Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Ottawa May 23, 2017 - 8:00 am

“Culture of dysfunction” permeates RCMP, report says

“The RCMP lacks both the will and the capacity to make the changes necessary to address the problems"

STEVE DUCHARME
A new report is calling for an overhaul of RCMP management structures in the wake of continued workplace harassment complaints. (FILE PHOTO)
A new report is calling for an overhaul of RCMP management structures in the wake of continued workplace harassment complaints. (FILE PHOTO)

A “culture of dysfunction” pervades RCMP detachments across the country, according to an independent report that slams Canada’s national police service for rampant workplace harassment it says is fuelling a toxic work environment.

The 43-page report, commissioned by the federal minister of public safety, claims that only a complete overhaul of the RCMP’s governance structure can fix the many problems already well-documented in more than 200 recommendations from more than 15 separate reviews issued over the last decade alone.

“Piecemeal initiatives will never get at the roots of the problem of workplace conflict in the RCMP,” said the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, the independent watchdog tasked to write the report, which was released in April.

“The RCMP lacks both the will and the capacity to make the changes necessary to address the problems that afflict its workplaces,” the report continued, and this risks “serious emotional and physical harm” to officers, a breach which is contributing to chronic under-staffing nationwide.

That was underlined May 16 in a report by the Auditor General of Canada that found RCMP members do not get adequate mental health services from their employer.

Workplace dysfunction has also caused the RCMP to lose confidence in the eyes of the public—one of the reasons why the report wants independent civilian oversight and management grafted into the RCMP’s chain of command.

The report focused on 264 workplaces harassment files opened between 2013 and 2016.

Sixty-four of those complaints occurred after amendments to the RCMP Act and the adoption of new harassment policies, in 2014.

Those new policies, the report said, are actually making things worse.

Following the amendments, commanding officers can impose new disciplinary methods on officers for breaching the RCMP’s code of conduct, which the report said is actually being used to target and intimidate members speaking out about harassment.

“Such instances of retaliation and abuse of authority are not only harmful to the individual who is being targeted, but can also undermine the integrity of ongoing investigations, the efficiency of operations and the effectiveness of the organization as a whole,” the report said.

Any efforts to clamp down on harassment has been left to local detachments, which the report describes as an “ad hoc” solution at best to systemic problems within the organization as a whole.

Fixing the problem has been left exclusively to divisional commanding officers, with “little effort by RCMP National Headquarters to monitor divisional initiatives” or to gauge their effectiveness, the report said.

The commission interviewed six divisional commanders in the scope of its investigation. Nunavut’s “V” Division was not one of the detachments selected.

Nunavut’s commanding officer, Mike Jeffrey, told Nunatsiaq News earlier in May that RCMP officers in the North often face unique challenges—particularly in smaller communities—where they cope with isolation and round-the-clock duties shared with, in some circumstances, only one other officer.

And a man who appears to be an RCMP officer from Nunavut is currently entangled in a criminal court case alleging trespassing and uttering threats against another man who appears to be an RCMP officer.

Calls for independent oversight have dogged multiple internal investigations into alleged acts of police brutality on inmates by Nunavut RCMP officers as well.

Currently, the Ottawa Police Service is under contract with Nunavut’s Department of Justice to provide external reviews of alleged acts of misconduct by Nunavut RCMP officers.

But the OPS has faced its own accusations of racism following the death of Nunavut artist Annie Pootoogook, when one of its officers posted a racist comment on a news article from his Facebook account.

That led to Iqaluit-Sinaa MLA Paul Okalik demanding independent civilian oversight of the RCMP during a statement in Nunavut’s legislative assembly last year.

The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission issued 10 recommendations following its review, including:

• recruiting civilian experts for non-operational roles in areas like human resources and labour relations;

• that the RCMP create more leadership development programs for its commanding officers;

• that the federal minister of public safety “take immediate steps” to introduce civilian governance or oversight into the RCMP;

• the creation of streamlined, plain-language definitions of harassment for use by officers, readily available on the RCMP’s website; and,

• the creation of administrative investigators, outside the chain of command, who can investigate harassment charges.

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