New commissioner Robert Paulson unlikely to fix RCMP, journalist Paul Palango says

Twenty-five-year Mountie Robert Paulson declared on November 16, the day he was officially named the new commissioner of the RCMP, that he will transform the troubled police force.

But Paul Palango, an investigative journalist and author who has written three critical books about the RCMP, isn’t optimistic about this.

“After the appointment of the last three commissioners, I predicted that they would do nothing and the state of the RCMP would be worse at the end of their tenure,” Palango told the Straight in a phone interview from Nova Scotia. “I would say that there is no evidence that Mr. Paulson is the right guy with the right mandate to fix the RCMP. And that things are inevitably destined to get worse, unless there’s some plan that we’re unaware of to fix the force.”

Promoted from deputy commissioner for federal policing, Paulson replaces William Elliott, the first civilian to head the RCMP. A former soldier, Paulson joined the RCMP in 1986 and his record includes service in B.C.

According to Palango, there are two top things that need fixing in the RCMP. “Number one, they must get out of contract policing,” he said. “The provinces should be responsible for their own policing. This leads to number two, which means concentrating as a federal police force and with proper oversight of that police force.”

He also commended the B.C. government for moving to create an independent investigations office that will look into complaints against all police forces in the province, including the RCMP. However, the former Globe and Mail editor expects the RCMP to resist this measure. “The RCMP will not allow itself to submit itself to provincial authority,” Palango said. “If that comes to pass and they refuse to do that, then the B.C. government should set up its own police force.”


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Ray Spencer

Nov 17, 2011 at 6:03am

You won't know if Robert Paulson can re-direct the R.C.M.Police if you do not give him a chance and sometime to makes changes. It is true that the last three commissioners were very autocratic in their management style, the 20th Commissioner probably being the worst. I have a feeling Robert Paulson has a plan. I know that I would have a plan if I was rising through the ranks and suffering under autocratic kingpins. Perhaps the most important thing for Paulson is to embrace "transformational leadership" and full accountability for the forces actions at the federal and provincial level. Amending the R.C.M.P. Act to deal with paid suspensions for members that run afoul of the law or dis-credible conduct would help to improve public relations. This might require a review of paid suspensions by the Supreme Court to separate the difference between paid suspension for private employment situations and the R.C.M.P. which is a public employing organization. At the moment the view appears to be that as the RCMP is a non-union environment in can be lumped into the private employment category. This is simply wrong. There are many areas in which the R.C.M.Police must change to improve its image with the public. Effectively dealing with sexual harassment and conduct the brings discredit to the force and the appropriate punishment for both is a good start.

9 10Rating: -1

Michael S. Thomson

Nov 17, 2011 at 7:42pm

Robert Paulson is probably a very good candudate to lead the RCMP and might make a good commissioner but he has been handed a stacked deck by the federal government. The RCMP Act still makes him a deputy minister in the federal government serving at the beck and call of the PM. Mulroney and Chretien used the PMO's power over the force to mold, interfere, and meddle whenever they were not killing the force through benign neglect and asking it to to do more and more with less and less. Since Robert Simmonds retired in 1987, the force has had two bureacrats, one martinet, a well-meaning caretaker, and a failed experiment occupying the commissioner's office. Robert Simmonds was the last good commissioner the force had and the last hired before the RCMP Act made the commissioner a lackey of the PM. Perhaps Robert Paulson will restore some of the independence his office needs and enjoyed under Robert Simmonds.

Simmonds felt contract policing should end and advocated in a position paper written for the federal Solicitor General titled Police 2000 that the RCMP gradually withdraw from contract policing and start concentrating on federal law enforcement over a twenty year period between 1980 and 2000. Paulson has to seriously look at the cancer killing his police force and put the frontier past in a museum and build the modern, civiilian federal law enforcement agency that Canada needs in the 21st Century. Harper will not let him do that but if he was willing to lose his job to save the RCMP, he might succeed.

I'm not holding my breath waiting but I do wish the man well in his new position.


Nov 30, 2011 at 11:30am

Is Mr. Palango aware that the Government of BC contracted 2 retired RCMP members (Dick Bent is one of them) to advise on the setting up of the Independent Investigations Office? How much faith can anyone have in the current government to get policing under control?