(CBC News) – RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson’s pledge to restore public confidence in the national police force — following a number of high-profile scandals — has created tension among some members, who feel he is lumping all officers into the same category, a recent email exchange obtained by CBC News reveals.
But the head of the organization says change is necessary and it requires “all hands on deck.”
A staff sergeant from B.C. wrote to Paulson after the RCMP chief issued a video statement focusing on the need for solid police work, accountable leadership, discipline and a respectful workplace.
Paulson has been vocal about the need to rid the force of its “bad apples” and the government recently introduced legislation to give the commissioner more powers to discipline or fire those who give the force a bad name.
Staff Sgt. Tim Chad, however, wrote to Paulson saying trust is missing between officers and senior managers, who are trying to create a new culture within the RCMP when only a few are to blame for its woes.
“We are not all a bunch of screw-ups but it is evident we are all being lumped into that category and we are not valued and trusted,” he wrote in an email in July.
Chad also said the RCMP senior executive committee is pursuing changes to benefits without proper consultation with employees.
“We are being paid lip service and this is of grave concern,” he wrote.
Paulson responded by suggesting that Chad is “living under a rock” if he thinks that the RCMP does not require an “all hands on deck” approach to restoring the public’s trust.
“Wake up Man, this organization is at risk,” he wrote.
RCMP challenges not a ‘PR exercise’
Paulson stuck by his comments in an interview with CBC News and said the RCMP troubles didn’t start with recent accusations of sexual harassment but go back years, including a pension scandal and the Taser-related death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport.
“When some of our members think of our challenges as being a PR exercise that is being dominated by some bad behaving members then we do the organization a disservice,” Paulson said.
The RCMP is facing a number of lawsuits from women who allege they were subject to harassment and bullying on the job. One class-action suit has been filed by hundreds of current and former Mounties.
Paulson said the RCMP needs to make fundamental changes or risk losing the trust of Canadians.
“The employees in the RCMP need to understand what’s at stake,” Paulson told CBC. “And not everybody does. A lot of people do but not everybody does.”
Chad declined a request for comment saying it would violate policy.
Staff Sgt. Mike Casault, from the RCMP’s staff relations program, said he has heard similar complaints from other officers but said it is due largely to the widespread changes coming to the organization.
Along with the changes to the way officers are disciplined, the RCMP announced it would overhaul employee health, disability and support services to reduce costs.
“There are some members out there that are getting disgruntled, discouraged and so Tim [Chad] is not the only one,” Casault said.
Mounties are dealing with a number of unknowns and many are looking for clarity about what’s in store, he said.
Paulson was promoted to commissioner in November of last year and pledged to transform the RCMP to restore morale within the force and trust with Canadians.