Author Paul Palango calls RCMP “ungovernable”

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      The RCMP is “so dysfunctional” that internal conflicts like the one raging between Commissioner William Elliott and number of senior officers are quite predictable, according to author Paul Palango.

      “As long as you leave the RCMP the way it is, it is ungovernable, it is unmanageable,” Palango told the Straight by phone from Nova Scotia.

      While media accounts have focused on complaints about Elliott’s reportedly brusque management style, Palango, a former Globe and Mail national news editor who has written three books on the Mounties, explained that the structure of the police force itself is a major problem.

      “So you have Elliott at the top, who’s really a counterintelligence-type officer, trying to bring control on the force and make it smarter about national security,” Palango said, referring to the extensive experience with national-security matters the RCMP commissioner acquired prior to his appointment to the force in 2007.

      “Then you have 60 percent or 70 percent of the officers who are involved in contract policing, which is day-to-day policing,” the veteran journalist said. B.C. is one of the provinces policed through a contract with the RCMP, and negotiations are under way on a new 20-year agreement.

      “There must be some significant changes afoot that are coming that threaten the fiefdoms of the officers who complained, because that’s how the RCMP works,” Palango speculated. “They’re very territorial, and they’re very protective of their areas. So I think Mr. Elliott probably gave the word that ”˜We’re going to do something now about the RCMP.’ What that is I don’t know.”

      Robert Gordon is the director of SFU’s school of criminology. An avid RCMP watcher, Gordon suggested that in light of the strife within the organization, the federal cabinet should consider striking a commission to restructure the police force.

      “The RCMP needs to find a way of no longer being everybody’s policeman,” Gordon told the Straight. “It needs to pull out of municipal and provincial policing. It needs to figure out what its role in national policing is in Canada. There is a need for a body that has a national investigative function. The [RCMP] organization as it is currently constructed is an anachronism.”

      In his 2008 book Dispersing the Fog: Inside the Secret World of Ottawa and the RCMP, Palango highlighted complaints about the way Elliott treats his officers. He quoted one insider as saying: “Elliott is a screamer. He reams senior officers out in public, and he belittles them. Some of us are ready to pack it in all because of him.”

      However, B.C.–based police psychologist Mike Webster notes that the RCMP workplace has long been a toxic environment, even before Elliott came in. He cited a 2007 report by Carleton University’s Linda Duxbury in which the organizational expert noted that a significant number of RCMP officers and civilian employees “do not feel trusted, respected, fairly treated or well led”.

      “I think it’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black,” Webster told the Straight by phone, referring to the officers’ complaints against Elliott.

      Webster, who has worked with the Mounties and other police forces, wants the federal government to consider Vancouver police chief Jim Chu for the job of RCMP commissioner.

      He said that Chu, who was appointed chief constable in 2007, has consistently stepped up to the plate in addressing complaints of misconduct against his officers. “I knew him when he was a constable,” Webster said. “He’s a very ethical guy.”

      Comments

      5 Comments

      Clayton Burns

      Jul 30, 2010 at 11:15am

      Is the Province of BC going to hold public hearings on the new RCMP contract? Is the federal government going to have similar public hearings on the future of the RCMP (and others such as CBSA) in BC?

      If the answer is no in both cases, then we may as well admit that we are totally incapable of accepting reality or planning for the next 20 years. It is at least certain that the RCMP paramilitary model, if it was ever a good one, is now obsolete, within the force, where it is creating intolerable stress at every level, and in terms of the broken interface with the public.

      Nobody in Carlito's excellent ongoing coverage has pointed out that RCMP and municipal police training and education are deficient to the point that the effect is strongly negative. That we could see from the collapse of the expert witness use of force testimony at Dziekanski. Partially because there was no solutions phase at the Dziekanski hearings, nobody seems to have drawn the conclusion that the idea of how to educate the police is just wrong.

      Many of the difficulties the RCMP are having are in the area of information management. Dziekanski was a classic case: operating on hunches, misperceptions, incoherence in communication among the officers, and in the information they presented to Dziekanski. No amount of talk will change the facts.

      clayton burns

      6 6Rating: 0

      Clayton Burns

      Jul 30, 2010 at 11:34am

      There has to be a fundamental change. The federal government has to agree with the Province and the BC municipalities to make 349 West Georgia, the main post office in Vancouver, the new Dziekanski Police Academy for mandatory two-year cadet education programs for anyone who will be exercising police powers here as matter of routine.

      The cadets would benefit from such a program, from which they could use their credits to take further college or university courses such as criminology at SFU. A powerful emphasis on psychology, organizational behavior, and information management would give the cadets the life skills they need.

      Twenty years from now, information management will be far more important than it is even now. The basis is the ability to assimilate and collate information. For example, any intelligent person can master in a few months an eight print newspaper reading cycle so that he or she can develop skills in perception and cognition. The papers are there at the stores in the morning. It has just never entered the minds of the trainers that this could be a valuable police skill.

      There is nobody to indicate to senior RCMP leadership that we have to have information-intensive training because we do not have what should be the basis of the highest level of analysis, the doctorate in intelligence. Such doctorates would assist CSIS as well as the RCMP. A prototype could be established at 349 West Georgia, starting with 100 students. There is a small precedent at the University of Maryland. As far as Ignatieff is aware, this is a foreign idea to Canada. But it is just routine. It is not a hard idea at all. In a doctorate of intelligence, students would refine their IT and information management skills, as opposed to doctoring up useless academic articles.

      clayton burns

      6 6Rating: 0

      Clayton Burns

      Jul 30, 2010 at 11:41am

      Taking Carlito's article from bottom to top, Mike Webster wants Jim Chu to be considered for RCMP commissioner. But I have not heard Jim Chu say anything about the obvious disarray of the use of force testimony from the VPD at Dziekanski. Nor do I like the way he handled the case of the beaten man when SUCCESS appeared to engage in some questionable manipulation of the case. I just did not like it at all. But let's see what comes out in court. Nor has Jim Chu said--"Look, we can't continue with our current training model. Here is a far better model."

      Nor has Mike Webster himself explained effectively in detail the role of psychology in police education, up to the standards I have mentioned. Robert Gordon of SFU still has not told me what he intends to do about Essay Experts, BC's most predatory writing (plagiarism) service. It is easy to comment, but harder to take action. Let's say that we replace many of the BC RCMP with a provincial police force. So that we just churn the current practices in police education and performance. Another great academic idea.

      Paul Palango is a good read, but I have not seen his analysis of the Air India judgment in which he would explain both the state of affairs and what the RCMP needs to do. It must now be a given that there were, to say the least, errors in the collection and presentation of evidence at Air India. But we might have thought that the RCMP would have assimilated the judgement so as to be able to discuss it with some degree of penetration. Although I am not going to release her name, I did try to initiate a discussion at a forum with a senior personage who should have known the document inside out. Instead, she just could not speak coherently about it at all. She just did not know her material. In fact, she thought that it was wrong of me to try to discuss it.

      When I see it, when in cadet training, we have minute study of "The Brotherhoods" by Lawson/Oldham, so as to bring out the nature of the "60 Minutes" factor, then I will start to believe in the RCMP. Not until. We know that we are dealing with cognition, but we want to avoid the subject. One of the many paradoxes of human behavior.

      clayton burns

      8 4Rating: +4

      durpyDurpderp

      Aug 3, 2010 at 10:30am

      There are very few organizations with the manpower and/or experience to enforce laws in this country. based on the lawlessness of the RCMP of late, i wonder if we shouldn't swap them out for the Hells Angels and see if things don't improve somewhat.

      5 5Rating: 0

      Gary Williams

      Aug 3, 2010 at 6:29pm

      That you believe the problem with the RCMP lies in the lack of cognitive development is extremely interesting. I have long believed that the problems seen in the RCMP are also one of cognition. However I also believe the way to correct it is actually far easier than you propose. And here's why....

      We now have a long and increasingly clear understanding of the difficulty we should all be expecting when we hire and promote persons displaying a strong authoritarian personality. As much as they are motivated to do the job, including their willingness to take on some of the more distressing aspects of it...they also come with a whole host of psychological "baggage" that makes them about as unsuited for policing as it's actually possible to be.

      Some of the baggage is mood, some is basic disposition, and yet others are cognitive-epistemic in nature, as you suggested. Specifically a few of these are an increased tendency to rush to judgment on matters, to hold firm in a belief long after it has been shown to no longer work, to avoid uncertainty to the extent they will seize on any belief despite the beliefs inability to accurately explain what it is that confuses the issue...to "seize and freeze" IOW.

      These are just a few of the reasons why they are unsuited to making decisions on important matters affecting the very life of other people.

      And yet there's still much more. Theres a high need for certainty (NFC) that compels them to simplify matters that often cannot be reduced to the B&W terms they will proceed to do regardless. Stereotyping is one particularly destructive form of this, and is also one that has a strong positive correlation with high-RWAs as well. In plain terms this means they are also more racist, sexist, and bigoted than the general population tends to be.

      In a police officer?

      Now.Into that foul mix we also find that high-RWAs are also more fearful than others, quicker to anger, and more apt to use violence in situations where others would opt to de-escalate the problem.

      So it should now be plainly evident that despite their willingness to strap on the gun and badge, high-RWAs are perhaps the the very WORST sort of person society would want doing that job should they be made aware of what I have just relayed to you all here.
      Did you know that one of the highest scores ever seen while attempting to measure a social subset for authoritarianism, was the one that was found when the RWA-SDO Scale was taken from a bunch of the inmates at San Quentin Prison. Not the guards (the "authorities" there)....but the inmates.

      The solution to the siege mentality, the violence and lack of insight ...the cognitive deficiencies you see yourself....these can be virtually eliminated as a problem by simply weeding out recruits who test high on RWA-SDO scales.

      False- or no arrest on a crime can be reduced by employing the NFC Scale in a similar manner.

      Had we known 50 years ago what we know now about "authoritarian personality syndrome" virtually every issue now plaguing us re: the RCMP would have been predicted and thus avoided today by simply refusing to hire a certain..albeit highly enthusiastic volunteer, as a recruiting prospect. And the reason is that they want to be LEOs for ALL the wrong reasons.

      6 3Rating: +3