RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson was the speaker at the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce on June 6, and spoke about some of the challenges facing the force.
Commissioner Paulson, who served in Prince Rupert from 1992 to 1994, didn’t hold back in acknowledging some of the stories that have painted the RCMP in a negative light, including an officer who was caught shoplifting being let go and another officer involved in a domestic disturbance only being demoted and sent to counseling.
“If you came down from Mars and just started reading the newspaper, you wouldn’t have a very favourable impression of the RCMP,” he said, noting that these cases shed a negative light on the thousands of officers who do exceptional work every day.
“You can’t allow that type of behaviour to impact the organization’s ability to do the job it is task to do and we are almost at that point, particularly in the Lower Mainland of BC…My strategic direction for the RCMP has been to focus on the core business of policing.”
Paulson said criticism is particularly strong in BC. He has been asked by officers why he, as commissioner, isn’t out more publicly defending the force in the media and said it’s not the right thing to do.
“I’m not sure it is wise leadership to argue ‘well there’s the odd bad apple, there are bound to be in any organization, so Canadians don’t be so hard on us’. I’ve determined it is not the way to go because it is not the honourable way to go…The only way to counter the criticism aimed at us is through action,” he said.
Although he noted the disciplinary means within the force are being re-examined, including “very swift and efficient means of removing” an officer who brings disgrace to the uniform, he said discipline should be focused on correcting attitudes and behaviours at the earliest possible point, including early intervention with the officers.
As for how the force can improve, Paulson noted there needs to be more transparency in how decisions are made and how people are chosen for promotions. He also pointed to a current practice that needs to end to create a more ethical organization.
“Having personal loyalty driving the line of effort in our organization has to stop…It can’t be allowed to happen in Canada’s national police force,” he said.
The Commissioner’s trip to BC is to meet with the contract advisory committee overseeing the new 20 year contract between the province and the force. To that end, Paulson said he hopes to see more options for public feedback and input.
“When in the contract role, you are providing a service to meet the expectation of the people paying the contract. A message we heard loud and clear is if people are going to pay for policing, they want to have a say in how the service is delivered,” he said.
Part of that includes including community representatives in selecting the new officer-in-charge for the Prince Rupert detachment when Inspector Bob Killbery next year.