Darryl Davies (Editorial, Ottawa Citizen) – Re: RCMP discipline, June 23.
I believe that RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson is deluding himself if he thinks that changes to the RC-MP Act will help him deal with the myriad problems of misconduct facing the force.
While the RCMP claims it offers members a healthy and safe work environment, the number of lawsuits and officers who have left the force suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder speaks for itself. This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that the RCMP has failed to address the problem of alcohol abuse and mental health issues that have plagued the RCMP for years.
About 10 years ago, research by the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry in Toronto (now named the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health), found that the number of officers consuming three to seven drinks a day was in the magnitude of 62 per cent and that 35 per cent needed psychological intervention. Despite this fact, the RCMP has done nothing to correct the problem. From the time recruits start training at depot and throughout their policing career, alcohol features prominently in their lives. Alcohol use is so deeply embedded in the RCMP’s culture that even when members and particularly officers become alcoholics and engage in aberrant behaviour nothing punitive happens to the officers involved. Indeed, if the problem is alcohol related, it appears the RCMP goes out of its way to mitigate the penalty.
Compare this to the discriminatory manner in which the RCMP treats members whose deviant behaviour is related to a mental illness such as PTSD.
In Alberta, Sgt. Don Ray was transferred to British Columbia after being disciplined for a variety of sexual and alcohol-related deviant acts. In Surrey B.C., Const. Derrick Holdenried was charged with theft in 2011 and suspended without pay for stealing $22 in loose change from a community policing station. Psychologists attributed the 39-year-old’s behaviour to PTSD following his attendance at a “horrific” suicide scene. Recently, Const. Holdenried told CBC’s The Current that the force wanted to get rid of him.
While health-care professionals are working very hard to help educate the public on mental illness, the RCMP appears out of touch, out of focus and uneducated when addressing the mental health problems facing its members. It’s paradoxical that while the RCMP is considering establishing an officers-only bar at its new regional headquarters in Surrey, British Columbia, it scrapped plans to create a program that would treat officers suffering from PTSD.
With such illogical priorities, I believe it’s no wonder RCMP has lost the credibility, trust and respect of the Canadian public.
DARRYL T. DAVIES,
Professor, criminology and criminal justice, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University, Ottawa