Admittedly, one was a little taken aback by the head of the Surrey RCMP Detachment, Assistant Commissioner Dwayne McDonald, recently admitting in a public forum that he has reached his limit; effectively fore warning the public that he was about to“snap”.
The clearly friendly audience of Mounties, who had paid $105.00 per head, to hear of the great times past and present of the Surrey Mounties as chosen by the Surrey Chamber of Commerce; dutifully applauded. That is to be expected and not surprising, after all, someone was finally speaking up on their behalf, trying to counter the daily barrage of negative publicity that has left their public image reeling like a punch drunk boxer.
It didn’t really matter to them, at least he found a voice, a voice not speaking the usual pablum of government aphorisms. Was this finally a public push back? Was there now someone who would defend them against those dark hatted McCallum assassins.
Their acceptance of their chief finally having found his public courage was as it turns out, a little misplaced.
A few days later, this same believed fearless leader, announced another move in his professional upswing. In the heat of this battle, he was leaving. He was moving on to replace the retiring Kevin Hackett at CFSEU. This announcement proving only that the incestuous RCMP Sr. management is alive and well.
After three years he is leaving the detachment. Heading to a new location where he can operate in relative privacy, with little need for direct accountability. No longer would he be under the public scrutiny of that pesky City counsel.
At the time of his ra ra speech, although applauded by the local police, it is not quite as clear as whether members of the public, the Surrey citizens themselves appreciated this “snap” type of comment. Hearing from an Assistant Commissioner, that he had joined the ranks of the mentally stressed and was about to blow, may or should have raised an eyebrow. It would not be a prudent comment, if for instance, one lived in a country prone to right wing extremism if the local Chief of Police proclaimed that he was going to “snap”.
However, Mr. McDonald like any good public speaker warmed to the applause that night and feeling his audience approval, he carried on to more cheers by saying that “We can’t police a large city? We’ve been doing it since 1951. I would challenge any other large city in this country to police with the resources we do and do a better job”. “If they want more boots on the ground, give me more boots on the ground”.
Of course, no one had the audacity in this audience of community policing award winners to point out that he may get his wish if the new Surrey police force is formed.
What was striking was the fact that Assistant Commissioner McDonald sees the move to replace the RCMP in Surrey as a personal one. That the challenge to the RCMP and their ability to do the job was a personal measurement of each and every individual police officer working there and was an affront to their capabilities.
The question arose in this writers mind. Was it possible he doesn’t get it?
Is it possible that he doesn’t understand that this whole movement to replace the Surrey RCMP is not an attack on the individuals presently working there?
It is not personal.
This is not an argument or a policy decision which is based on the theory that they are being told that they are inferior officers, that by somehow changing uniforms was somehow a significant and effective change. That would be patently ridiculous.
Does he not understand that this in its broadest terms is about organizational structure. This is about the very structure and management of those at the very top of this bizarrely diverse national, provincial, and municipal organization. This is about the ability of a structure, set up in this manner by history and circumstance and whether it is able to adapt to changing times in a timely manner. This is about a Federal government which has grown oblivious to the problems in the outer reaches, a government with a set of principles and policies which do not necessarily align with either policing, or with this part of the country.
The RCMP in Ottawa have become a very political organization, genuflecting before the current Liberal gods and their politics of identity and gender; specific issues often determined by the socially hyperventilating public. Twitter is their conscience.
The RCMP in the Province of British Columbia, like the other Provinces, have to follow the path chosen for them regardless of any plausible or local counter arguments. Direction is provided and that direction is given to all Federal Departments. Crime rates and filling needed positions in a policing operational environment are not in the lexicon of Ottawa. It is not a concern, it is being lost in the noise of government.
Amongst the politicians themselves, the Mounties and the myriad levels of organizational problems, are not a priority. How else could you see a two hour candidates debate with six candidates over-talking each other along with five female moderators trying to outshine their opposing talking heads, and not one person talked about the RCMP being taken for hundreds of millions of dollars from harassment lawsuits and the effects that would have on any organization.
The other infuriating explanation is that perpetual “boots on the ground”argument offered up Mr. McDonald and many others which is mired in myth and false assumptions. Mr. McDonald apparently thinks that the solution is simple, that you just need to give him more “boots”.
Let us look at the numbers in broad terms. Most policing manpower determinations are made vis a vis the size of the population. In 1996 the population of Surrey was 304,477. There was roughly 350 officers in Surrey Detachment. The population of Surrey in 2019 is roughly 517,000, an increase over that period of time of about 58%. The Surrey detachment in 2019 is over 800 officers. A 228% increase in the level of officers from the late 1990’s.
But scratch even deeper. The numbers of General Duty personnel, the real measure of”boots on the ground” has grown at minimum levels, leaving less of a police presence on the road, answering calls, dealing on a personal level with the members of the public. So from a visual perspective there are less being seen — this is a reality not a perception of less on the ground.
They don’t need more boots, the boots they have need to be re-aligned.
The RCMP in Surrey in effect have become a fatted calf– one overblown with rank, supervision and specialization. The organizational chart currently, if you were to visualize it, is an upside down triangle.
The plan of the group advocating and promoting a new force are only arguing, in simple terms of turning the pyramid right side up. That the base of the detachment become the uniform, that the general duty officers, the boots on the ground become the largest contingent and the base of all operations. The savings that they hope to incur will come from less promotion, less rank drawing larger salaries. A back to basics if you will.
Mr. McDonald of course grew up in this rich and promotion ripe RCMP environment; he has prospered on a professional level from this growth. He is clearly a guardian of the status quo.
The Mountie management don’t seem to be able to comprehend that there needs to be this operational structural change. They don’t seem capable of understanding that this unbridled growth and promotion is unsustainable. The weight at the top has begun to topple the whole. It seems to be just basic physics.
Mr. McDonalds announcement of a move to a new job is in effect another primary example of what is wrong within this massive RCMP hierarchy. The current management practise and theory is that all managers are just managing people. Knowledge of the specific location or its environs is not an important determinant in this philosophy. The ability to manage people can be learned and is universal so the belief goes, no matter where you put them.
Therefore, there is no individual ownership or need to understand issues specific to a location. As a result we see multiple moves over short periods of time, with little or no apparent purpose. This is one trait that seems consistent throughout the RCMP and is buried within its very promotion system.
Of course a move every two or three years in a community provides no sense of belonging or understanding that very community, no true sense of ownership. Surrey is just a cog, albeit a big one, in a vast machine– one which they have been taking for granted for far too long. How could anyone be expected to institute any lasting and significant change in two or three years in this multi-layered, nationalized RCMP world.
But alas, we are living in a country and an area of the country which seems to want to reduce any political argument to simplistic black and white arguments. It is a trying time for those that argue for a little more complexity. To dig deeper, to offer up reason to emotion.
By making the argument that this is a personal affront to the RCMP, it makes it more understandable to the general public, easily digestible to a forlorn media presence. By keeping it on this level and reducing it down to a simple change in uniform, it makes it seem illogical. Which it would be, if that was the argument.
But this simple treatise that is being offered up by Surrey RCMP is their only hope. At almost every metric level, the performance of the RCMP in the last number of years is proving to be an embarrassment. Nationally, they have failed completely in the area of such things as white collar crime, or cyber crime. Provincially, they have diminishing solvency rates in terms of homicides, and they have lost some of the more profound cases ever faced in British Columbia. Gang crime is virtually untouched in Surrey, and the Hells Angels are still not even considered a criminal group in the courts despite years of effort.
This is not the result of poor officers, or officers who haven’t been trying.
This is the result of poor projections, a lack of planning, an organization incapable of meaningful change, an organization worried about political colourings, an organization more concerned with self-promotion than serving its client base.
In Surrey now, the Provincial NDP storm clouds of obfuscation are gathering. The appointment of Wally Oppal and a couple of Mountie supporters are going to show the way forward– to these upstarts in Surrey –or maybe more appropriately slow the way forward. Mr. MacCallum is clearly a quirky figure and there is little doubt that part of the seed of discontentment is personal, but it should not obscure the fact that the RCMP needs to be both reined in and held accountable and re-structured brick by brick.
Talks between the two groups seems to have hit a bit of a snag. McCallum complaining about the build up of red tape. Thats not hard to imagine with this government, nor is it difficult to picture Oppal and his group overstepping their mandate and authority. Mr. Oppal sees his priority being the setting up of a governing Police board for the region, which at first blush does not seem to be completely relevant to the establishment of a separate police force. The final evidence of whether this whole thing is designed to forestall McCallum and his group will be exposed if we see further delays.
So the murky, often dark future continues in Surrey. There was a story circulating the other day that on C Watch twenty officers called in sick on their shift. If true, it is just further evidence of the eroding morale and the background disintegration that further delay and deny are causing on the ground level.
Mr. McDonald will go on to another job and by all accounts he was liked on a personal level. But remember, this is not personal. The Mounties don’t need any more nice people.
In reviewing McDonalds rather brief tenure, one can not help but be taken in by the “cardboard cut out Mountie” program that was developed this year in Surrey, designed to slow down speeding drivers by in effect stationing a picture of Mountie roadside in lieu of a real police officer. The irony of this can not be lost.
Maybe he can put one of those cut-outs in his soon to be empty office to give the illusion that someone is actually leading this detachment during this very crucial time.
There is a massive need for someone who will change this arthritic organization, or at least have the courage to try and change. Right now, there is no evidence that they are out there.
Otherwise, let’s just leave the cutout in place.