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Experts Summit On Challenges Facing The RCMP

Feb 17

Hello Readers,

I was invited to appear in Ottawa before this Committee.  I was unable to do so due to my work commitment.  I thought you might enjoy reading the written submission I sent instead.

Dr. Mike Webster

February 1, 2014

Office of Hon. Judy Sgro, MP
204 Justice Building
House of Commons

Office of Hon. Grant Mitchell, Senator
71-S Centre Block
Senate of Canada

Dear Honourable Judy Sgro and Honourable Grant Mitchell,

Re:  Experts Summit on challenges facing the RCMP

Thank you very much for requesting my opinions and accepting this submission.  I apologize for being unable to accept your invitation to attend your committee in Ottawa.  I am unable to absent myself from my work without considerable inconvenience to others.

As your question requests solutions to “the issues currently facing the RCMP”, I will not exhaustively restate the problems the Force is facing.  However, I would like to put into context, with a brief preamble, my response to your question.

In support of your very knowledgeable participants’ testimony, every expert report published over the last decade has called for the reform of the RCMP.  As recently as April of 2012, Professor Linda Duxbury, the Carleton University business scholar who has studied the RCMP extensively, concluded that personnel shortages and excessive off-duty responsibilities in tandem with an intolerant corporate culture are destroying the lives of police persons across this country.  Every report emphasizing the need for RCMP reform has been clear; the organization’s tasks far outstrip its resources.  The Force wears too many hats and none of them very well.  Royal Canadian Mounted Police members are burning out and getting sick; and as a consequence the Canadian public is not getting the policing it deserves.  Where is the Commissioner of the RCMP, who serves the Force’s members and the Canadian public, on this issue?

Several years ago, your colleagues on a national security and defense committee recommended that the RCMP hire 5,000 new members to perform the tasks being continually piled on by the federal government.  The chair of the RCMP Reform Implementation Council, David McAusland, repeatedly pointed out in report after report that reforming the RCMP would not happen without a large infusion of money from the government.  Where is the Commissioner of the RCMP, who serves the Force’s members and the Canadian public, on this?

Money and personnel shortages are not the only problems.  Numerous studies and reports have called for structural reform of the RCMP that would extricate it from the complex bureaucracy of Ottawa; and put it in the hands of independent civilian oversight.  As a portfolio of the Public Safety Minister, the RCMP is subject to decisions by bureaucrats who know nothing about police organizations, policing, police culture, or the task environment in which the police do their work.  A litany of experts has recommended that the RCMP become a separate status employer, all to no avail.  Where is the Commissioner of the RCMP, who serves the Force’s members and the members of the Canadian public, on this?

Moreover, the current impression that the RCMP serves the government and not the public is widespread.  One need look no farther than the RCMP’s role in directing security for economic summits like Vancouver’s APEC in 1997 or the G20 in Toronto in 2010.  On a related note, the 2013 direction from the government that meetings between RCMP officers, the media, or interested politicians must be cleared by the Commissioner and the Public Safety Minister had all the overtones of the government controlling the police.  It is not much of a stretch to imagine the government, specifically the cabinet, now with the ability to control access to the nation’s federal police service; and to put a political “spin” on security and law enforcement issues.  Where is the Commissioner of the RCMP, who serves the Force’s members and the members of the Canadian public, on this?

The answer to my question may be found here.  This cozy relationship between the government and the RCMP is not unique to the present day.  Many governments of the past have disregarded recommendations of commissions of inquiry that have suggested independent civilian oversight and an “arm’s length” relationship with the government; in addition to reigning in the power of the Commissioner and government ministers over the Force.

This resistance to change lies deep within the DNA of the RCMP, and its history.  The Force was originally a political endeavour.  The predecessor of the RCMP, the North West Mounted Police, was dispatched to the West for the purpose of taming the unruly population and grooming them for inclusion in the developing Confederation.

This history continues to resonate through the RCMP today.  It is still proudly taught to the Force’s cadets during their basic training at Depot Division.  As for politicians, historically they have been reluctant to give up their positions of influence over the workings of the RCMP.  There is not only a litany of RCMP Commissioners who have failed to fight for the independence of the RCMP, but an equally long list of Prime Ministers who have been more than reluctant to let go of their own personal police service.  The history of the RCMP and its far too cozy relationship with government is so ingrained it has become an accepted, and unquestioned, fact.  Once again, where is our present Commissioner?  Why is he not fighting for his members, the organization, and the Canadian public?  Ahh yes I’ve forgotten, he is an integral part of this “folie a deux”.

So before I answer your question, which frames me as Commissioner and asks for my solutions, I will ask you to suspend your bureaucratic frame of reference (that paralyzes all attempts to introduce “turn around change” to RCMP problems) and accept that even the RCMP can be radically transformed into a 21st Century police service (if it has a real leader in charge).

So to answer your question……. realizing that I, as Commissioner, have neither the autonomy nor the “know how”, to implement any of the major (transformative) changes noted above, or the authority to convene an expert advisory board to assist me, I would prepare myself for a conflict with the government to secure my independence, and the separate status of the RCMP.  I would share with the public and the membership a compelling vision of how the Force struggles in its present form and how great it could become in a transformed 21st Century edition.  I would hope to rekindle the morale of the membership and the confidence of the pubic they serve; I want their support as I go forward.  I would steel myself to push back hard against a change resistant government.  I would settle for no less than my independence and an “arm’s length” relationship with the federal government, even if my job was on the line.  I must put the health and welfare of RCMP members and the rights of the Canadian public ahead of my career and my legacy.

To continue, once I secured separate status for the Force, and an increase in my own ability to make decisions, I would create a panel of experts (similar to a municipal police board) to take over the business end of the organization (e.g. hiring of the Commissioner, setting of the budgets, creating agile Human Resource policies including those related to harassment, discrimination, and bullying, the formation of a members’ association).  This panel would also be responsible for evaluating the above noted experts’ recommendations, implementing them if approved, and the transformation of the RCMP.  If I still had my job I would now focus myself on what I know best; managing the law enforcement side of the business.

As you can see, my answer to your question begins and ends with leadership.  Real change in the RCMP will not come without real leadership.  It is time for the Commissioner of the RCMP to step out of the long line of followers that have preceded him and become a genuine innovator.

Dr. Mike Webster, R.Psych.
Police Psychologist

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10 Comments
  1. Well done Dr. Webster.

    I would hope that the politicians that read your ideas, ideas that they requested from you, will look at what you have said and possibly take into consideration the truth and changes that need to be implemented (yesterday)

    We have suffered long enough as have many others. We need true leadership.

    If you were the Commissioner, I truly believe in what you are saying. You would have my vote hands down.

    Rolly Beaulieu

  2. Catman permalink

    I agree with rollybea. Dr. Webster, you would have my vote hands down as well. You ‘understand’ people and relationships, whether it be between a couple or an organization, the same rules apply, I believe. They should nurture each other and grow and be productive as a result. Care and compassion and having the ability to listen does not stop with intimate relationships. As a member I am sick and tired of being muzzled and not listened to. I am sick and tired of being dictated to, especially when I know that what is dictated or how the dictatorship is carried out is wrong. With respect to this, most everything the force does goes against my ethics and beliefs. As a member I do not feel appreciated, respected, acknowledged, worthy, valued, etc. The force has lost interest in developing it’s members to be the best they can be. There is no grooming, mentoring, training, leadership, etc. And what relationship the force does have with the membership is mostly underhanded, self-serving, reckless, careless, inconsiderate and overbearing.
    The RCMP has become a business and is sleeping with the politicians where it once was a service and had a more intimate connection with it’s membership and the public it served. The RCMP has done a complete turn about and in doing so has turned it’s back on us, the members and the public.

    I totally agree that the RCMP’s main issues are it’s total lack of leadership, it’s misspending of finances and mismanagement of resources. In all my years I have never once heard the word “leadership” come from a manager’s mouth. It may be written on a poster on a wall somewhere, but the RCMP certainly do not practise it. The RCMP does not practise leadership nor does it groom it’s members to be leaders. They are totally missing the boat on that one. They have a perfect opportunity to work with the membership and assist them in attaining their goals and aspirations within the RCMP yet the do not. I do not see being employed by the RCMP as a ‘career’ anymore. It’s a blue collar job, and that’s it. It comes as no surprise when I hear that the RCMP is having problems finding people to recruit. At least most blue collar jobs have a union to back them up. Our buffalo is a spineless steer. No backbone and no balls.

    Lack of manpower. That’s a good one. As a member who worked general duty for years I see this as one of the biggest issues. There were times where the attrition rate was climbing yet the RCMP was not recruiting/hiring. This was one of the most difficult periods for members as far as I’m concerned. Shifts lacked supervisors (for years) and members were expected to do much more with much less. I have always found that members, for the most part, have good work ethics and because we love our job we did the most we could with the little we had and didn’t complain. That is just the temperament and attitude of most members I have worked with. When you work on a shift as a team you rely on each other, so it creates that sort of bond. However, I truly believe the RCMP took full advantage of that and because we were so people-pleasing and easy-going we allowed the RCMP to step all over us. We didn’t see the shift that was taking place until it was too late. Now here we are, we’re sick, tired, burnt out, stressed out and angry. Why? Because we TRUSTED our employer. We gave and gave and gave. They took and took some more. There was nothing to counter-balance that. Who is responsible for that?
    I frankly find it sneaky and underhanded as to how management went about transitioning into what the force has become. I feel used and abused. Mistreated and unappreciated. Period. Not to mention what this has done to my LIFE. There is no salary high enough that can justify this job or what it has done to me.
    To me, the bottom line is that this all started when the RCMP failed to care for it’s members. They had visions elsewhere and lost sight of what was important…the members that made up the force.

    I will close with this thought. The Harper government got rid of (fired) over 2,000 Canadian scientists since their reign. These scientists were the ones who recorded toxins in waterways, oceans, the atmosphere, the land, the creatures who lived in these environments, etc. They monitored our natural resources and studied the effects of toxins on the environment so that we could understand the trends and try to keep the equilibrium of nature. But, because our members of parliament do not UNDERSTAND science and it’s purpose, they chose to IGNORE it. They merely cast it away like a used kleenex. It was out of mere ignorance and ego that this happened. The government clearly does not like to involve itself with anything it cannot CONTROL. How scary is that? This is what we are up against.

    Thank you Dr. Webster for taking the time to take part in the above and giving us a voice that so desperately needs to be heard.

  3. Anonymous permalink

    Thank-you for your submission. It was excellent. I know that working with Hon.Judy Sgro MP and Hon.Grant Mitchell Senator, their work all these past few years will not be in vain. The RCMP has to change and change quickly in order to survive. I agree with all that you have stated, and when the time comes, hopefully sooner than later, we can take pride in ourselves, our workplaces and our country. Thank-you Dr. Webster, and all the members in this site for your dedication, will and pride in yourselves. ~

  4. Paul permalink

    Thanks Doc. once again Bang On. Now with this New Bill giving the RCMP Commissioner full power to do as he please’s . Is NOT a step in the right direction . Not with Paulson in charge

  5. Aught Buck permalink

    Until he himself was victimized, I figure the doc was the only objective person in the country, with the inside knowledge of the Force, with the guts to speak the truth.

  6. Catman permalink

    That’s why I always admired Dr. Webster…he is a man of principle.

  7. Well said people. Members like us, who have lived this horror must speak out. It is not about us – it is about the future and those that will follow us. This abuse has to stop. The future of the RCMP depends on everyone following our basic human rights and constitutional rights. I for one will be gone and probably dust before this happens. I would like to believe that we live in a true democratic society, however we do not. I am jaded by the politics of everything that the RCMP stands for.

    I am very sad that my country, that I fought for in Cyprus as a soldier and at home as a Mountie, has become the empty shell that it is today. My brothers and sisters in the military are under attack by the very government that I voted for. My brothers and sisters in the RCMP are also under attack by this same government. I ask you, who is our government working for? I am ashamed and disgusted by the treatment that this current government has towards the military members and RCMP members that have served in wars for Canada on domestic and foreign territory.

    It is time to speak as a collective group and vote these sadists out of office once and for all. Call it what it is. This is a FACIST government lead by a radical dictator.

  8. EFAMIA permalink

    More of the same from the Leadership cadre of “E” Div. Another survey which shows the same morale problems which have been documented over and over again and the inability and unwillingness to stop doing the same little changes that never work.

    >>> Kevin DEBRUYCKERE 18/02/2014 8:02:23 PM >>>
    Hi everyone….

    I would like to thank those of you who took the time to complete the on-line Leadicator survey; while we did not hear from everyone, there was a large number who did take the time to provide feedback.

    The survey was designed to give us an idea of how we’re doing right now in terms of morale and job satisfaction for Federal Policing. It was also intended to focus on whether there’s been improvement over the past 6 months.

    How we all respond to the survey results will be every bit as important as the results themselves. I’ve asked each of the Operations Officers to initiate discussions with their respective Groups to discuss the results and to develop recommendations for improvement.

    Federal Policing has experienced tremendous change over the past 12 months and I continue to be impressed with everyone’s commitment and dedication. The results of the survey, however, make it clear that we have a long ways to go in some very important areas.

    As quoted in the report …The Bottom Line:

    “Both job satisfaction and morale is low within all eight FSOC workplaces in “E” Division. Morale is low because, overall employees don’t feel respected. They don’t feel respected because they give low ratings to conflict management, having constructive feedback, and having their opinions asked. Those factors in turn are contributing to low levels of workplace trust.

    Over the six-month period prior to the November 2013 employee survey, employees identified five measures out of 10 that had worse than better performance including employee respect, and workplace trust.”

    I’ve already started to receive feedback from some of the groups on what success looks like. Here are some of the comments:

    1) Improve communication from management to front line.
    2) Units are overwhelmed with investigations and new priorities. We need to ensure continuity of members on projects to ensure success
    3) A clear FSOC Mission – clear definition of what FSOC does.
    4) more input in unit decisions and investigative direction.
    5) increased learning opportunities and ongoing career development.
    6) Clear, achievable goals that can be met in a reasonable length of time.
    7) Fulfilling commitments to internal and external partners.
    8) More efficient use of operational resources.
    9) Dedicate resources – surveillance personnel and affiants are examples.
    10) Concerns that some important files are less of a priority than others, ie. called in to do surveillance on other projects.

    I’ve only listed 10 here and know there will be a lot more. Feel free to send your comments to me directly or to the Employee Advisory Committee and I’ll be meeting with both the EAC and the Federal Management Team on how we can do better.

    Thanks, Kevin

    C/Supt. Kevin deBruyckere
    Deputy CROPS Federal Policing
    “E” Division Headquarters
    Office: 778-290-2519
    Cell: 604-808-3753

  9. Anonymous permalink

    Has anyone seen the proposed and new rcmp act regulations… Is there any consutations….ODS members are cut off completely anb without any insight into changes. Keep posting internal info as you see fit it keeps the information flow going.

  10. The Old NCO permalink

    Dr. Webster is absolutely correct. I served 36 years in the RCMP and personnel shortages and proper lack of sufficient budgets was ever a problem. The topic was brought forward on more occasions then I can count and yet never dealt with by the leadership of the RCMP. That’s at least 36 years worth of neglect from where I stand. The RCMP has never received a clear and reasonable mandate of it’s duties and responsibilities. The many governments over the years have abused the organization to the fullest during their various reigns of power. Each government used the RCMP as it’s personal army to perform functions as they seen fit for their own ambitions. Each successive government choose to own the RCMP rather then liberate it. Every Commissioner including the present was appointed into the position not for their leadership skills but rather the puppets they truly are. Each new Commissioner in turn had the power to choose who would and would not be promoted into the Commission ranks. Because it was threatening to their position the Commissioner of the day did not want to appoint members with true leadership skills into management positions as they might undermine his or her decisions. It was personally safer for the Commissioner to appoint as many yes people into the Commission ranks as they would do as they were told. Over many years and numerous Commissioners this practise increased to the point where the organization has started to implode from a major lack of leadership. So yes, Dr Webster is correct in that the RCMP does not serve the public well, matter of fact it is just the opposite as the managers priorities are more self centred around personal gains and perks such as promotions and expense accounts. Recall the renovations to his office, a high priced aircraft and the fancy italian boots that one former Commissioner availed himself with. Imagine having a story book wedding with uniformed attendants and a honour guard in the background. Does that sound familiar? The RCMP at the highest levels is much like the Senate. These people are appointed into the highest positions based on favours and a history of doing what you are told and you will be taken care of. Matter of fact all Commission Rank members are appointed into the position through parliament once the Commissioner has ok them on his list of yes men and women. These are political appointments no different then how the Senators get their very cozy jobs. One recommendation I would make to this committee is that there be no more political appointments inside the RCMP. The RCMP should consist of working Police Officers of the various Non Commission Ranks with proper representation as respected workers inside a Police Organization. The management including the budgets should be an independent board that must negotiate with the Police Officers representation body on all matters dealing with the well being of the Police Members. Contracts should exist outlining the responsibilities of the Police Members and the relationships with the board members. The only participation of elected officials is to support the board with it;s requests for money and resources. This would mean the Commissioner and the Political People giving up the power they have enjoyed for many years. End of Story

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