Bowing to Ignorance

It was hard not to feel sorry, or a better word may be uncomfortable for the beleaguered Commissioner Lucki, or maybe even the befuddled Deputy Commissioner Zablocki. These two individuals have risen to the upper echelon of the Mounties and have been drinking in that rarefied air, playing to a political agenda in relative peace and harmony. But here they were, in the last few days, cornered and out-gunned by the more politically correct, the masters of appeasement. Even they could not have imagined this looking glass world of righteous indignation which was being thrust upon them with increasing ferocity.  

Through their careers they have been promoted and extolled for their adherence to the themes of diversity and inclusion, and in many cases had to abandon ethics and principle. They were required to chant in unison the mantra of the enlightened progressives. Go along to get along would have been their placard as they eyed and encircled that executive corner office. In this and that environment there was absolutely no tolerance for dissension or counter-point. Similar minds were recruited and pulled up the ladder by the other similarly minded. 

Say nothing offensive, say nothing for which you could later be held accountable. Job experience or the position that was held was a distant second to conforming to “the system”. Pandering to those favoured interest groups and following the progressive line has been “systemic” for a number of years. 

But in the last number of weeks, we reached a point of significant accounting, a “crisis” if you prefer the new word for news. Of course I am referring to this newly professed outrage of police brutality and rampant racism in the RCMP, all of which had been ingrained by some sort of conspiratorial process.

The force of the cable news pushed Ms. Lucki out of hiding. Most of all the throngs were demanding acquiescence. Like the Papal blessing from the Vatican, they wanted the head of the RCMP to publicly acclaim their beliefs and proclamations of “systemic racism”.

So, she consented to do an interview with that bastion of special interest bias, the CBC, to be conducted by the“Senior Political correspondent” Rosemary Barton. Ms. Barton, who no doubt feels that she is the epitome of the probing journalist, is well connected to Justin Trudeau and the inner Liberal sanctum. Ms. Lucki must have believed or may have been comforted in the fact that she was in normally friendly territory. 

Throughout this interview, it was clear that Ms. Lucki was referring to her notes when she was being pressed on the terminology of “systemic racism”. Finally, Ms Barton pushed, so “you you didn’t answer the question, do you believe there is systemic racism in policing organizations, including yours in the country?” 

What followed was an inept stumbling meandering response to that “interesting question”.  Clearly, Ms. Lucki knew it was coming, clearly it was the thematic background for the entire interview. It was also equally clear that  the CBC was pressing to have Lucki admit on camera to “systemic” racism. The masses demanded it. Ms. Lucki was not ready. 

Ms. Lucki chose to respond by saying that she was confused by the many definitions of “systemic racism”.  One had a mental picture of Ms. Lucki surrounded by Funk and Wagnals, Oxford English, or Miriam-Webster dictionaries desperately thumbing the pages trying to gain some insight. But, it was all to no avail apparently, frustrating she said, as there were so many “versions” of it. 

It should be noted that the interview with Ms. Lucki was a day or so after the interview given by Mr. Zablocki— who in after an apparent dose of sodium amytal stated that there was no “systemic” racism in the RCMP. Unfortunately, the dosage wore off a few hours later. 

Still struggling, Lucki looked down at her notes to say “if you mean unconscious bias” —then she would admit that the RCMP was guilty as charged. 

The interview painfully continued and Ms. Barton opined at one point that in this country “people feel scared calling the police”.  Even this outrageous comment did not force the docile, pliant Commissioner to react in defence. She trotted out her tested and true response: “We need to get better”…”my expectations are high”. She went on to agree to review the carotid hold which was still in use, to bring better accountability through possible use of body cams, as that was part of her “digital policing strategy”. After all “we need to get better”.

The interview concluded with the Commissioner inappropriately telling Ms. Barton “thanks for your respectful questions”. She was clearly relieved; but this too would be short lived. 

A day or so later, Trudeau threw them all under the bus. 

Of course, there is systemic racism in the RCMP according to Trudeau. It was everywhere. 

No one missed the irony that this was coming from the three times “black face” Prime Minister, the white privileged Prime Minister. 

Shortly thereafter, predictably, Ms. Lucki turtled, fell into the prone position, hands over her head and ears, instinctively warding off the blows of the persistent masses. Through the safety of a press release said:

“…I did not say definitively that systemic racism exists in the RCMP…I should have”. 

So given this state of confusion, this intrepid blogger feels obligated to help these poor confused mandarins of the RCMP.  

“System”, from which the word systemic originates, is referred to as the “structure, organization, order, complex, administration” etc. If one stretches the definition and refers to “the system” in the modern vernacular, one could be referring to “the ruling class, the regime, bureaucracy”.

So follow along you poor, confused, Mountie managers, if one is claiming “systemic racism” one is claiming that the bureaucracy, the administration, the laws of this country, the structure of the RCMP, is in fact racist. Systemic racism to exist and meet the definition, must be built into the rules and the structure of the organization. Miriam Webster says that “systemic” means that it is “fundamental to a predominant social, economic or political practise”

Does anybody inside the RCMP believe that to be the case? 

Of course, you are allowed to have that opinion but, there is a convincing argument to be made that in the last twenty or thirty years that the administration and the bureaucracy, and the management of the RCMP organization has in fact been the exact opposite. 

Affirmative action hiring, recruiting, promotion, transfer policies, have in fact been tailored to meet the demands of the growing multi-racial society of Canada. Community policing, school liaison programs, Youth Intervention, and the like have all been tailored to meet the growing demand of diversity and inclusion. (How successful they have been is quite another matter. )

Nevertheless the Commissioner of the RCMP (and there have been no dissenting voices among the other RCMP managers) has now implied that everyone and everything in the Mounties is racist. The entire system. 

This charge is absolute nonsense. But, no one is daring to step in front of the stampeding herd. The herd has declared it to be, therefore it is. Celebrities and sports figures joined in.

It should be noted that when we go to these protestors, or their talking heads and seek specific examples of this systemic racism none are proffered.

Chief Allan Aden of the Athabascan Chipewyan First Nation in Alberta stated “If a white man is denying systemic racism, that is systemic racism”.  This is the level of intelligent debate in this country.  If I deny I am a sexual predator, I am therefore a sexual predator. 

This very same logic was used by the minority leaders of the Opposition NDP who has never missed a cause or a bandwagon on which to jump. So he was poised for this latest cause. He proposed a “unanimous consent” bill, for all parties to agree, that the RCMP was systemically racist and that RCMP officers were killing the Indigenous and blacks in this country. It was clearly an act of grand-standing, and after making his support speech, he pompously sat in his seat, assuming all would agree.

All political parties voted for it, a disturbing lack of support for the police to say the least, but one single member of Parliament, Alain Therrien for the Bloc PQ, said no.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, jumped up, clearly upset. He then called the Member of Parliament a “racist” for not going along with the bill.

He was a racist according to Mr. Singh because he didn’t agree with Mr. Singh. The same logic as the Chief.

Justin Trudeau, went further and refused to criticize Mr. Singh, despite Mr. Singh having been removed from the Commons for the day for his “un-Parliamentary” comments. His justification was that Mr. Singh was a “racialized” leader and therefore it was forgivable.  

These last few days, the seemingly endless accusations continue to be stoked by the irresponsible of this country. It is discouraging and is tearing at the very fabric of this country. The lack of informed narrative, and the often ridiculous proposals to counter this ill-defined problem have left many parts of this country speechless. The pundits and media commentators in this progressive world have gone from being expert on the coronavirus to experts on policing with often comedic speed. A quote from Oscar Wilde resonates, “by giving us opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community”.

Where will it all end? When will reasonable dialogue return? It is difficult to say. This blogger never imagined a time when political dialogue in this country was so blatantly biased and absent of substance. The level of this demand for conformity rivals any historical third world despot.

The tearing down of statues and the rewriting of history, the calls for defunding the police, and the chants for a revamping of the RCMP will one day run into the wall of reality. These protests and cries for reformation are not based on any intimate knowledge of policing, they are based on slogans. The day when the social worker arrives at the domestic dispute or to deal with the mental health patient instead of the police, is a very long way off. 

When someone can actually point to systemic racism with an objective rationale, then we can begin to address it. The danger now is knee-jerk policy to appease the masses and Trudeau is already floating trial balloons. Most will end up meaningless, a let them eat cake moment and of no intrinsic value. 

As for the Commissioner and the rest of the Executive of the RCMP. Maybe they should consider that now is the time to fade into the night. Their time to show leadership arrived and they shrivelled before your very eyes. They should be bowing their heads in shame.

Some one should also wake up the National Police Federation from their slumber. Although willing to speak out about the formation of a Surrey Municipal Force, they have now conveniently lost their voice, when their officers are being slandered, ridiculed, and even endangered in the heat of these protests.

Maybe, it’s time for the police of this country to march on Ottawa. Maybe it’s time that the ground level police nationally form a strong and singular political voice. It may be time for their protest. And if I was planning the parade route, it would definitely go by Mr. Trudeau’s “cottage”, and end by occupying Mr. Singh’s office.

I wonder who they would call to remove these 68,000 blue uniformed protestors? Maybe a social worker.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons and Yannick Gingras – Some Rights Reserved

“20th century vs 21st century”

Sit and eavesdrop in any worn, linoleum floored coffee shop, anywhere in the grey haired parts of this Province, anywhere where you can find the blue wall retirees, and you will hear 20th century retired cop bitching about the present state of policing. The “good old days” is a tried and true theme with this coffee klatch audience, sagely nodding in agreement, or shaking their heads about the latest RCMP news tale. They lament the old times, when “men were men” or any other tired aphorism– in between the normal senior comparisons, about ill-health, urination, and the kids.

Was it all good then? No, it wasn’t. Was it fun? Yup, for the most part. But time heals and memories often become selective, making it easier to forget the alcoholism, the suicides, the divorces, and the inevitable creeping cynicism.

But as we march forward through 2019, it is clearly time to give over to the 21st century cop, to pass the baton or torch which was long held high. It is time for this generation of police to start ignoring the allegedly wise and learned 20th century cop. They are irrelevant, their stories are clearly of a different time, a time that will never be re-captured. It is time for the 20th century cop to let go, time to stay quiet. Nothing is being gained by bemoaning the passage of time.

Let’s consider some of the subtle and not so subtle differences.

The recruits of yester-year came from the Prairies, the Maritimes and the rural areas in between. They were often escaping life on a farm or on a fishing boat. The pay was irrelevant, the 19 year old wanted to get away. It was a steady job with a pension, yes, but more importantly it looked exciting and often a path out.

No real qualifications were needed. Strong backs more important than advanced matriculation. Ability to fight, withstand abuse and go through the door without questioning, were the valuable and lauded attributes.

The 21st century individual needs to question, in fact doesn’t understand why anything would go unchallenged. Their better educations tend to lead one to question and a greater appreciation for the grey area; no more the black and white of the 20th century where there was only right or wrong. It did seem simpler then.

The 20th century cops were physical specimens. As one neared graduation local Regina club goers knew not to take on the 5th and 6th month recruit. They were in the best shape of their lives but it was all down hill from there. In the 20th century the ability to fight was more valued than the 21st century Queens Silver Jubilee medal.

The 21st century cop is less physical, less the body builder, more the marathoner. The latest individuals leaving Depot or the Training Academy try to eat well, they “maintain”, drink tea rather than copious amounts of black coffee, go to yoga and are usually fitted in Nike or Adidas from head to toe. Their ball cap is always backwards. They pack their own lunches in neat compartmentalized lunch bags– no longer are they caught wolfing down the lasagna special at the Knight and Day at two in the morning.

Salaries were almost irrelevant to the 20th century cop, the government was presumed to be looking after them, so they rarely checked their pay cheques. They were never going to get rich, but they would always have a roof over their heads. Their economic goals were firmly middle working class.

The 21st century Mountie has greater expectations, they expect to live well, and often marry accordingly. Two vacations a year, two good vehicles, and eating out are regular activities, and with a little overtime can reach the upper echelons of society.

They are considering unionization, a possibility unheard of and demonized by the 20th century cop. The 20th century cop was more likely to be wearing a gas mask and holding plexiglass shields, breaking up union demonstrations, not organizing them.

Until the 1970’s police officers were only men. Think about that and one will begin to understand the uncomprehending looks, when trying to explain harassment, bullying and life in the blue bubble during the 20th century.

The 20th century female cop who appeared in the 1970’s had the most difficult job in policing, there should be no doubt. They were harassed and subject to intense bullying.

In the 21st century women have become hiring priorities and are now running the organizations that once could not comprehend them. They are now controlling the dialogue. “Inclusion” can be heard around the water cooler.

By the same measure the 20th century male cop was also abused; harassed as a matter of course, starting in Depot where the training syllabus depended on a strict regimen. The theory being that it could only make you tougher, it was just discipline. Trainers went to the Depot Pub to celebrate when one of the recruits “couldn’t take it” and had dropped out as a result of their abuse. A troop of 32 rarely graduated with all 32, at least two or three failed or quit, usually because the abuse and ridiculous punishments was not what they anticipated. It was part of the curriculum. No complaints were heard, but graduation meant that you beat them at their own game. You were now a “member”.

The 20th century cop who grew in this world does not understand the problem with harassment, doesn’t understand the definition of bullying growing up in this atmosphere of survival of the fittest. The 20th century cop admired the female officer who was “one of the boys”. The 20th century cop often did not abide or recognize the line where that behaviour became sexual, often based more out of ignorance than evil intent. When measured in the 21st century it was all wrong. When measured in the 20th century it was also wrong, but the perpetrators did not recognize it, abuse of their power and position, somehow an extension of a man’s right in a man’s world.

The 20th century cop talked to people. They didn’t like being in the office, where they could be encumbered by bosses and extra duties. The placement of computers in police cars was the key to bliss and the avoidance of the bosses. The 21 st century cop seems to enjoy the office, more socializing possible, the loneliness of a single person patrol car an anathema to this forever socially integrated group.

The 20th century cop avoided the press, the media were the enemy. Say nothing was the dogma. The 21st century cop has a full corps of media relations officers and knows to include media considerations in the investigational process. Twitter launches before police have even got to the crime in many cases. All 21st century cops are aware of cameras.

The 20th century cop had no awareness of “career”. They depended on assessments by their peers and the passage of time to lead to promotion. All in due time and they expected to ride a police car for many years. The 21st century cop who has been exposed to early promotions plans on only a few years in the “harness” and have preconceived notions as to what rung of the ladder they should have reached. The first promotion to Corporal for the 20th century copy was often fifteen to twenty years, they were part of the baby boomer bubble. Coming behind the bubble the 21st century cop is promoted much earlier, sometimes as early as five years.

The 20 century road cop was surrounded by experienced officers, it was not uncommon to have many officers holding twelve or fifteen years of service. The 21st century road cop averages about eighteen months service. Guidance for them is almost non-existent. Even the newly minted bosses sometimes have less seven or eight years service.

The 20th century cop started off with a Sam Browne holster, a .38 revolver constantly swivelling about on his hip, a couple of plastic holders for a trusted yellow plastic flashlight, and maybe a baton. When they got pepper spray issued, they used it more on themselves while horsing around then they did on any contrite suspects.

The 21st century cop carries the 9mm, extra handcuffs, pepper spray, gloves, a taser, a collapsible baton, a radio hearing bud, mechanical tools, and a carbine rifle. There are no more foot chases, nor any such thing as a roomy police car.

That .38 revolver rarely came out of its holster. Most 20th century cops were not going to shoot anyone for erratic behaviour, or disobeying their commands to comply. If there were no other options, it was going to get physical. The 21st century cop believes in a circle of safety surrounding them that can not be breached.

When confronted with violence, the 21st century cop turns to escalating levels of tools while the 20th century cop takes off his watch, not wanting to cause any damage to the watch his or her kids gave them. They anticipated violence, but first try to figure out how to try and talk to the individual. The bad guy was allowed the first swing. Rarely were there charges for assault of a police officer if there was a fight and just as rarely would there be a complaint about assaultive behaviour.

The 20th century cop has no conception of the approach undertaken by four officers at the Vancouver airport, where a single male threatened them with a stapler. The 21st century members in this case did not hesitate to go to their tool belt to avoid a physical confrontation. If they had wrestled the man to the ground the 20th century cop may also have inadvertently caused the man to have a heart attack– but there would not have been the same toll. Nobody would have gone to jail.

The current spate of complaints against police is a glaring and often abusive example of the 20th century cop being held to 21st century management. The vast majority of the cases which are hitting the public eye and seem examples of brutality or ill-advised police decisions are often just the result of two completely different mind sets, 20th vs 21st.

The 20th century cop is continually being exposed by cell phone video technology, no matter the level of the confrontation. The 21st cop is always aware of being watched.

The 20th century cop wanted to be able to type, and often wrestled with carbon copies and with a ham fist pounded the typewriter keys. The 21st century cop knows “apps”. “There is an app for that” may have become the mission statement.

The 20th century cop talks to the neighbours at the scene of a crime, the 21st century cop asks if there is any video. In this new age; if there is no DNA, or no video, there is no crime.

In the 20th century the Operational Manual was a “guideline”.

In the 20th century there was the Blue Wall. No more, as brick by brick it has been dismantled. There is no concept of a blue wall being acceptable in the 21st century.

In the 20th century cops were held in high public esteem, a positive element of society, a black and white answer in the non-political world of policing.

The 21st century cop is political, forced there by social media and the new 180 character journalism.

The old school guy or girl rising through the ranks replaced by the politically correct, where you are recognized for your identity and gender as much as your resume. It is no individual’s fault, it is just accepted as being a better way.

In public, the 20th century cop stands erect, Ray-Bans in place with a stern demeanour. The 21st century cop is often seen dancing or marching in the latest cause parade. They both still look ridiculous.

So where does this leave us?

In the Venn diagram of 20th and 21st century policing the area of congruence is becoming smaller and smaller. The commonalities are disappearing. Neither side is right or wrong, they are just different.

Policing has not changed, the police are still the medium between the interactions of people. You are still trying to discern right from wrong, Your principles should still be your guide. In the end, it is no more complicated than that.

So here is to the 21st century cops, assiduously working to “maintens le droit”.

It is indeed a new world, full of both the same and different problems.

Learn from history, but ignore the old silver backs chirping on the sidelines like Statler and Waldorf, as they wander in search of the early-bird special.

Listen to their stories out of respect, but make your own stories, and enjoy the ride. We did.

Photo courtesy of Dennis Sylvester Hurd via Flickr Commons – Some rights reserved

Mandate

Like a 1950’s child running to meet the postman for the Sears catalogue, one wonders whether Ms.Lucki dashed to greet the postman who was delivering  her new “mandate” letter.

If you were bored, frustrated, killing time waiting for shift end, or enjoy a little masochism, then you too may have read with anticipation the Honourable Ralph Goodale’s “mandate letter” to Commissioner Lucki.

The document is surprisingly brief from the illustrious Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. It was likely “ghost written”, by a high placed bureaucrat and screened by a legal team, nevertheless it is still revealing. With a little in-between line reading, if there were any doubts as to why Commissioner Lucki rose to the surface and became the cream of the crop in the view of that Liberal august selection committee, then this document should remove that doubt.

What is interesting is what is missing, what was not worthy of mention. If you want to believe that operational policing is the soul of the future RCMP under Commissioner Lucki, you may be wrong. If you think terrorism, cyber crime, white collar crime or child pornography are occupying the minds of the RCMP management in the endless future meetings at 73 Leikin Drive in Ottawa,  you will likely be disappointed.

The letter begins with a reference to Section 5(1) of the RCMP Act where the Commissioner of the RCMP has the “control and management of the RCMP and all matters connected to the Force”, but of course at the “direction of the Minister”. He goes on to say that “police independence underpins the rule of law and ministerial direction”,  that he will rely on the “advice and input” to “help me” establish “strategic priorities.” Blah blah blah.

All that requisite dribble aside, he then goes on to outline what Commissioner Lucki’s “role” will be. Which will be to “reinforce” and “support” the organization in its effort to modernize and reform the RCMP’s culture”

Its future “transformation”, as envisioned by that old sage Goodale will include the “health and safety of the RCMP employees”… “including from harassment and violence in the workplace”….and of course “enhancing its role in reconciliation” with “Indigenous peoples”.

All predictable of course, in light of Justin Trudeau and his cabinet recurring themes, but stark all the same in its simplicity.

The next paragraph mentions “internal and external governance structures and practises”, no doubt a reference to a future civilian administrative oversight.

Then the letter returns to clearly its main preoccupation. “You will need to prioritize that the RCMP is free from bullying, harassment, and sexual violence” and that she should prepare an extensive response to the reviews that were outlined by Sheila Fraser from the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission. She will need to “ensure that the RCMP is representative of Canada’s diverse population, including gender parity, and that women, Indigenous Peoples and minority groups are better reflected in positions of leadership”.

Mr. Goodale ends by reflecting on Commissioner Lucki’s previous posting of Training Branch in Regina, and he lauds her for her commitment to training, including “diversity, inclusion, and a respectful workplace”.

So where does this leave us? Like any change in power, whether it be in government, or in a government agency, it is helpful to look at the scope and focus of the change and try and determine who are the winners and who are the losers. Who are now in favour, and who have fallen out of flavour. Here are some predictions.

The Winners

If you are indigenous in the RCMP, or if you are even partially indigenous, or if you can claim a distant ancestry to anything resembling an indigenous group you are a clear winner.

If you are a member of the First Nations Policing Program in 2018 the Liberals have already invested $291 million in the program over the next five years. You are a winner.  This group which is overseen by this same Ministry is designed to “enhance the effectiveness of policing services in First Nation and Inuit communities.”

What “enhance” means in government speak can be anybody’s guess, but lets face it, they will likely be able to reach that goal.

If you want further proof of the constant indigenous theme, don’t stop at Ms. Lucki, look at the rest of the Senior Executive Committee of the RCMP management. Besides, a clear background tendency to the Federal policing side, you will also constantly see the theme of indigenous relations and its level of importance.

Even the more vocal and somewhat rebellious indigenous groups in Northern Manitoba are winners. Commissioner Lucki worked and resided in that area and received an Order of Merit for her “efforts to improve relations”. It doesn’t say that she did improve them, just that she made an effort of course.

The second clear winner are female officers.  With a relatively pristine record, and if you have more than 15 years of service, your odds of becoming management have become markedly greater.

This is not new. The trend for more women officers has been moving along at a high clip since the 1980’s when they first became the hiring priority.  In 2006 there were only 6% of officers were female, in 2016 that number has increased to 21%; more than a 250% increase. In 2016 as well, 13% of senior officers in policing were women.  There will need a massive advancement of female officers in the next few years to have a visible measurable impact, one which Lucki can hold up as evidence of success. Expect demands for more flexible work hours, greater considerations for pregnancy and eventual return to work accommodations.

If you self identify as a member of LGBTQ during the recruitment process or a member of any of the visible minorities, then you too should be a winner.

If you have a claim under the sexual harassment class action you will be a winner. There is little likelihood that this Liberal free-spending government will be eager to deny any claims even if some may be spurious and would normally warrant some authentication. There has been an exponential growth in claims, so expect that to continue.

The Losers

If you are a farmer or resident of the North Battleford area of Saskatchewan which enjoys the highest crime rate in Canada you are a loser, and you should not expect any improvements in policing for the next few years. You are in the way for those who will be pushing the indigenous agenda, so therefore you are politically expendable.

If you are an officer in Chase B.C. or Dauphin Manitoba, hoping beyond hope, that a replacement will be found to fill your position, you are a loser. The current staffing consensus indicates that there are not enough new people to even fill the retirement levels. Lack of manpower has been the theme for a few years, but expect this to continue as it never even gets honourable mention anymore. Clearly, they have given up on the phrase “more for less”, as its marketability has become more irritant than salve for the masses.

If you are optimistically expecting a pay raise to bring you back into contention in the police universe, you are a loser. The Federal government is clearly sitting back and waiting for the union process to get settled. Is it necessary to also point out that manpower and wages are not mentioned in the mandate letter? They haven’t quite figured out that morale, quality of life and optimism are directly linked to these issues.

Are we making too much of this mandate letter? Is this the thin edge of the knife?

The concern of course is that there has always been a curtain drawn, a line not crossed when it comes to the relationship between the police and the State. Goodale even makes reference to “police independence” in the beginning of the letter. However in real terms policing is at a crossroads. In the U.S. Donald Trump is trying to wrest control and direction of the FBI with political shenanigans only impeded by a robust 5th Estate, and an unwilling to go along attitude of the Justice Department and the FBI themselves.

Has Canada, the docile and compliant country that we are, now entered into a relationship between the police and the state which is a little too close for a properly running democracy? Have we now rolled over and woken to a new political RCMP, one wholly directed and run by the authorities?

Has that line been crossed? Is Commissioner Lucki now no different than the other Ministers who rely on the government of the day for their survival?

Maybe we are reading too much into it. Maybe the RCMP bureaucracy is so stultified that nothing will ever get done, maybe we can rely on bureaucratic incompetence to keep us safe.

But there is little doubt the RCMP is teetering, in fact it may be too late. It may have already become a fully engulfed political institution, part of government, not separated from it, no longer an ethical divide between them and the governing party of the day.

In the end the ultimate winner may be Commissioner Lucki herself.

After all, if she succeeds in pleasing her political masters in the next few years and if the Trump of the north continues to reign, who knows, maybe the Liberals will make her a Senator too; for a job well done of course, a job done as directed.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons by elPadawan Some Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Case of the Missing 100 Police Officers…

The RCMP in almost every field of endeavour for the last several years has been beaten up, the badge tarnished; the criticisms coming fast and furious, sometimes unfair, but more than often deserved.

They, meaning the management of the RCMP,  have been displaying a lack of operational understanding, often proving themselves to be ineffectual in times of crisis or at critical investigational junctures. This has been in combination with an embarrassing lack of leadership in terms of managing their own personnel.

The RCMP’s inability to solve crimes, their inability to bring terrorists to successful trial conclusions, their inability to defend Parliament hill,  and their inability to appreciate and anticipate sexual harassment civil suits costing hundreds of millions of dollars, have left this once proud organization, this policing icon to the world in shambles. Piece by piece it is being exposed and stomped on, while being watched over and supervised by ineffectual governments.

The current group of managers extoll the qualities of political correctness, strive at being inclusive; they are not known for principled steadfastness, successful investigations or timely intelligence gathering.

The RCMP does not operate in a vacuum. If internal ineptness is not enough they are also being hampered and hindered on several fronts, whether it is the judiciary and the Jordan rule, prosecution services hiding behind “substantial likelihood of conviction”, or a simple lack of resources and an absence of  human relations policies.

The incestuous world of RCMP upper management is now being governed by a new leader, one known apparently for her inclusiveness, and as recently announced her willingness to go along with the mandate of the Liberal government. She has effectively declared herself a follower, not a hoped for leader.

Present day officers have been suffering for years from a flawed promotional and staffing system, an unsupportive  management and an infusion of political correctness that has left this organization confused, struggling with 21st century issues, and in need of a complete re-build.

Many wonder how the RCMP has lost its way in such a profound manner?

The RCMP is being buffeted by wave after wave of 21st century standards and policies being forced upon a 20th century stultified organization. Nowhere is this more evident than at their flagship for operational policing in Canada, the Surrey detachment of the RCMP, its largest operational Detachment.

Located at 14355 57th Ave., in Surrey, British Columbia, its city sculpted flowered entrance belies a troubled organization. Behind this somewhat imposing concrete bunker style building the problems battering the RCMP play themselves out on a daily basis.

As any quantitative researcher will tell you, numbers matter, and an examination of the statistics coming out of this office are enlightening. (After a year long wait, an Access to Information request was recently received.)  Questions have been asked about the makeup of the detachment, the deployment of resources to see what could be found out from this rather secretive group. It is believed that Surrey is an example of what is going wrong within the RCMP in terms of its operational capabilities.

First: the population of Surrey has been growing.  In 2006, the population of Surrey was at 394,080; in 2016 the population was 530,443 an increase of 34% in those 10 years. So you may assume that there must have been a requisite change or increase in the number of occurrences or operational files generated by the RCMP just based on the increase in population? More people, more problems? (Most policing agencies base their requests for further manpower on the numbers, the more people the greater the need for officers, based on a police/per person ratio of anywhere from 1/600 to 1/900 for example)  However, if you look closer you will find a different story.

The actual number of  operational investigational files generated by calls for service went from 162,973 in 2006 to 185,801 in 2016.  That is only a 14% increase. How can this be explained?

One theory is that the reporting of actual crime has dropped. Businesses in Whalley for example, which have been broken into a number of times simply are not reporting them anymore, keeping the numbers at an artificial low. Difficult to measure for sure, but the anecdotal evidence is strong.

It is also possible that the makeup of the population is changing;  is Surrey becoming a wealthier suburb of Vancouver? Is the criminal element shifting further east? Also possible but not being measured as of yet.

So if the occurrences are not growing, because those numbers show an occurrence rate growing at only 1.5% per year, what about the actual types of crime: comparing the years  2006 with  2015.

                                 *2006                            2015

**Homicide                 11                                 15

Assaults                  4,909                              3464

Robbery                   670                              762

Abduction                144                                 45

Crim. Harassment   1, 708                          1,907

B &E                          4675                              3786

Theft MV                 4,769                              3,291

Total thefts             15,068                           15,262

*All Stats are from the RCMP Web sites. ** One should also note that homicides in Surrey are handled by IHIT, not resources of Surrey Detachment.

These are just a few examples listed on the RCMP Web site. What is striking is that the numbers are pretty similar even though nine years of growth have occurred. The crimes of 2006 are the crimes of 2015. Some went up, some went down, and in the totals: Criminal Code offences per population as measured in 2006 was 113.91; in 2015 that number was 97.74.

The 10 year average was down overall. So if one were to generalize, you would have to lean to the fact that the crime rate has actually decreased during this time period.

So if the investigational files generated has only grown by 14% in terms of actual calls to the police, then should we not expect to find that the Detachment has grown accordingly?  The actual detachment size has grown at a staggering rate, despite the drop in crime and a very meagre growth in investigational calls, and despite cries for more officers.

The number of personnel now working in Surrey Detachment during this time period has grown by f 41.069 % .

The annual budget for the Surrey RCMP has gone to $144,981,000.00 in 2017. This is roughly 45% of the Surrey municipal government’s overall budget.

If we examine just one of the ranks in the building, the Sargeants for instance they have gone from 29 in 2006 to 73 in 2017. In strict pay dollars that amounts to an increase in spending on Sargeants who make a salary of $102,715 (not counting overtime) from $2,978,735 in 2006 to $7,498,195 in 2017.

The number of personnel working in the Detachment in all capacities has grown from 570 in 2006 to 837 in 2017.

There is a general theory in policing, that boots on the ground matter. The “broken window” theory of policing as espoused by the New York Police Department to great effect has become an accepted belief. That if you look after the small crimes, the rest will come naturally.  In looking at the growth in Surrey detachment you would probably assume that the streets of Surrey are heavily policed. A police car and an officer on every corner.

One must bear in mind, that the face of operational policing in any detachment is the uniform personnel. They are the ones that take the calls, patrol the streets, and conduct the  majority of the investigations that are generated day to day. The RCMP management continually call it the “backbone” of the RCMP.

The RCMP does not seem to agree or go along with the “broken window theory”.  Remember the cries for help and the 100 new officers that were being promised in the wake of the murder of middle aged mom, Julie Paskall outside the Newton Wave Pool?  The Surrey RCMP decried the lack of resources but promised all would be solved by an increase of 100 officers. (a perfectly round number and one wonders what formula came up with this)

Unfortunately what they say and do is quite different. For the last number of years and possibly decades, the uniform personnel have been treated as 2nd class citizens, and the RCMP management has taken this opportunity to enhance their plain clothes establishment, increasing the numbers and increasing the promotions, growing the policing empire. Upper management at this Detachment have thoroughly bought into the theory that everyone is a specialist, policing is more sophisticated, more in need of specialized education and investigation to combat the overwhelming problems of policing. They have become more of a Federal government department, fat with oversight, fat with overtime, fat with jobs that seemingly grow more distant from the actual job needs. They have lost sight of the core job of policing a City like Surrey.

All officers start on the streets, in uniform, but after three or four year service, most of the current crop of officers believe that their career path has to mean going to a specialized unit. The demographics of the last twenty years with senior officers leaving in droves, means that officers who once stayed on the road in uniform for 12-15 years have been replaced by officers of  3 or 4 years service. And these junior officers, in this environment feel that they should be promoted earlier and be allowed to go to these specialized units much earlier. The current experience of officers on the road has decreased to a significant and marked degree. With seniority declining, the level of experienced supervision has also declined.

According to our filed Request for Information, in 2014, the total police establishment in Surrey was 703. According to the statistics provided by them,  there were 276 officers assigned to General Duty (uniform) for Surrey Detachment.

Remembering there are 4 Watches, that would mean on paper, 69 officers per watch. Unfortunately the RCMP is being misleading.

In actual fact for the years 2011 to 2017 the numbers on the Watch are actually between 40 and if being generous, 50 officers. So 20 or so officers per Watch, have been taken from the uniform side, and also seconded to specialized units. By simply moving the position numbers to the secondary units.

In 2011, when personally last in Surrey, we had difficulty sometimes putting 35 officers on the road, and were routinely calling in officers on overtime to reach the unwritten “minimum” of 35.

Nothing has changed much since 2011. Patrol officers continue to be swamped, unable to obtain meal breaks, unable to get done their 12 hour shift without an extra two hours of paperwork. They were and continue to be over-worked.

If off for prolonged sick leave, or for maternity leave, there is no replacement member put in their stead.

Meanwhile the Detachment managers have for years have been consumed by growth and the perks and enhancements that come with it. The upper echelon have come up through the plainclothes ranks and have become adept on growing departments, padding the payroll, and increasing the promotions, while on the road the uniform numbers remain virtually unchanged, sometimes at dangerous levels.

The  “plainclothes sections”, rule the ship, taking their coffee breaks, lunch breaks, and throwing in a little time for the gym.  Overtime is selective and plentiful. It is “easy street” in comparison to working in uniform.

These are the two worlds in the RCMP; both revolving in the same police universe, but seemingly unconnected. Pepper spray and tasers on one side,  the laptop on the other side. The specialists are not encumbered by a gun belt with the numerous tools of the day, never tied to a radio demanding attention and attendance. They are sometimes “affectionately” referred to as the “carpet cowboys”. It is only natural that they lose site of, and then can not relate to the uniform officer in Estevan Saskatchewan, or the officer patrolling the King George Hwy in Surrey.

In this same orbit, is the uniform officer; tied to the radio, tied to the need for answering calls for service, tied to 12 hour shifts, infinite court, and infinite reporting.

This era of specialization is a mantra, it has taken hold and this general aggrandizement of the roles and ranks of the operations is now firmly ensconced. The Federal and Provincial governments buy the propaganda put out by policing managers giving credence to the theory that if you repeat something enough times, eventually everyone will come to believe it.

So with this increase in sophistication, the argument will be that they are more successful,  it would mean more prosecutions, more success in the courts? Have  prosecutions in Surrey have increased?

In the Annual Report for the Prosecution Service in British Columbia, in  2014/15 there were 59,447 number of accused persons approved to Court in all of B.C. In 2016/17 there were 63,733, a 6% increase.

In 2014 Professor Curt Taylor Griffiths of the Criminology Department at SFU did a study and found that Surrey had the “lowest crime clearance rates” in the Lower Mainland. Also, remember that this was the time that Surrey Detachment was asking and got “100 more officers”.

So clearly all this increased specialization, this increase in manpower, this increase in all these tactical units has not led to a great increase in prosecutions.

So where are those 100 officers that was going to be a solution to all the shootings and the increased crime around Newton.?  They arrived but you can’t see them.

This disappearing magic act is easily explained.  The officers who arrived quickly became absorbed in the operational monolith.  The uniform officers already on the road took this time to apply for and get assigned to plainclothes, to be replaced by these brand new officers. So the detachment numbers increased, not the uniform officers on the road.

The numbers grew inside the building, not on the outside which was the public’s expectation.  There was no increase in the number of “boots on the ground”, which was what was being promised. The taxpayers were duped. More “carpet cowboys” were created, maybe a new Sgt position.

So in this age of declining violent crime, (in 2016 it dropped 16%, in 2017 it dropped an additional 8%) how is that this detachment continues to grow, expand its promotions, expand its core base, and add to the increasing cost of policing in Surrey? How is it that the actual police presence on the road is static, while the ability to respond for calls for service remains virtually the same over the last several years, and the experience on the road is dwindling as is the supervision?

The Surrey Detachment flagship is a reflection of the policing times we find ourselves, and a reflection of the “new” management. Specialization, talking of diversity and inclusiveness, telling the governments of the day what they want to hear.

Uniform policing in the RCMP, its very core, is dying a slow death while bureaucracy rules. Growth of the mandate, growth of the secondary roles is more glamorous, more in keeping with a certain level of sophistication. It is safer, less in the public eye, less risk for a risk averse management group.

Meanwhile day to day policing is looked down upon, where people get sent if they are in trouble. Day to day policing is un-glamorous, 12 hour shifting, working on holidays, endless report writing, Crown Prosecutions sheets prepped while dog tired, all of which will be wrapped in legal arguments to be played out in courts for days on end.

Couple an inability to deliver a core service with thousands of claims of sexual harassment, internal investigations that would make many blush, unionization on the horizon, and unbridled self-promotion and you get a sense of further impending chaos with little or no sense of an ending.  To the old observers and former participants it is futile, doomed to an awkward death.

To the few that hang on; the few that continue to work hard, continue to put the job ahead of their life and their family, they just shake their heads. They keep forging ahead, hoping that someone will care— one of these days.

As to those 100 officers that were received to solve the street policing problem in Newton; don’t look for them on the street. They haven’t actually disappeared. Go down to the detachment and peer in the windows facing 144th Street. That’s where they are, through the tinted glass.

And when you next see four police cars of baby faced officers, sitting in the Tim Hortons at 2 in the morning on Fraser Hwy, having their break of coffee and cruellers, don’t think ill of them. They are not being supported and it is probably their first break in a 12 hour shift. During their fitful sleeps between day and night shifts, sugar plum fairies are not dancing in their heads, they are dreaming of being able to one day sit behind those windows on 144th St. They want to be part of the new policing.

(In terms of full disclosureSurrey Detachment  it was this writer’s home for 10 years. It is my alma mater, and I look back with fondness of my years spent there. I worked in uniform and in plainclothes)

Photo courtesy of Flickr via Commons by FB Some Rights Reserved

Some follow-up

In recent days, Surrey has once again been hit with a string of shootings, one case of particular concern, as the victim appears to be completely innocent; a case of mistaken identity. (This is not the first case of mistaken identity in Surrey over the years as a point of fact). The media are re-acting on talk shows and on television to this latest outpouring of violence.

The RCMP management team in Surrey led by Dwayne MacDonald have provided the expected reaction.  In a rehearsed statement talking about his sadness and outrage and promising to bring the perpetrators to justice.  And in a cute deflection move, released pics of some gangsters who have been shot at recently, and telling the public to avoid hanging around them. Really? He also reiterates how the Surrey Detachment Gang Enforcement Team is “working” with CFSEU. Again, the specialized units who target these individuals over long periods of time is going to solve this, the theme being just trust us we are working hard. He assures everyone that they are “making headway” and they are “strategically targeting” the wrong doers and of course he is asking for “the community to join us in this effort”

There are rumblings developing and judging by the hits on this blog from police and politicians, some people are now seeing the problem of being of one of deployment rather than resources. Current Surrey mayor candidate Tom Gill is calling for a re-assessing the RCMP contract in terms of how the resources are deployed. There have been a call for a “beat program”.  There are even a few persons calling for a regional or city force to replace the RCMP.

The RCMP, if they do not adapt and change are going to go down. MacDonald’s platitudes despite his best intentions are tired, well-worn and of little value. Put away the talk of community “initiatives”, “strategies”, “targeting”, “community effort”, “youth initiatives” and “more resources”.  My advice, get back to the core of policing , put officers on the street. It really is not complicated.