(Editorial, Winnipeg Free Press) – Allegations of sexual harassment and bullying within the RCMP are just the latest black marks in an incredibly long list of indictments against the national police force. In fact, there has been so much controversy, scandal, criminal misconduct, fraud and reports of incompetence in the RCMP in recent years, it’s an open question whether the institution is broken beyond repair.
If a book were written on RCMP misconduct over the last 40 years, it would run into thousands of pages, starting with the force’s illegal activities in Quebec in the 1970s, which resulted in 17 Mounties facing criminal charges, and ending with the scandals involving the Taser death of Robert Dziekanski, the RCMP’s flawed investigations into missing women and reports that some senior officers (male, of course) mistreated and bullied women on the force.
Nor have the force’s commissioners — the highest rank in the force — been free from controversy.
Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli was forced to resign in 2007 amid allegations of nepotism and pension fraud, while his successor, civilian William Elliott stepped down under a cloud of reports that he was abusive.
It was senior officers who went public with their allegations of abuse against Mr. Elliott, yet the force now claims, in connection with the recent reports of sexual intimidation, that harassment of any kind is not tolerated.
It’s the kind of circle-the-wagons approach that is typical of police forces under fire, but it is particularly true of the RCMP. All police forces have a regimental mentality, but no police force has more rules and protocols than the RCMP.
But, ironically, it is also the force that seems to break the rules the most, or at least it seems to get caught the most.
The RCMP, with 26,000 employees, likes to boast that it is unique in the world because it is a national, federal, provincial and municipal policing body. Some critics may think it has too many duties and that it is spread too far and wide, but there are many large organizations that are well-run.
No, the problem is not size, but leadership.
The next commissionaire must conduct a top-to-bottom review of the historic and once-proud force that remains a symbol of Canadian identity around the world. He or she can start by reminding the Mounties they are police officers, who are expected to exemplify the highest standards of conduct, and not the lowest.