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RCMP Occupational Health and Safety: A Case of Quicksand

Jan 28

Have you ever questioned the role of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) (Integrated Health and Welfare?) in your life as a member of the RCMP?  Have you heard the cries of those who have stumbled in, and become stuck, unable to extricate themselves?  I will admit to you that I have over the course of 30 plus years of practice, re-thought the assumptions that underlie the field of psychology.  The “E” Division Human Resources Officer (HRO) in his (unfounded) complaint against me to the B.C. College of Psychologists whined that I called myself a “radical psychologist”.  If he had read the articles referred to in his complaint, or read them carefully, he would have discovered that while I appreciate much of the thinking of Radical Psychology I prefer to think of myself as a “critical” psychologist.

I would venture a guess that many of the health care providers you encounter, on your journey through the bureaucracy that is the RCMP’s OHS, know very little about, and perhaps even avoid the implications of, a more critical approach.  The idea, for example, that mainstream psychology’s values, assumptions, and practices reinforce an unjust status quo is not new.  There exists within Counselling Psychology* a long tradition asserting that the daily business of the discipline of psychology often does little more than reinforce societal institutions that give life to sexism, racism, favouritism, nepotism, harassment, bullying and other forms of inequality and injustice.  A more critical perspective on psychology suggests that the mainstream may be training its practitioners to work too comfortably inside, and for, government and corporate institutions.  In these institutions you are likely to find that bureaucratic and ideological demands for routinization, categorization, adaptation, pacification, and obfuscation outweigh individual concerns for values such as justice, equality, privacy, autonomy, and caring.  So when you wonder what role your health care provider, including those in private practice who we could assume are relatively free of the RCMP’s demands, is playing in your care… consider this.  Mainstream health care providers, private practice or not, despite the best of intentions, under the bureaucratic demands of working for the RCMP can too often reinforce OHS’s bureaucratic demands; even when they think they are working to ameliorate them.

Personally, I think my stand on social justice issues is not as aggressive as it should be.  I will wager however, that there are those who think I go too far.  Many health care providers appear content to separate their day jobs and their political views, focusing themselves in their offices on the traditional assumptions of the mainstream; believing that this will address their patients’ complaints and allow OHS to operate undisturbed.  I imagine that the suggestion to include identifying, and even challenging the organizational causes of their patients’ distress, will seem irrelevant to them at best.  My comments here may even annoy those who already view me as an unrealistic old crank, or frighten those who fear that the push for workers’ rights within the RCMP, might gain enough momentum to cause uncomfortable change.

Many of you have become mired in, what has been called by some, the quicksand that is RCMP OHS; and have learned that the harder you fight to free yourself, the deeper you sink.  In many of your situations your toxic workplace, its excessive level of stress, or the organization’s culture of fear plays a prominent role.  Both you and your health care provider are aware of the Force’s role in your problem, but neither of you do anything about it, beyond complaining in private.  You both believe that the RCMP’s dysfunction is too monstrous a problem to approach; so you give up and begin to sink.  Sure, you struggle a bit, from time to time, but you soon learn that this only brings you closer to slipping beneath the surface.  You may even convince yourself that OHS is there to help you, without considering the hopeless conflict of interest they are in.  (They offer you a service and at the same time monitor themselves offering that service).  Are you aware of any other police service that has its nose in its members’ health care?

At this point I will assert that what follows is not a prescription for you.

I am simply providing an alternate perspective.  I believe, as many of my “critical” colleagues do, that the most effective therapy for reactive responses to organizational abuse is constructive activism.  I am referring to picketing, demonstrating, union involvement, public communication, or any other kind of constructive action that will assist in raising the public’s awareness of a problem, provide you a sense of agency and lead to change.

When you suffer alone, and in silence, you are contributing to your own misery.  Like all humans, you require reward, reinforcement, success, achievement, accomplishment etc. in your life to have a good mood, a positive image of yourself, and the motivation to accept challenges.  Think back to the last time you felt well, were you not an agent in your own life?  In withdrawing to the back of your cave, you are likely to produce serious psychological symptoms.  And spending hour upon hour in mainstream mental health may never be as therapeutic as organizing a picket line, planning a demonstration, supporting another member in need, or getting behind and involved in the Mounted Police Professional Association.

Enough for now.  I want to leave you with something to ponder in your quiet moments.

“Promise me you will always remember   you are braver than you belive, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think”.

- Christopher Robin

* At this point in the article the “E: Division HRO, and his frantic little minions might want to pay close attention.  I see by their emails, back and forth to each other during the time they were creating an “internal message to discredit” me they had a difficult time discerning the difference between a doctorate in counselling psychology (which I have) and one in clinical psychology (which I believe the psychologists in OHS have).  At the time I chose counselling psychology, it was viewed as a more applied degree than the degree in clinical psychology,that was more research oriented.  A good example of the difference might be found in comparing a counselling psychologist, like me, who has spent over 30 years in an office providing direct treatment to members with mental health needs to the psychologists in OHS who spend their time as part of an interdisciplinary case management team; where they monitor assessment and treatment services provided by others.  In whose care would you feel more confident?

Dr. Mike Webster, R.Psych.

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4 Comments
  1. Anonymous

    Well said Dr. Webster. As a past client of yours, I know who and what you are about. You are one of the very few that actually cares about the wellbeing of your patients. You are a man of great moral fiber and you have great insight to this sick organization. You have been called upon for your expertise on various occasions by Police agencies far and wide, including the RCMP.

    It amazes me that the RCMP utilizes your services because of your expertize. Then when you tell them what is wrong with the organization, they have the audacity to try to destroy your credibility.

    Well, that one backfired on them, in a big way!

    They attacked you because they are afraid of you. You stood up to them for the betterment of your patients.

    You are better off not working for an organization that does not care about anything except their Iconic image. They don’t care if they break the law. They don’t care if someone commits suicide, They don’t care who they destroy. Of course they say it is ” For the betterment of the RCMP”. Just what the hell does that mean?

    They only help themselves to achieve a higher rank, so that they can continue there evil ways. They use the RCMP uniform to fill there bank accounts. They utilize a uniform that is known as the best and most moral Police Agency in the world. They wear this uniform to destroy anyone that they see as threat to there own perverted views.

    We can’t fix something that does not want to be fixed.

    I once asked a high ranking RCMP Officer. “How are you doing today sir?” He replied with a big smile “Living the Life”.

    Nice

    Anonymous.

  2. DJ Motorcop permalink

    I was lucky enough to come into the care of a psychologist whose treatment and guidance led me to accept going ODS and in whose treatment I realized I could not return to work for the RCMP. I was lucky that I had 36 years of combined police service and at age 55 I could leave. My psychologist treats many members and even though, in that treatment, the” good of the force” is ignored and instead the “good of the member” is sought there has been no move to remove them from the referral list. In fact many psychologists refer members on to my psychologist because of the experience and reputation of trust and respect they have for the members. I fear the day day that this changes, but my psychologist also has a large military client base and is well respected with DVA. I think it borders on criminal negligence that your services have been blacklisted and are not available to members. Imagine your employer picking your orthopaedic surgeon, your dentist or your gynaecologist! Why have the members in E Div accepted the loss of your services? Fear, and lack of a voice, time for a union, time for a union and yes again time for a union!

  3. Anonymous permalink

    I never truly knew nor do I still know the entire role of OHS. Given the fact they are an entity of the RCMP, I never trusted them. However, in my time of distress (2009-2010) and after eventually receiving my documents from them (ATIP), I noted they did not bow to the ‘old boys club’. What I mean by that is they did not follow suggested courses of action for me by those in positions of authority who were so bent on making my life and career further miserable. However, I have since heard the RCMP (Management) are doing their best to tailor those occupying OHS positions in managements favour and not that of the member. May as well close that door for help and support to members as well.
    Name withheld because there still exists no freedom of speech within the RCMP without repercussions!

  4. Anonymous permalink

    Check out the newest propoganda by the Head of Human Resources…Paulson “expects” employees to speak up and come forward…we all know what happens when you report on a whiteshirt. Maybe they should take this course first!

    “>>> News 2014/01/30 10:41 AM >>>
    *** Do Not Reply to the NEWS Account ***

    >>> ACC-NOC ACC-NOC 01/30/14 10:41 >>>

    NATIONAL DISTRIBUTION TO INDIVIDUAL MAILBOXES APPROVED BY D/COMMR. DAN DUBEAU, CHRO, ON JANUARY 30, 2014

    DISTRIBUTION NATIONALE AUX BOÎTES INDIVIDUELLES APPROUVÉE PAR LE S.-COMM. DAN DUBEAU, DPRH, LE 30 JANVIER 2014
    _____________________________________________________________________________________

    (le français suit)

    Respectful Workplace New Mandatory Training

    In November 2013, Commissioner Paulson advised that he wants employees to feel empowered to take action on any sort of behavior that is contrary to a respectful workplace, in fact, he expects it of each and everyone one of us.

    To assist in meeting this objective, ALL employees are required to successfully complete — by May 31 — the new mandatory online Respectful Workplace training. Further details are available in the Your Learning section of the HR Infoweb site: http://infoweb.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/hr-rh/learning-apprentissage/train/req-obl/resp-eng.htm.

    The purpose of the course is to help ensure that employees have the knowledge necessary to contribute to a workplace where we all feel safe and respected. I strongly encourage everyone to do their part in making this our reality.

    Dan Dubeau, D/Commr.
    Chief Human Resources Officer

    ***

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