It’s a lesson the rest of the RCMP desperately needs to learn. Sadly, the only thing I’m hearing is that the old boys network inside the force is determined to keep things from changing for the better. They’re happy with the status quo, even of the rest of the nation is not. Very unfortunate.

      When you talk of the “3 percenters” are you referring to the Oath Keepers? That’s the only group I’m aware of that is dedicated to obeying ONLY those laws and orders that do not violate the US Constitution. Sheriff Richard Mack is one of the driving forces there, if memory serves. What a great and dedicated man he is to the cause of freedom!

      1. I know you guy’s don’t think it is a good Idea for an RCMP officer to police in a town or city that they did not grow up in but their are reasons for that, such as the possibility of their past coming back. Say that that officer had done drugs ten years before he became a Mountie. If at one point he were to fall back into that temptation because he knows a guy who does these things. Or if he were to pull over one of his old buddies he might let him go because he knows him. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that an RCMP officer is so forgiving to his friends or to lazy to give a ticket but it is a possibility because of his connections within a city. But on the same note I do see your point that an officer may give that little something extra because he grew up in this city or town, that he might care more so he puts more into his work, but its better safe than sorry.
        And this part is for you Chris. Maybe that officer who pulled you over lives on the same street as you or even right next to you and he just meant that it was strange that he would not have seen you before even though you live so close to each other. See its all on perspective and about the way you interpret things. He most likely didn’t mean anything negative by his comment.

        1. Jon, if I lived in a big city where nobody knows their neighbours your comment on “perspective” might have merit. I don’t. I’ve owned my house here for over 25 years so I know this RCMP Constable didn’t live on the same street as me. He didn’t even live within 10 miles of me, since I personally know (or know of) every person who lives between me and town.

          And I wasn’t saying he was “negative”, only that his attitude surprised me and left me speechless. His comment also gave me pause to think of why he would say it, and why he didn’t know me. As I wrote in the column, I’m simply not the type of person that crosses his radar during the normal course of an RCMP constable’s day.

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