Sharing a Patrol Car

The planned transition from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Surrey to the new Surrey Police Service is beginning to fray a little bit. It would seem from one on the outside looking in, that there is a lot of time being spent in that muddled grey “transition” area; the area now “shared” by two separate policing groups. In practise currently, effective control of the policing in the city is still in the shaky hands of the Mounties. Official city signs proclaim that the City of Surrey is “where the future is”. The problem is that nobody knows where what lays ahead in terms of policing, a city which has more than its share of criminal problems.

The longer the residents live in this partially castrated middle ground there will be significant implications for the overall police service to that community. As of today, the RCMP are the policing agency of record, and from that viewpoint, nothing has really outwardly changed. However, as the new Surrey Police Service officers are very slowly being sprinkled amongst the various Watches, there are increasing reports of declining morale and personal friction between the two groups. Members of the two groups are now sharing a patrol car, at least in a theoretical sense, but this changeover is turning into a grinding process with no end in sight.

This shared policing mandate is by no means a normalized policing model and it is clearly unsustainable long term. To expect two separate entities to be tasked to police the same jurisdiction but play by different rules administratively and operationally seems obviously untenable. Even more worrisome is that this may continue for the next number of months or apparently even years. As time marches on, things such as investigational process and file management have a very real chance of becoming very blurry.

For the clarity of record, I have been in favour of an independent Surrey Police Service for many years. This is due mainly to the sadly crumbling RCMP no longer able to deliver what they are if fact contracted to do. There is no idealized thought held that a version of a new police force is the panacea for all that ails policing. Ottawa and its over bureaucratized structures is the albatross hanging around the neck of the RCMP; it is not the performance of individual officers in day to day policing. The structural, operational, and resourcing hurdles now facing the officers of the RCMP continue to be soul destroying and there does not appear any willingness on the part of Ottawa to change. This blog continues to maintain that a trained officer in one uniform is on an individual level, not much different than any other police officer. The colour of the uniform is irrelevant, it is the structure of how they are being asked to operate that is the key to understanding both the problems and the solutions in policing.

That said, sufficient time has now passed since the announced development of the SPS and there are questions that need to be asked and answered as to the overall expectations of this new police service.

The most blatant and obvious question is how long is this going to take? The Surrey Police Board was formed in August 2020. The first SPS officer was deployed in 2021, and now it is projected according to their own “Strategic Plan” for 2022, that in May of 2023 they will have in place 295 sworn officers. At first blush that number seems reasonable, as recruitment, hiring and vetting of new officers is in fact a very time consuming process. Plausible until one considers that the Surrey RCMP currently consists of over 800 officers. So after 2.5 years, the SPS will have only about 36% of the anticipated need of the current RCMP. A little more alarming is that currently, again, according to their own strategic plan, there is no anticipated or formative deadline for this newly formed organization. That would and should seem unacceptable to any Surrey taxpayer.

A second question is to do with the amount of monies currently being spent and what is projected. The first proposed budget for this transition was $63.7 million and it was to cover for the years 2020-2024. So far, the new group has spent $25 million in 2021 and will be spending another $79 million in 2022. There are still two years to go and clearly they are already over budget. Their claim is that the extra costs are largely the result of spending in the area of information technology. Should one assume and accept that in the planning stages they did not anticipate an IT transition in all of its cost and ramifications?

Can the slowness of the development of this new police service along with the budgetary failings be attributed to the fact that it is being overseen by the bureaucratic sounding Surrey Police Transition Trilateral Committee? The fact that this “committee” consists of three levels of government coming together to oversee and supervise this process may be your most obvious explanation as to delay and lack of deadlines.

If you go to the SPS website looking for some insight you will be disappointed. It is the flavour of what constitutes government communication in this day and age, prodigiously filled with government baffle which seems designed to thwart any kind of real examination. You will see all the usual governmental language flags of “appeasement” and “inclusion”. The all too common phrases of “local partners”, “best practises”, “community engagement”, all framed within their newly polished and enshrined motto: “Safer. Stronger. Together”. (One can only wonder what someone was paid for such a benign and lacklustre motto.)

On the website, you will see allusions to Robert Peel and his 9 rules of Policing, but in particular his 7th rule which ended with his less than profound “…the police are the public and that the public are the police”. You will also see a section where are listed the core values of this new age police department which is using the phraseology such as “honour’ and “inclusiveness”. I am sure by this time most readers could guess at all the others.

To reach the citizens of Surrey and be able to respond to their needs, the SPS points to the fact that from June to October 2021 they engaged in large scale community consultation. This included, “public opinion surveys”, “stakeholder interviews,” and the use of “focus groups.” All this has led to their grand 2022 Strategic Plan.

If you examine this “Plan” in greater depth you will find it broken down into three parts; operational readiness, organizational development, and employee development and wellness. Inside all of these three categories of planned action you will find references to the further need for more “research” and further time needed to “develop”. Under operational readiness you will see that their goal includes developing “a file transfer strategy” and the development of an “operational and administrative manuals.” Under the heading of organizational development you will see plans to “research body worn cameras” and “research best practises in community programs” such as the program for a “school resource officer”. This would seem to suggest there is still a lot of research and development to follow.

This is not to say that this transition is not an enormous and often complicated undertaking. It is. One does get the sense as well that the Committee is trying to insure that all the officers of the 2000 applications the SPS say they have now received, do not completely wipe out some of the current and local municipal forces. They have now started reviewing applications from outside the Lower Mainland, so as not to completely wipe out departments such as West Vancouver, Delta, or Port Moody. This underlines the fact that this is as much a political process as an organizational process, that Police Services sequestered in Victoria is trying to orchestrate.

The SPS does seem to be on target in terms of catering to the whim of the special interest groups and the ridiculous and often gratuitous media coverage. They list their community “engagements” as having four meetings with the 2SLGBTQ+, and 21 meetings with the Indigenous. The actual day to day policing needs such as file management, the continuity of investigations and the ongoing need for sustained expertise in investigations is not mentioned in the “Strategic Plan”.

In previous blogs I have questioned those that have been chosen to lead this new SPS. Those doubts have not been alleviated by what has transpired so far. Mr.Lepinski with little doubt, is astute at reading the political winds, bending and curtseying to the social liberalized version of what constitutes policing in this day and age. Whether this type of leadership translates into a vibrant operational police force is quite another matter.

I have been told that Jennifer Hyland in charge of the Support Services group is also overseeing the purchase of Yeti water bottles, ArcTeryx clothing, and Lululemon workout gear for those now under her command– it is not clear whether the Surrey taxpayers would feel that this is appropriate use of transitional monies. She is the one overseeing the hiring of over 800 new officers, so one can only hope the thought of a paid-for water bottle will move that process along a little more quickly.

The other unknown in this SPS transition is the pro SPS-Mayor himself and the civic elections slated for October 15th, 2022. McCallum is a bit of a swollen buffoon, he has been for many years, and some of that character will be exposed in an upcoming ridiculous criminal trial where he is charged with mischief for a false claim of a protestor running over his foot. The fact that he is the political wedge and image for this new police force is at the very least a hindrance. However, as unpopular as he is, with numerous mayoral candidates he may once again outfox the likes of Brenda Locke by splitting the votes sufficiently amongst the eight current candidates. There are over 56 candidates for council, so good luck to the Surrey voters figuring that one out.

I remain convinced that a separate municipal agency is the only viable route for policing in Surrey. But, to say that the current leadership for this new entity is capable of pulling it off, on budget, and with an operational emphasis is still a very open question. Woke leadership is not what is needed right now. They are clearly emblematic of the majority of police leaders operating in this current climate, Lepinski and Hyland are inhalers of all things political, and they have survived and flourished regurgitating the narrative which does not offend and that caters to the special interest groups. The Surrey residents are currently being fed a pablum of meaningless verbiage, and if that is all they wanted, maybe, just maybe, they should have retained the forever opaque RCMP.

An Unremitting sadness…

It is with some reluctance that I approached the possibility of revisiting the “Mass Casualty Commission” hearings. After all, I have written about it a couple of times already.

It certainly was not because of some sadistic desire to listen to Commissioner Lucki as she reiterated several times over, why she was asking for information about the guns used by Wortman. She clearly has been practising her evidence and she is clearly willing to stick it out. Her cover and well rehearsed story is of course that she was merely “disappointed”– in only that she gave the Minister’s office the wrong information. And it is for that reason, and that reason only why she was “frustrated” and chose to vent on April 28th in a meeting with the H Division Senior personnel, all while Supt. Campbell scribbled notes.

Judging by social media, many of you continue to follow and are watching the proceedings so there is no need to go over this well worn ground– you can decide who is telling the truth, even though at this point it seems obvious. Ms. Lucki even seems to have convinced herself of “her truth”, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Her oft repeated denials encased in characterizations: “I am a collaborative person”…”I am a glass half full person”…”I am not an angry person”…”I wouldn’t call anyone a liar, I just don’t think that way”…”I am not a hurtful person”. All good to know for a Tinder bio, but not of much substance.

What struck this writer besides the overwhelming sadness of the event itself, which permeates the hearings with unimaginable visions but that there is another sadness to all of this exercise. It is that we seem to be watching the grindingly slow disintegration of the RCMP as a viable and once formidable renowned operational police force. The fact that the Commissioner and other police officers were asked to dress in civilian clothes so that the very uniform of the Mounted Police would not re-traumatize the victim families was both ridiculous and telling at the same time. What is the overall message when the very sight of the uniform was decided by these three Commissioners as off-putting to the participants.

Commissioner Lucki’s evidence as expected and was for the most part banal and of little value; but it was illustrative in an un-intended way. It put on full display both the internal problems of the RCMP and the chasm which has been for years separating and pulling apart the fabric of operational policing. We, as members of the public, were given an albeit brief glimpse into the dark corridors (they are dark of course partly because everyone is still working from home) and the inner-workings of the RCMP in HQ Ottawa. No one in the management ranks, is usually willing to be forthright and honest in describing the day to day issues. Lucki was not the exception, but in trying to distance herself from “interference” charges, she inadvertently had to put her system on display.

First and foremost was the Strategic Communications group, who appeared to be on first flush not very good with communications and not very strategic. They were talked about often in the hearings and clearly form the centre core for the daily life of the Commissioner. It was patently obvious that Ottawa HQ is far from the land of operations and that “communications” is the God in front of which they all kneel. The transferring and movement of information is their primary product. In how and when they deliver this product of learned information is where they are awarded or chastised for the accuracy and flow of that information. They were and are constantly worried of the “media tracking negatively”. They worry about their “reputational risk” and they talk about “pro-active communications versus reactive” as if written on stone tablets. In this case and in particular with the reference to the media release of the gun information, the communication “experts” in Ottawa did not trust the H Division communication “experts”.

This whole story of Supt Campbell and his evidence of the meeting was butting up against the version of Commissioner Lucki and it completely originates from the Ottawa types being frustrated in their abilities to keep the “higher ups” in the loop about this headline dominating investigation. There was only one portion of the briefing which was needed by Mr. Blair and his office –their only interest was in using the the tragedy to politically further their gun legislation. There could be no other reason. Ms. Lucki was dismayed and expressed “frustration” that there were only three briefing notes in eight days. She went further and said by way of explanation that in her mind: “communications is as important as operational…”. She has said previously, she is just a “messenger”, she is not a “holder of information”. The vital and central question is who is she a messenger for?

What was also illustrated is that Ottawa HQ, just like the Federal government at large is the land of deflection. It is practised amongst layers and layers of bureaucrats, making it difficult if not impossible to pinpoint any culprit and serving to obscure any politically sensitive information. Ms. Lucki in her testimony continually deferred to others, maybe legitimately, as the layers of Ottawa are infinite and confounding even to those living in this rarefied environment.

She was apparently unaware that her chief media person Tessier who continually reported to her, had sent an email to H Division Lia Scanlon saying prior to the press conference: “Please tell me Darren is going to talk about the guns…my phone is blowing up here”. Ms. Lucki denied knowledge of any interest in this subject on the part of her press officer.

She could also not remember making a phone call, her one and only call ever to Chief Supt Chris Leather about the guns. “I don’t recall that conversation” she said simply.

Deputy Commissioner Brennan had previously testified that he “likely” told Ms. Lucki some of the details about the guns as their offices were close, and he would have just have walked down the hallway to her office. Commissioner Lucki said that couldn’t have happened because she was “working from home” on that day, as she was most days.

The threat of COVID clearly played a bigger role in the Ottawa environment than in the policing provinces where one always had to go to work. COVID was oft mentioned by Lucki. A ready-made excuse for her ” not having sent her “Tiger Team” spin doctors to the scene in H Division which could have clearly helped to avoid the back and forth. She was “afraid we would bring COVID to Nova Scotia” was her reasoned decision.

This land of rehearsed un-accountability clearly was the reason for not taking notes at executive meetings. They are continually trying to avoid a detailed and therefore accessible written record of account. I have witnessed this in the corporate world and clearly it has enveloped the Ottawa mandarins. The meeting of April 28th was a glaring example. No one holding to the Lucki version of truth, all the Ottawa people took notes at this meeting. In H Division, C/Supt Campbell who comes from a background of operations took notes; the two fellow officers, Leather and Bergerman did not. Let’s face it, the only reason that Chief Supt. Campbell has been allowed free rein in this instance is that he took those notes.

Ottawa is also the land of “subject matter experts”. (Ms. Lucki confirmed she isn’t one–she is just a messenger remember). Most of these experts are short of operational or hands on experience. This is a world full of courses, “hundreds” according to Ms. Lucki, and it is where “table top” exercises are their reality. In this testimony and in others one heard an awful lot about the “Critical Incident Response” training, courses and command centres all designed to fill in for and ameliorate experience and geographical knowledge. In this vein, Ms. Lucki who is head of the Firearms Program admits that she actually knows “nothing about firearms”. Ottawa mandarins are the only ones who would understand this logic.

Lucki commended her employees and described them as “second to none in service delivery”. Then we had to listen to the fact that the Goulay family, was never notified of their mother being killed, that the crime scene of her death went unattended and unsecured, and then the family went into the house after it was eventually searched, they found evidence that had been missed–a bullet casing no less. Lucki’s response “I’m sorry that happened”.

When asked as to why she didn’t pick up the phone and call Lia Scanlon who had written the damaging letter calling her out on the April 28th meeting, she said that “I didn’t want to effect her wellness plan”.

When Lucki was asked about whether the police needed more education, higher academic standards such as the previous recommendation from another Commission, she said that she did not want to deter diverse applicants. “I’m trying to get people from Nunavut to join the RCMP” and better education “is a barrier”. She then pointed out that they have changed the entrance exam in order to facilitate entry and allow for “life experience”.

She talked about the lack of resources, an issue which has been around for decades, as if she had no control, but agreed that hiring for overtime was unsustainable and had a negative effect on the “work life balance”.

The level of the resourcing in H Division at the time of the incident was only spoken about briefly, but there were some startling revelations. Only two dog officers in the Province. That they already had borrowed 30-50 officers from out of the Province to attend to the fishing dispute were a couple of the examples.

She was asked about the fact that contrary to Section 6 of the Code of Conduct and Section 9.2 of the Conflict of Interest guidelines it is pretty clear that you are not allowed to hire “immediate family members”. When Chief Supt Janis Grey hired her husband retired Chief Supt John Robin or when CO Bergerman hired her husband Mike Butcher, also a retired Mountie, for the Issues Management Team for the Portapique commission she was asked if there were any consequences? No was the answer. Clearly Code of Conduct issues only apply to the low ranking members. It was often mentioned that Lucki is flying at 10,000 feet, above the details, therefore above reproach for any minutiae, so one would presume that the other high ranking officers are above the clouds as well, and they too are beyond reproach.

When asked if she thought that there should be some guidelines made up in terms of political interference, she felt that this was a good idea. Maybe a “mandate letter” she suggested which would explain the line in the sand to the incoming Commissioner and other officers. Are we to interpret this to mean that she could have had some needed guidance upon becoming Commissioner?

As she neared the end of her testimony she was asked about what recommendations she would be looking forward to from the Commission? Her profound response: “anything that will keep Canadians safe.” This scholarly response is coming from the woman who is heading a 32,000 person agency; overseeing 169 policing contracts; and the criminal and Federal responsibilities for the vast majority of this country. One lawyer described the management structure of the RCMP now as an “incomprehensible web”, “this big clump in the middle” of a very “dense management system”.

This agency is crumbling in plain view and by any measurement, weighed down by indifference to its central and core goals, consumed by appearance and an adherence to political survival. Everyone in Ottawa holding hands like Thelma and Louise, somehow indifferent to the consequences. One should also not hold out hope that this socially sensitive victim centred Commission will be the guiding light to significant change. One can expect many references to “community policing”, “counselling” and “coordination”.

It is all very sad.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons – Nick Fewings- Some rights reserved

A Psychophysiological Detection of Deception Examination ( for all Politicians )

Presumably the title grabbed your eye, and yes of course I am talking about the polygraph, or as it is often misnamed the “lie detector”. I wrote a couple of blogs ago about not needing a polygraph for Commissioner Lucki, but this is in a different vein. This blog is about to propose a possible solution for a life long problem that we are and have been having with politicians. I can not take credit for this idea, since a friend of mine came up with it and and he proposed I write about it. He is a bit of a philosopher and has been stewing about this particular solution for a number of years. The simplicity of what he was suggesting, I will admit initially made me skeptical. Often times if something seems simple to me, it somehow seems less plausible.

The specific problem which we are about to try and rectify is this: we have reached a stage in this country and around the globe, where politicians universally, no matter what political stripe, are simply not trusted. That actually may be an under-statement, so let me re-state it. We have reached epidemic proportions of mistrust, exacerbated by the likes of Trump on the right and Canada’s own Justin Trudeau on the left. We simply no longer believe them when they say something and they in turn seem confounded by the public questioning of their allegiances or motivations.

The public cynicism is of course well earned, the historic record speaks loudly and clearly. Politician after politician have been caught up in lies, or what they often refer to as “misstatements”, “misdirections”, or “misinterpretations” of what they actually intended to say. In Justin’s case and to be fair in the cases of many others, it is clear many have committed outright lies. For instance some most recent examples include the statement that the police asked for the implementation of the Emergencies Act to deal with the bouncy castle convoy people? Or our dear Commissioner Lucki clearly lying about pressure put upon her by the Bill Blair crew. Do you remember Bill Clinton, Hillary dutifully by his side, turning to face the camera directly and with millions watching to say categorically : “I never had sex with that woman”.

The suggestion being proposed is this. That all politicians while running or sitting in office have to submit to a polygraph test.

Now before we go any further, this writer does fully understand the negative issues surrounding the polygraph, which the U.S. Supreme Court said was no better than “flipping a coin in the air” in the detection of deception. They are right on one significant level. If one assumes that the polygraph in fact detects lies, it does not, as there is no measurable physiological reaction to lying. The polygraph which measures blood pressure, pulse, respiration and skin conductivity has been deemed to be not a “scientifically credible test” to determine if someone is lying, and as a result it is not admissible in a criminal court of law in this country, or the United Sates. This was confirmed for Canadians by the Supreme Court of Canada in R vs. Beland.

The polygraph is flawed as a “scientific instrument”, but if employed as an interview aid it can be a more than effective tool. It has therefore been accepted as a test in the hiring of employees engaged in sensitive positions for a number of years; agencies such as the FBI, NSA, and the CIA. Canadian police recruiters are often having the polygraph as a test prior to entry. It is a $2 billion industry in the U.S., the average cost of the test being about $700.00. It has been rumoured, but so far I have not been able to confirm, that the RCMP is doing away with the polygraph test for applicants to the RCMP. It seems that the Mounties who are having trouble getting recruits and getting them through training, are doing away with the polygraph admission for the very reason that they were failing too many of their applicants. (If this turns out to be true, the ramifications of this would necessitate a more in-depth examination)

So despite a general acceptance of it as an aid in screening persons in the field of employment; there is still some mixed application of the polygraph in terms of future employees. The Ontario government for instance has banned the use of polygraphs by an employer. (One has to wonder whether this came about as a result of the Ford brothers who dabbled in a little crack cocaine while in office, but that would be a little too suspicious on my part.) The polygraph can also be prejudiced, according to scientific testing, against those that are innocent. Finally, there are clear ways to beat it. In the United States, from 1945 to the present six Americans were found guilty of having committed espionage– all six had previously passed polygraph examinations.

Regardless of the apparent flaws and leaving aside all the naysayers, here again is the proposal. What if a political party and each of its candidates, prior to election, came out and stated that all their party candidates would take the polygraph, and furthermore, it would be in an open and public forum, and they would even provide the questions that were the subject of that polygraph. Additionally they would promise to share those results with the clear assumption that the tests are done by a fully accredited and impartial body.

How many candidates would survive that polygraph test would be the first question. But assume they survive, clearly the pressure would undoubtedly then fall to the other parties and their candidates to also comply and prove their worthiness for public office.

For those not experienced in the use and application of the polygraph process. The actual test is only about fifteen minutes long, but there is a lengthy preamble between the tester and the tested. In the lead-up to the test the interviewer would review the test questions, in order to establish a control question and a probable lie test. This sets the boundaries for the tested and an agreement is reached on the testing questions and the boundaries around them. After going through this process, five or six basic questions are agreed to and formulated and the test is administered.

In this theoretical proposal, what would the basic questions look like:

a) Is everything in your campaign literature and advertisements accurate?

b) Have you ever been a member of an extreme right or extreme left organization?

c) Have you ever cheated on your taxes?

Anyways, you get the picture. It would seem at first blush to not be a bad idea. In the Middle Ages they would pour boiling water over people they suspected of lying, the thinking being that an honest person would be able to stand and take the burning. So a polygraph is at least better than that methinks.

It would be an entertaining drinking game to go down the list of all these “honest” politicians now plying their wares in government and be able to bet (or drink) on the subsequent outcome of the test. There are some politicians that simply ooze that crooked instinct and would be an easy bet with two to one odds, where others may have a fifty-fifty wager. And there are those of you out there that believe that no politician could take and pass the test. Maybe that is true, I am not so sure, it may be a little harsh.

Will any slate of candidates take on this challenge? It seems unlikely, given that it is easier to let sleeping dogs lay, no sense stirring the pot only to find yourself in a un-retractable position. In the 1950’s there was a show called Lie Detector TV which was hosted by Melvin Belli a famous defence counsel of that day. During his day Belli had won over $600 million in damages and defended Jack Ruby who had shot Lee Harvey Oswald, the killer of President Kennedy.

Maybe instead of an all candidates debate hosted by Rosie Barton lobbying softball questions, we could have the polygraph test results revealed. If the candidate failed they could get a chance to debate why they failed, or why the test came back as in-conclusive. We could find a host like the lawyer Marie Henien who could cross-exam them on their explanations. It would be binge-worthy television drama, maybe cringe-worthy would be a better description, but I think it would draw the ratings, and the CBC could finally find a replacement for “Schitt’s Creek”– we could call this “Up the Creek”.

I clearly digress, but maybe ask the question at the next all candidates meeting you attend as part of your civic duty, when each and every politician is expounding on how they are best to represent the people you say:

“Excuse me, Dear Sir or Madam, will you take a polygraph test when you say you will never raise taxes?”

I will volunteer to hook up the electrodes.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons and the Internet Archive Book Images – Some Rights Reserved

No need for a Polygraph

Well, as luck would have it, there was nothing better for me to do on a hot cloudless July summer afternoon but to tune in to the Public Safety Committee hearings in Ottawa, and be given another opportunity to listen to Bill Blair and Commissioner Lucki testify to whether there was any political interference in the investigation in Portapique Nova Scotia. Judging by their on screen looks and overall demeanour, they didn’t want to be there either.

For those that have not been following the controversy, all of it stems from Ms. Lucki demanding and getting a meeting after a press conference on April 28th, 2020, which had been conducted by the H Division group overseeing the Portapique investigation. This was held a week into the investigation of Canada’s biggest mass murder. According to C/Supt Darren Campbell of H Division, who had taken notes as most police officers do, Commissioner Lucki had been “displeased” in this meeting with the local commanders. She was upset at her H Division underlings for not releasing information about the makes and models of the guns used in the attacks; details they had decided not to release in order to safeguard the ongoing investigation. This seemed logical and in keeping with investigational protocol, since much of the gun investigational inquiries was being conducted by the Americans. To release that information as the Americans were still trying to track the gun movement, would not have pleased their American counterparts and could have hindered the investigation.

C/Supt Campbell went on to describe that Commissioner Lucki said that she had “promised” the yet undisclosed information to the “Minister” and proceeded to chastise the H Division Mounties for not understanding her political world and that this all tied to the impending gun legislation, which coincidently, the Liberals were going to announce in a few days. She wanted that information.

The question is therefore: could this belligerent and clearly pressured Commissioner, eager to score points with her Liberal masters, in particular Mr. Blair; could this be translated or legally interpreted to say that she and the Minister were interfering in an investigation?

So these proceedings and this Committee composed of Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Bloc members were there to determine through their intrepid investigational techniques whether this constituted an interference in the investigational process by the Commissioner and the politicos.

For anyone that has not watched similar proceedings, one has to point out that these types of inquiries very much fall along party lines. In this case, the Liberal members of the Committee know they are in jeopardy and the evidence was not looking good. So the Liberal ministers on the Committee form a protective verbal V to shelter and block for Blair and Lucki. They were clearly there to try and defuse and their blatancy was at times laughable. The NDP member professed a cerebral approach and seem to be focused on what we can do better, the NDP credibility questionable at all times due to their current agreement to keep the Liberals in power for the next couple of years. So it is clearly up to the Conservatives and the Bloc to ask the tough questions, and to do so given the heavily constraining committee time rule limits.

It should be noted, that the Conservative MP from Manitoba Raquel Dancho was prepared and hard hitting and could arguably be said to have been the star of this particular show. She should be applauded for her efforts.

The huggable Minister Bill Blair started it off as the first witness. He was his usual rumpled self and as all LIberal cabinet ministers are now trained to do, answered any question with an unrelated political speech. When asked a question he began by immediately segueing into his gun legislation and his ongoing efforts to “continue to keep Canadians safety” at the top of his agenda. There were also his tried and true usual references to his being a former police chief. His Deputy Minister Rob Stewart sat dutifully beside him, quiet, never looking Blair’s way. Stewarts only contribution was that they were not solely focused on the guns, but just trying to learn the “full story of what had happened”.

Blair has been around awhile. He flatly denied speaking with Lucki “directly” or “never asked” her specifically about the guns. He says he was not in the meeting with H Division and therefore could not speak to it. The entirety of his evidence pointed to his Chief of Staff being the one orchestrating the gun legislation and trying to tie it to Portapique. The Chief of Staff was not there.

Next was the illustrious Commissioner Lucki, who is admittedly a little more poised and getting a little better at the deflect and obfuscate. But Lucki was immediately on the defensive, and obviously could not deny the notes of Campbell, but quibbled with the words “promise”, substituting “confirmed” as what she think she said.

She admitted to being “frustrated” with the flow of information coming to her, and denies that she had a particular interest in the guns that were involved in this mass killing. The question that was never asked was why would the make and model of firearms be the most pressing question in this large investigation that was still unfolding? How it was important could only be interpreted and tied to the Minister of Public Safety and National Security. He was in a few days introducing gun legislation through an order in council that was focused on the 1500 types of firearms they were going to ban. So there does not seem to be any other reason for the focus of Lucki and Blair’s department. There is no other reason for their drive to obtain this information.

On April 23nd a few days prior to the April 28th meeting, Ms Lucki had in fact been told that there would be no release of the gun information. She forwarded an email to that effect, saying that the information shouldn’t be released. This was forwarded to the “Minister” and by implication the PM’s office.

Between the 22nd and the 28th something changed in regard to the gun information. By the 28th she says she believed that the gun information was going to be released, based on her conversations with her press group, who in turn were talking to the H Division press group. It doesn’t appear like anyone in the investigation team told her that this was to be the case. A possible mis-communication? Who would believe in the current RCMP there would be such a thing?

Ms Lucki admitted to having a conversation with Bill Blair’s Chief of Staff where she was asked if the gun information was going to be released in the press conference on April 28th. She told him that it would be and no hesitancy in later that evening forwarding this information to others in the political machinery. By the time of the H Division press conference the Liberals were no doubt by now primed for this information to be released; a perfect springboard to show that the Liberals and their perspicacity when it comes to the banning of firearms. The biggest mass murder in Canada had some political points to score and maybe even a chance for a photo op with guns on full display. Ms.Lucki clearly knew this.

So the April 28th briefing was held by but there was fly in the ointment–H Division at the press conference never released the gun information.

In an email from Commissioner Lucki (that had no context) she sent to Blair’s chief of staff after the press conference said that the press conference “had not gone as expected”.

And it was after this that Commissioner Lucki called a meeting with H Division personnel.

Ms. Lucki according to her account was “frustrated” or “angry” according to the H Division people.

Ms. Lucki said she had been frustrated by the lack of information flowing to their offices in Ottawa. All of the information, not just about the guns. But about the guns, she says she was upset because she takes pride in the information she sends out and was frustrated that the information was wrong. She said she is “only a messenger”. She denied tying them to the gun legislation or Minister Blair. She did not want to argue with the notes from Campbell but that was how she remembered it.

So we had a classic case of he says, she says– except that Campbell took notes– and the Committee had not yet heard from the other officers in H Division that were up to testify next. Lucki left the meeting clearly on the ropes, the dramatic question which was about to unfold –could she survive the next witnesses? Would their loyalty to her win the day?

It is not often that this blogger gets to congratulate the senior executives in the Mounties, but I was surprised and was about to have some of my very diminished faith restored. Retired Commanding officer Lee Bergerman and Chief Superintendent Chris Leather became the next witnesses.

Mr. Leather who had been chastised many times in the press after the mass shooting, not only stood up well, but was articulate and refined, steadfast in his evidence and approach. Ms. Bergerman was succint and to the point, not mincing any of her words. Both showed courage in their convictions.

Both said that they agreed with the notes as taken by C/Supt Campbell. That they were an accurate reflection of the conversation and the tone of that conversation. They said they were taken “aback” by the conversation, “a bit stunned” and “confused” at these allegations by the Commissioner. Bergerman said that Lucki was “angry” and “knows her well enough” to say that. She confirmed as did Leather that Lucki spoke of getting “pressure from the Minister” that “she was under pressure”, and she had in fact mentioned the upcoming gun legislation.

Leather testified that it all began on April 22nd when he was asked by the Commissioner’s office to obtain a list of the guns. He said that he did forward a list, but under the direction of the shooting oversight body, SIRT, who specifically directed that this information was to stay in RCMP hands and not be disseminated. Bergerman and Leather were both asked if they would have in any event shared this information with anybody outside the investigational group. Both said they would not.

So Ms. Lucki defence is that it was all a matter of miscommunication and can give no real answer as to why she was so intent on getting the gun information to the Minster and his Chief of Staff.

The miscommunication Ms Lucki said stemmed from her in ability to get a “team” on the ground in H Division. Her reason they didn’t. Covid. The government would not allow it she said. Her reason was of course incorrect and dismissed later by Bergerman who said they could have come to H Division. There was no rule stopping someone from entering Nova Scotia if they were working during the Covid bubble.

Clearly there is some truth to the miscommunication allegation and the controversy that ensued. The myriad levels of bureaucracy that abounds through the RCMP and in particular in HQ has been well catalogued.

As has been stated many times before in this blog and by many others in the political chorus, Ms. Lucki is merely a foot soldier for the Liberal political elite, an echoing sycophant to the policies of “systemic racism”, “diversity” and “inclusion”. She has memorized the lines and been practising in front of a mirror. That is who she is, that, as she would say, it is part of her “DNA”, and that is how she was elevated to the highest RCMP office in the land. The lane one must stay in as Commissioner is a jagged and bumpy lane, and she has driven into the ditch, she doesn’t even seem to see the line.

The Committee hearings will continue and there will others coming to the committee, including Campbell and Blair’s Chief of Staff. But there is really no need for further revelations. The picture is already clear. Will there be a “fall” person? Maybe, but it is not likely to be Bill Blair. Have I mentioned he used to be the Chief of Police?

There is no doubt that Lucki is blurring the truth (some would call it lying) and she has now been caught, and not only caught, but called out on it by her own senior officers. It was as close to a revolt as one could get. Anyone with a sense of principle and a sense of what constitutes leadership would resign. She has lost her audience.

Picture provided by Marcin Wichary via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Crumbling Integrity

Constant bitching about issues facing police is commonplace, a well practised pastime among the veterans of the blue. People will point out that this blog makes its living in this realm of grumbling discontent. Even for the new 21st century cops, bitching and complaining is a rite of passage and there seems to be no shortage of topics to entertain both groups. Resourcing, shifting, promotions and transfers, all seemingly preoccupying the officers now taking up two tables at Starbucks. The old guys and gals in Tim Hortons, like to talk about pensions, Veterans Affairs, and the cost of living index. The belly aching is never-ending and usually never solved.

Something does seem to be different now though. The transition to the new age does not seem to be going as smoothly or as expected. Morale seems deflated, the concern more serious. Is there a fundamental shift in the role of police or just the same old longing for the “good old days”?

An astute RCMP friend of mine of the younger generation, who is well read on the issues of the day, recently opined that we are in fact watching the “crumbling” of an organization. He may have been over-stating the situation a little, but there does appear to be increasing evidence of a significant deterioration; an acute erosion of the “job”, both in how it is done, and how it is perceived. It seems partly due to the fact that society is bending to new norms, and those new norms are incongruent, often out of sync with the historical understanding of the job. At its root may be that police organizations have now completely and willingly blurred the line between the governmental executive branch and the independence of the judicial and policing arms of government.

There have been a couple of recent stories which seemed to serve as an illustration of this fundamental change.

First, was the Senate committee hearings on the imposition of the Emergency Measures Act and the various witnesses and their attempts at defending those measures.

Secondly was the slip up by none other than the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Richard Wagner, who inadvertently displayed his political affinity and loyalty to the “progressive” government of Justin Trudeau. This has led to a complaint and investigation by the Canadian Judicial Counsel on the remarks of Mr. Wagner– to determine whether he had had taken the “liberty to express progressive consensus at the expense of judicial neutrality”.

However, let’s first deal with the Senate hearings, which at times bordered on farce as government officials tried to justify and explain the imposition of the Act in the fight against those dastardly convoy protestors. Otherwise known as the insurrection that never was. Highlights included the fact that Marco Mendocino, the Minister of Public Safety, said that the police “requested” the imposition of the Emergencies Act, the clear inference being that the police were out of options and needed the government to come to their rescue. It has now been established that he deliberately misled the public, the police never asked for it.

As the committee progressed it became obvious to all that the success of the Freedom Convoy was largely due to the failures of senior law enforcement, and the Provincial, Municipal, and Federal governments. They, to put it gently, failed to anticipate and enforce the laws that were always available to them. Commissioner Lucki in her cringe worthy testimony could not, and would not admit to any enforcement failures. Nevertheless, she was forced to confirm under oath that they did not ask for the Emergencies Act. Pushed further in her testimony, she found herself in the position of trying to defend her political masters. She was clearly uncomfortable in criticizing the government, and spent most of her time saying that the Act was in the end beneficial, regardless of how it came about. She did prove herself a diffident public servant to Mr. Trudeau and the Liberals.

It was this failure in enforcing the laws of the day, and then failing to admit to those “sequence of failures that Howard Anglin, writing in the National Post concluded– led to the serious consequences of the police and government combining to use “extraordinary police powers and otherwise unlawful tools of government coercion” to upend which was for the most part a legal protest.

It was in essence “a breakdown in the rule of law”, and this gets to the apparent fundamental shift that is occurring in policing.

The police are the most visible in terms of the upholding the rule of law in this country. When they “fail to enforce the law, or choose not to enforce the law, or enforce the law unevenly, the rule of law is compromised, and the perception of the public and the need for the law to be seen as being fair and consistent is irreparably harmed.” The RCMP for many years now has clearly fully embedded itself with the progressive wing of the Liberal party; its policies and operations designed and implemented to appease the current political narrative and to be sensitive to the political base of the Liberal party.

Mr. Anglin cites several examples where the police reacted and acted on the direction of the governing party. How else he asks could one explain the lack of enforcement for the blockades in 2020 of the Coastal gas pipeline, the broad daylight vandalism of statutes whether it be the Queen, Sir John A, or Edgerton Ryerson? How did the downtown Eastside of Vancouver become the current hive of violence and destruction under the watchful eye of the Vancouver City Police, other than through the lack of enforcement of bylaws, drugs, and public mischief. They too have been caught up in substituting a social democratic approach for a clear enforcement need.

In 2013 the blockade of CN Rail by Indigenous led protestors, was ignored by the police. Anglin points to Judge Brown of the Ontario Courts who asked why the Ontario Provincial Police were coming to court for an injunction, when they already had the powers of arrest to stem the blockades. It got even worse in Judge Brown’s court because the police later still failed to enforce the injunction. The police who were still being hoisted on the petard of the woke led Judge Brown had to chastise the police that “discretion in how to enforce the injunction is not extended to not enforce the injunction at all”.

We have since seen the torching of churches, the wanton eco-terrorist destruction of a pipeline site, and the broad daylight destruction of historical statues; all examples of laws not being enforced. Choices to enforce clearly now being dictated by the political arms of municipal, Provincial and Federal governments. The current managers and executives in the policing world have been promoted, and have recognized that the way to climb the ladder is to become one with the liberal philosophy which is clearly the flavour of the day. They recognized that one must obey the woke prescription, suborn any principles of truth, and ignore the reality brought to your attention by the rank and file.

Anglin, who is a research professor at Oxford, defines the rule of law as ” a society that is governed by predictable rules, duly enacted by accountable officials, publicly disseminated, and consistently enforced”. The rule of law, in particular the enforcement of those laws, are critical to a functioning democracy. The police have in effect now been compromised at the expense of political expediency.

The second example are the statements made recently to the Le Devoir newspaper on April 9th, by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Richard Wagner. When speaking about the “Freedom Convoy” and the imposition of the Emergencies Act said that the: “forced blows against the State, Justice, and democratic institutions, like the one by protestors, should be denounced with force by all figures of power in the country”. He describes the convoy as the “the beginning of anarchy where some people have decided to take other citizens hostage”.

Apparently this learned judge was unaware that there is a canon in the practise of judges summed up in the Ethical Principals for Judges which says that: “statements evidencing pre-judgement may destroy impartiality”. In other words, judicial comment on political matters is totally inappropriate.

It could not be more relevant in light of the Committee hearings. There are currently four legal challenges to the Emergency Act imposition, some of which may wind their way to the Supreme Court of Canada, where Mr. Wagner would sit in judgement. His self-admitted bias is obvious. A group of lawyers have filed a complaint with the Canadian Judicial council. Bruce Pardy, a Professor of Law at Queens University says that Wagner has taken “liberty to express progressive consensus at the expense of judicial neutrality”.

Some say we should not be surprised. After all he is an appointee of Mr. Justin Trudeau. He was preceded by the very liberal and also very woke Beverly McLachlin.

Mr. Wagner has a bit of history when it comes to being and wanting to be “progressive”. In an article in 2018 with the Toronto Star he said that “his court was the most progressive in the world” and must lead in promoting “progressive moral values”. Professor Wanjiru Njoya in writing about the Wagner statement has “narrowed reasonable to progressive ideals alone” that only “progressive perspectives are reasonable”.

It would also be arguable that the Supreme Courts decisions leave little doubt in which way the Supreme Court seems to lean to the progressive agenda. In the news recently was the R vs. Bissonette decision where Wagner, writing for the majority said that the conviction of Bissonette, in the killing of six in a mosque in 2017, and sentencing him to consecutive life sentences was an act of “cruel and unusual punishment”. He said that the sentence “presupposes that the offender can not be rehabilitated” and was “degrading in nature and incompatible to human dignity”. It was he wrote contrary to Section 12 of the Charter of Rights.

In R vs Sullivan this same court struck down Section 33.1 of the Criminal Code which said that “automatism” is not a defence to assault or bodily harm cases. In two separate cases two individuals who had voluntarily taken levels of drugs which rendered them in a state of automatism were now wanting to use it as a defence. Sullivan one of the defendants had attacked his mother with a knife, Chan the other defendant had stabbed and killed his father while high on magic mushrooms. The court ruled that this section was unconstitutional as it violates Section 7 and 11 (d) and that they should have been allowed to use this defence.

In a case of the Beaver Creek Cree Nation who is suing for damages to their hunting and fishing rights, the Court echoed the political mantra of the day. In this case the Band, who had already spent over $3 million in their case, felt that they should receive “advance costs” which is where the legal fees are paid in advance by the government, when it is “a matter of public interest”. A rare and unusual request to be sure, and one that is rarely granted. The Supreme Court overruled the Alberta Court of Appeal and said that the government should pay up front, saying the “pressing needs must be understood in the spirit of reconciliation and from the perspective of a First Nation, because it would have its own spending priorities”. The government was ordered to pay $300,000 to the Band to assist them in the suit against this same government.

It is not important whether you agree with the actual decisions or not, what is important is that the political sentiment of this current government in power has now been imposed on the police in their policies and operations, as well as to the highest court in the land.

The independence of both arms of government is questionable if not compromised. Their impartiality in the application of the laws of the land has been severely damaged. If one believes that a democracy has at its core the bindings of law, one could easily argue that our very democracy may be being damaged. One has to believe that all are treated equally under the law.

Contrary to the idea of fairness and an un-biased police force, the RCMP has been busy with the apparent priority of re-writing its “core values”, saying “society has changed, the policing landscape has changed”

“Professionalism” has now been replaced with “excellence” and that they now recognize their historical role “especially when it comes to Indigenous people”. Now the RCMP will “value and promote reconciliation, diversity and inclusion…”

It leaves little doubt as to who is now guiding the RCMP. This ball of tightly wrapped righteousness is rolling down the societal hill, carried by its own momentum, and it is unclear as to who would ever dare to step in its way.

These are disconsolate times, good reason to be bitchy.

Photo courtesy of Government of Prince Edward Island via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

“Given what we had…”

This simple, semi-apologetic phrase, has become the background theme weaving through all the testimony at the Portapique “Mass Casualty Commission” in Nova Scotia.

I have written previously about the Commission and the obvious misgivings which had surfaced after the government tried to review the twenty-two deaths in private. The government was deaf to the mass of public sentiment, did not predict the hue and cry and accusations of cover-up, but reluctantly in the end, gave in to its now current public format. But again, this was only after being pilloried in the press by the victim families.

It is indeed a compelling story, but one laden with unfathomable and uncomfortable sadness, and the government was clearly reluctant to tell it. That reluctance is still there, reflected in the current set-up of the Commission who is casting a gauzy lens over the testimony. This is a watered down version of what normally constitutes an “inquiry” in the way it is structured, the way it accepts evidence, and the mind-set of the Commission members themselves.

It was predicted then and it seems to be coming to fruition now, that what happened in Portapique was both an abhorrent event, and an aberration; a set of circumstances that is not likely to repeat itself on any regular basis, and a series of events that most police officers through the course of their careers will likely never encounter and likely never anticipate.

The circumstances were unique but the police response as it is unfolding before the Commission points to the “system” and “structure” issues which have been plaguing the RCMP for many, many years. Could it have been be done differently, surely, nothing is ever perfect. Some would and could argue that there were no apparent problems in the police response, that they did the best with “what they had”. Before one delves into the possible problems in the police response, there are some other just as pertinent observations after watching several hours of testimony.

First and foremost, there is the Commission structure itself, which in this “inquiry” is clearly more an exercise in victim identification and the proffering of support more than a need to discern facts. The very name “Mass Casualty” seems to suggest something less than the horrific killing spree it actually turned out to be. The hushed hearing room tones, the condolences, prayers, tears, group hugs, all permeate the atmosphere of the Commission and all of those that come before it. The police, as is apparently the accepted belief in these times are now being included as victims. Unable to recover from having seen, heard or participated in that night of a thousand hours. Broken and deformed by violence, bodies laying on driveways, houses and cars in flames around them providing the only light. A never ending and surreal series of scenes fitting of a Pekinpah movie. However, when everyone is a victim, where does one turn, where is there any room for self-examination?

Is this Commission trying to expose or is it trying to ameliorate the circumstances. Are we trying to learn from the incident or simply trying to provide support and counsel. And that is where this Commission begins to shred, caught between the dichotomy of grief for all versus victim rage. The Commission espouses a “trauma informed approach”, clearly currently less interested in pointing a finger than giving a hug. This may work for those observing and for those support groups that surface endlessly when tragedy strikes. The problem is that it is not what the families of those slain want.

This approach has resulted in the Commission allowing group or panel testimony, remote video testimony, and declarations of fact that have been pre-determined by Commission investigators prior to the hearings. The Commission has ruled that police officers or witnesses with “bona fide wellness concerns” need to be accommodated –and should therefore not have to withstand the usual rigors of cross-examination by the lawyers of the victim families.

As a result, the families of the victims have now decided to boycott the hearings. From any viewpoint this could not be considered a good look or outcome for the Commission.

It has been announced that the Commission has decided that the evidence of Andy OBrien and Brian Rehill will be pre-recorded over Zoom; and only Commission counsel will be able to ask them questions. There is no reason given, as this of course is private medical or psychological information. S/Sgt Brian Rehill was the Risk Manager working in the Operations Centre when this file was generated. Sgt Andrew O’Brian was the Operations NCO for Bible Hill Detachment, the detachment which encompasses Portapique. Both these persons clearly played key roles and should under normal inquiry or civil circumstances be cross-examined. That said both could very well be suffering from psychological trauma. And therein lies the investigative dilemma.

S/Sgt Bruce Briers did testify and was the officer who took over from Rehill in the Operations Center at 0700 am the following morning. Briers testimony was concise, compelling, rational, and at times emotional. His early service was spent in Labrador and Newfoundland, once a polygraph operator and at the time of the Portapique incident had spent four years in the Risk Managers role. His responses to questions were professional and honest. Briers, became emotional when talk became what could have been done to prevent the whole disastrous set of circumstances– when he reflected back on what the community could have done prior to the incident.

In the hours of testimony that has been watched to date, suffice to say that all the officers testifying came across well and well-intentioned. They were honest in saying that night they were doing the best they could with “given what they had”. There was exasperation and futility expressed in some of their answers, and sometimes outright anger, that the system and the structure of the RCMP in their operations is flawed and that night mass confusion and exasperation had resulted in a delayed and confused response.

Again, not the fault of the officers involved, as Briers testified, they were being fed a fire hose of information that was being funnelled through a garden hose. The picture as told by Briers, by Cpl Mills the ERT commander, by Jeff West and Kevin Surette the Critical Incident Commanders, and by others was one where there was problems trying to establish a clear line of command, no unified reporting structure, and insufficient resources –all of which worked to the advantage of a mad man, a denturist, who in high school wanted to be a cop (according to a source), but now just wanted to kill.

These types of problems and issues of disconnect have all been heard before, through other inquiries, other Coroner’s inquests, and assorted criminal trials in one form or another over several years. All of course with the benefit of honed 20/20 hindsight. Too many in “command” working from an assortment of unconnected software programs that when the crisis hit and stopped being a “table top” exercise it distilled down to paper charts and felt markers and a flukey run-in with the killer at a gas station.

For years the RCMP has covered under-funding, inexperience, and under-resourcing with a series of one-off solutions. They add layers and layers of supervision as a form of compensation for inexperience and sporadic training. If the experience or skill set is not there, give a course or a webinar to cover it off. Centralize, de-centralize and the integration of resources have all been initially prompted by a need to cover off a fundamental shortfall, whether it be in resourcing or experience.

Software and technology as part of the communication and reporting systems has proven no different. The inability to orchestrate uniformity has led to multiple systems; CAD, PROS, CIIDS, MWS, and Pictometry. Municipal forces don’t necessarily share with the Federal force, and some RCMP Provinces are different from other RCMP Provinces. As an example, Halifax city police use Versadex instead of PROS or PRIME to report. Therefore for Portapique, the RCMP had no direct access to the Halifax file information. Layers of software programs, multiple data bases, multiple avenues to access, none of them synthesized into one coherent product.

Then add a radio communication system that is not capable of being 100% effective, dead spots, no cellular coverage. The original attending members excited, shouting without pre-announcing themselves, protocols always forgotten in the mad need to be heard.

Jeff West and Kevin Surette were the “Critical Incident Commanders” assigned to the file. A “scribe” for the Commander was assigned as protocol dictated. They were both from out of the area, in fact Surette was a 2 or 3 hour drive from Portapique. Suffice to say they had no personal or direct knowledge of the geographic area of Portapique.

The Critical Incident Commanders have their own command triangle and falling under them is the ERT team, and the Crisis Negotiation Team. After ERT comes the uniform officers, the General Investigation Section and the Major Crime Units. It was at 10:42 pm that S/Sgt Halliday the Acting Operations Officer calls for ERT and the Critical Incident Team. As the calls went out, others now got involved on the periphery, and included, the District Commander, the District Policing Officer, and the District Advisory NCO (the “Danco”) S/Sgt Addie MacCallum. A call to Air Services in Moncton tells them that the helicopter is “unavailable”. Of course.

For a number of years now, all of policing management has fallen in love with the term and idea of a “Command Centre”. The bigger the event the more Command Centers. (As an example, during the Olympics there were no less than three Command Centers)

Often they are large trucks, RV’s and the like, all suitably emblazoned with the logos and community minded sponsors. Or they pick a community hall, a firehall to accommodate the sure to be descending legion of experts and expertise. In this case they chose the Great Village Firehall (they had initially picked the Bass River Firehall but then realized it was in the “hot zone” and had to change locations).

The Critical Incident team arrives at the Firehall at 0100 hrs, more than two hours after the initial call. They initiate their “critical incident package”. In the beginning they are working off portable radios, awaiting a base station to arrive, and in fact often have to stand beside a window so that they have radio coverage. Their planning and tracking tool consists of a series of white boards and felt markers or as Commission counsel likes to refer to as “The Boards”. They have no laptop with them.

The ERT team first goes to the Command Post. The Critical Incident commanders worry about needing to make a firm radio announcement that they are now “in command”. There seems to be much confusion on the air waves at this point, one frustrated officer pointedly asks “who is in command here?”.

The Critical Incident Command strategy comes from their training in “SMEAC”. Situation, Mission, Execution, Administration and Command. This is police operational manual and acronym strategy at its finest, and this stuff makes most operational police officers ears hurt and eyes water. It makes sense in a classroom and rarely translates to efficiency.

Of course, none of this is the fault of the officers involved, West and Surette were doing what they were taught, it is what they are told is the latest thinking in a time of crisis, it is part and parcel of the “National Course Standards” after all.

It is clear that the whole mobile command centre structure needs to be re-thought. Is it time for a fully suited-up command centre that is available on a permanent basis, one equipped with all the technology and a set of unified technology programs?

Secondly, one needs to get rid of all of the supervisors. The operational triangle, with uniform at the base is now upside down. It is top heavy, bureaucratic, inflated, all at the expense of the base which is the front line. The uniforms, the actual first responders need to be made into the priority, the heavy end of the hammer, where the most experienced and skilled are promoted, reside and prosper. The supervisors or those that need to be in control in these type of situations needs to be pushed down to the lowest level, no different than the theory of quick response developed under Columbine.

Gabriel Wortman came to an end, because he ran out of gas in the stolen vehicle he was driving; and because of some keen observations and commendable actions of a dog man and an ERT member, Ben MacLeod and Craig Hubley who were travelling together, and had also stopped for gas. Hours and hours of terror came to an end about twenty seconds later.

Wortman was not stopped by the structure or the organization that had been put in place to apprehend him. He was stopped by luck and coincidence. Cpl Mills of the ERT team in testimony called it a “broken organization”. He was referring to the treatment of his team members after the incident, but he just as easily could have been referring to resourcing, communication systems or the organizational structure impediments.

Once again, look to the top if one wants to assign blame, not to the men and women working the shifts.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons by Chester902 – Some Rights Reserved.

Policing in Canada’s LaLa Land

Hitting the headlines in the past couple of weeks was the fact that the NDP led government of British Columbia released a report by the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act , dated April 2022, entitled “Transforming Policing and Community Safety in British Columbia”.

Fairly or unfairly, most times these types of reports receive little or no attention. This report by ten MPP’s seemed to garner headlines for two primary reasons; one being that both of the current political parties produced a bi-partisan report in a rare act of consensus; the implication being that this report could therefore actually result in action. Secondly, it was news because one of its eleven recommendations was that the currently contracted RCMP should be replaced as the Provincial level police force.

It is still a government report of course, so it will likely atrophy on those always burgeoning government shelves. Especially a report with especially grand recommendations. Even In the body of this ninety-six page report they state that enactment of their recommendations will take: “many years and successive parliaments to enact”. So if you are a bettor, bet the under, as the odds of retaining the political attention of successive governments are not good.

In terms of full disclosure, few of you who on occasion read this blog would be shattered to learn that there is a belief, that this once proud organization is structurally flawed and needs to be re-built. Nothing less than a tear down– if there is to be any hope of reformative change. If that is not possible, unlikely, or more accurately never undertaken, then there is little cogent argument against having the RCMP replaced in the Province of BC or any other contracted Province.

This current proposed structural re-alignment is not the first time that this has either been proposed. So no one should be shocked by a recommendation of this kind.

What is shocking is an actual reading of this report reveals some clear and deeply flawed assertions, some mis-held perspectives and is more a reflection of “woke” in-breeding than thoughtful contemplation.

What is truly appalling is the recommendations in this report which are not being talked about. Recommendations which are aimed at totally altering the policing structure in this province to the benefit of a single favoured political group. Even though they state that the goal was to work towards “modernization and sustainability”, the flaw and subjective bias in this report is revealed quickly at the very beginning of this report.

In their words there is a need to determine the “scope of systemic racism with policing agencies” and that their study must be “consistent with the United Declarations of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”. Their underlining principle therefore is formed around the “increasing widespread awareness of systemic racism in policing…(therefore) transformal change is required”. This is of course a perspective that those in policing circles, if brave enough, would categorically dispute. Unfortunately, police leadership in this country are proving themselves to be sheep not shepherds.

To be fair one can not accuse this committee of not spending a great deal of time listening (and tax dollars) in the pursuit of their truth. They list over four hundred and ten agencies and individuals who came before them over the course of eighteen months. Predictably, there were the usual organizations, those that seem to appear before every committee: Civil Liberties, social workers, Downtown Eastside Women’s centre with a group called “Red Women Rising”, numerous Indian bands throughout the Province, Pivot Legal Society, and even the University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre .

The police were also more than adequately represented: the RCMP, the Chiefs of Police, various Municipal police agencies, Vancouver City Police, the Pacific Training Centre, Depot Division of the RCMP, Nelson Police Department, and the list goes on. One has to wonder what these policing groups thought of the final report and whether it reflected their views in any semblance.

This smorgasbord of agencies and individuals led the committee to come up with eleven recommendations based on hearing “clear evidence of systemic racism in policing as well as the colonial structure of police services”. Ironically, they also heard that many of the Indigenous communities were both “over-policed and under served” –all in the same breath.

The “clear evidence” of systemic racism is a little more difficult to find in the report. There were muddled explanations of that evidence, such as the one by the Human Rights Commissioner who found there were “patterns of behaviour..that create and maintain the power of certain racial groups over others”. How one patterns the entire report on a presumption, without definitive evidence of the underlying premise, is manifestly frustrating.

The police agencies appearing before the Committee, with little doubt talked about things such as service delivery, oversight, accountability, and funding. There was talk of the mental health and addiction issues, and the recommendations coming from that part of the world are also highly predictable. More resources, more funding.

So what are the Eleven recommendations? They are listed here as they appear in order in the report. I paraphrase them here, in the interest of brevity.

Leading the recommendations, first and foremost, is not the creation of a Provincial Police force but:

  1. That the Indigenous have direct input into the structure and governance of police services. The Indigenous need to be involved in the drafting of a revised Police Act.

The Indigenous clearly have now garnered a special advisory relationship in all matters of government whether it be pipelines, the environment, climate change, or lumber and mining, and this now continues into policing. Special laws and special courts already exist, and now their wish is for their own police departments. Their claimed expertise seems limitless. On page 64 of the report, they go even further in that there was a need to “establish robust and well-funded Indigenous civilian police oversight bodies…in all jurisdictions”

2. The formation of a BC wide Provincial Police Force.

This is explained as now being needed primarily because of the “fragmentation” of services. The report authors also point to the needs of of consistent education and training and the sometimes jurisdictional boundaries which interfere with communication and that consistency.

3. That the Indigenous have direct input into their police “service structure and governance”.

What the authors imagine is that the Indigenous be allowed to have their own self-administered policing services as well as the full governance over those services.

This recommendation also includes a revision of the type of training and education that will be required for all police services. In effect extending programs such as “Circle of Understanding”. In anticipation of this being a successful venture they hypothesize that the Indigenous police services may be able to expand and offer up their services to other non-Indigenous neighbourhoods and jurisdictions who are in close proximity. Logistically just to be clear, in this Province there are 13 municipal departments, and 65 RCMP municipal agencies. There are 198 “distinct First Nations”. Does that mean a potential 198 new police departments? (One wonders how one points to an apparent problem of the fragmentation of police services in the province and then recommends further fragmentation.)

The Indigenous want to be involved in oversight to “observe and oversee in (all) cases involving Indigenous peoples”.

4. That there be some revision of the Mental Health Act which includes integrating Mental Health worker attendance into the 911 dispatch system. They also recommend that there be “increasing investment in social services”.

5. That there be “equitable access to high quality police…” …which is “informed by the community”. It is not real clear as to what this even means.

6. An equitable shared “funding Model”.

7. Police Education to be increased.

8. The need to collect and report “disaggregated race-based” demographics. This is interesting because for a number of years, questions directed as to race involvement in crime were in and of themselves discriminatory. The intention here is that if they gather this disaggregated evidence they will be able to prove that there is racial inequality in the enforcement of laws in this Province.

9. Civilian oversight. Not easily done but difficult to argue against and most police officials would counter by saying that there is already policing/civilian oversight.

10. Review of the Mental Health Act.

11. The establishment of an all-party standing committee on policing and community safety.

Of course this report is much more effusive under each of these categories, but you get the intended direction.

The National Police Federation are already out on the hustings, running countering media spin, no doubt apoplectic at the thought of their union representation taking a 4,000 member hit if in fact a Provincial Force was formed. They are reverting to their tried and true arguments, calling the recommendation a “little odd” and a “little premature”. After all they say they have done “waves and waves of independent research in policing in British Columbia, and consistently British Columbians have told us they were very satisfied with policing they receive from the RCMP”. Of course it is not independent research, but that may be nitpicking, but they too are missing the point. This is not about individual police officers being liked or doing a good job. This is about the structure of an Ottawa headed police force being inert and ineffectual in terms of its ability to police portions of this country.

The possibility of a Provincial replacement force, first surfaced in 1994 under Judge Wally Oppal. It has now surfaced a couple of decades later, and will likely re-re- surface again a couple of decades from now. There is little need to concern ourselves with this recommendation.

As to the other recommendations. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the government would review the report and its recommendations and consult with “community groups” and “First Nation leaders”. Apparently you as the actual police, have no input here as to the recommendations.

This report is another ridiculous and over bearing attempt by the government to genuflect to the dialogue of the enlightened, to bow to a special interest group, regardless of the actual needs of policing. It would establish a fragmented policing structure, where different laws and different levels of enforcement would create two separate classes of individuals, laws and their enforcement based on race, not on equality before the law.

This report should be buried on the very last shelf in the dingy basement of the Legislature.

.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons by Stuart Butterfield – Some Rights Reserved

Oh…Lighten up!

This is an admittedly delicate subject. In fact, there are few topics in this broad wide world which engender more rancorous discourse and will inevitably lead to someone being termed “harsh” or “unfair.” This is a subject not broached in respectful company, especially in this era of hand wringing sensitivity.

I am speaking about the problem of obesity. In particular, the problem of obesity among police officers.

The fat burning question is: are there some police officers who are too “fat” for the job? It’s a question that is clearly part of a bigger question –whether police need to be in premium shape in order to fulfill their duties. If one assumes that there is a physical element to the job, and there is no convincing evidence that upper management in the RCMP concede this; this seems like an easy question to answer.

What prompted this broad question is a policy which has been instituted, in of all places, the State of Texas, the Lone Star State of big vistas and big state boundaries. The people who run the Texas Rangers, a very well-regarded police agency we should add, has now come out and dared to go where others fear to tread. They in essence have implemented a “chubby list” –for want of a better term. They are apparently now prepared to shame some of their officers into maintaining certain health and fitness standards and have drawn a line in the sand. If not met, the officers could ultimately face suspension.

Before people start writing to this blog in protest, the least we should do is explore this policy that has been implemented.

The Department of Public Safety for the state of Texas oversees the Texas State Troopers. The “Troopers” are about 4,000 officers strong and are spread throughout the state. The Department is implementing these guidelines because they feel, and have concluded that part of a police officers job is to have a “command presence”. In other words you must look the part, as it commands respect and cooperation and therefore enables one to do their job better.

As much as we hate to admit it, one would think that most police officers would agree that this is in fact the case. Someone who is overweight, or sloppy in their appearance will seemingly not get the street respect often needed to control or coerce, rightly or wrongly; it just seems to be a fact. There have been psychological studies which in fact back up this theory and of course it is also true outside of policing in the “real” world.

So what the Department of Public Safety has dared to do was state that male officers must have a waist line of 40″ or under, and a female officer must have a stated waistline of 35″. I should say in terms of full disclosure, after 34 years in policing, the last ten years of my service meeting this standard would have been a real struggle. With middle age the downward spiral inevitably begins, or that’s what most would blame- it couldn’t possibly be the two in the morning hamburgers or muffins.

Now, we should also point out that the Department has allowed for exceptions to the rule, so it is on a bit of a sliding scale which takes into consideration; height, weight and levels of body fat. When they reviewed all their officers, 213 failed the test, a mere 5.3%. Of those 213 only two had failed the original fitness test and therein lies the rub and the argument.

Nevertheless, the officers that couldn’t meet the girth guidelines have until December 1, 2023 to slim down. Until then, they will be barred from promotion, lose any overtime opportunities, and could be re-assigned. If they is no final compliance layoffs could follow. They will all have counsellors available who will put them on less sugar diets and will encourage and teach them how to avoid fast foods. All of it geared of course, to a goal of solid physical conditioning and a healthier lifestyle. All of those involved must document their progress and be prepared to share their health records.

Of course there are protests. In 2019 the Texas Department of Public Safety Officers Association launched a lawsuit describing the terms of the policy “arbitrary” and “unfair to women”. The lawsuit was dismissed, but only because at that date and time nobody had actually lost their job over not meeting these conditions. (One would have thought that the lawyers for the Association could have pointed this out in the beginning). Arbitrary of course means random and unpredictable, which doesn’t seem to apply, the rules are pretty black and white and addressed to all, and all levels of management. I am assuming the “unfairness to women” is being argued due to the vagaries of child birth etc., which seems somewhat legitimate, but maybe not totally.

Clearly, there are holes in the policy as currently being reported, but unfortunately we do not have the full policy in front of us. As an example, a 5’2″ female with a 34″ waistline would likely be termed obese in normal measurement standards, but in this instance they would they meet the guidelines? How would that work? Again, we aren’t privy to all the vagaries of their current measurement system.

An interesting question is could we imagine a similar policy in Canada?

When this blogger was beginning his career with the Mounties in the late 1970’s and stationed in J Division (New Brunswick) there was a “fatty list”. And admittedly, some wore the designation with a tinge of pride. Those on the list were determined to be overweight and given a time line to get rid of their expanding bellies. Of course, like a lot of Mountie human resource mandates, there was no enforcement or follow thru, and the policy just died on the vine, never to be heard of again. Even back then, in those now archaic times, management did not have the fortitude to take on this subject.

Nowadays all police agencies demand that one pass a fitness test to gain entry. That is routine and standard. The “PARE” is the Mountie grind it out rite of passage, and all the other police departments seem to have similar tests to get in.

Once in the rank though one is free to take part in any smorgasbord or buffet that comes before you. Oh sure there are physicals every few years, but no one seems to be called up for being overweight. (Covid should have proven to us that obesity is a significant medical condition so one wonders how doctors overlook this, or more precisely ignore it in terms of one’s ability to do the job.)

The only real negative for being out of shape, other on a personal level, is that over time you may be forced to re-order uniforms at your expense to cover your waistline. Casual observation leads one to believe that having to buy new uniform every few years or so doesn’t seem to have been much of a deterrent.

The poor Mounties in terms of their looks are already behind the eight ball. The Mountie uniform has to be considered one of the ugliest in the policing universe, khaki on blue with a yellow stripe would only be something that could be approved by people who did not need to wear it. If you have a larger than normal circumference, then you throw on that bullet proof vest over top, with notebooks, pens, and assorted papers and you have quite a sight that is sure never to grace the pages of Vogue. We won’t even mention the hat. Changes to the uniform have been studied for decades, but everyone knows how that goes.

The municipal agencies seem to fare much better, with the usual dark blue or black shirt and matching pants, and for the most part have a much better uniform presence. And even though technically they have no weight and height standards, they benefit from many applicants for fewer jobs, and discreetly pick and choose those that may fit the uniform “presence” much better.

When I think of the now put upon Texas cops, quite honestly the figure of 5.3% seems low. I have seen many Dallas and Houston cops over the years, and let’s be frank, very few men would have a 38″ waist line. As they used to say about Texas, there are some “big ol boys” down there.

Kidding aside, one would be hard pressed to argue that any policy which encourages better health and fitness should ever be seen as a negative. The problem is drawing the line. Is the Texas line too harsh for application in Canada? Maybe. But right now, the Mounties and other agencies, once one is brought into the blue fold, don’t even have a line in the sand. One would think that there could be a compromise position.

If only the police could be like the fire men and women (those other “first responders”) who can work out while they work and get a good nights rest while on duty. They also eat very well judging by the amount of times I’ve seen the fire trucks parked in front of the grocery store. Let’s face it, it works, they usually look very fit. Jealously will get you nowhere.

In the overall list of problems facing the RCMP in 2022 it will be conceded that this may not be the biggest problem. The Mounties are struggling, the Province of British Columbia has also now announced the possible study and formation of a Provincial Police Force –albeit a long way down the road.

If there is any lesson in this, it should be accepted that policing is a physically tough job. It wears and tears at your body over the years, no matter how much you try to keep in shape. Police should welcome stringent guidelines, not for “presence” but for one’s own personal safety and well being. If implemented in Canada, however, there is little doubt that every police union would fight it– but that may not be a good thing. Food for thought.

Anyways, I am off to the gym. Until next time.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons by Eric McGregor – Some Rights Reserved

The Art of Looking the other Way

Fraud has many formulations and iterations; corruption, cronyism, nepotism, parochialism, patronage, influence peddling, and outright theft. In this country it has become dispiritingly common place. The blatancy apparent in whichever direction we look. Is this dwindling of basic economic honesty beginning to fester, to grow, and create a doubt. Is there a sense that our democracy and our economy may be crumbling from the bottom up, slowly but methodically. Not by a directed sense of purpose, but rather by our obsessively looking the other way.

Outwardly, those in government corridors, put on a stern and concerned face when confronted with financial matters that go wrong. They give us solace and point to our economic stability, point to our formidable banking institutions, and of course our stable democratic government. But are we rotting through incompetence, disinterest and a lack of investigative desire? Are we being effected not suddenly by a heart attack of malfeasance, but instead a slow eating cancer of general ineptitude.

Fraud, even in its most basic clear cut form is continually around us. Just consider that in a recent survey by Price Waterhouse Coopers it was estimated that half of the companies in Canada report being victims of fraud. When the Covid “waves” hit, how do we ignore and countenance that during the much celebrated Liberal CERB benefit program over $500 million was paid out to persons who were multi-collecting; from CERB, the Canada Revenue Agency, or the Employment and Social Development Canada office.

In terms of just the CERB payments, a recent House Finance committee heard further discouraging testimony that the Auditor General can not even look into the fraudulent obtained payments– for another year– even though they have known about it since 2020. The CRA confirmed that they are not expecting to make a dent in the wrongful payments until 2023, probably about the same time that Federal government workers will actually have to go back to the office. Apparently, we are waiting on the Canada Revenue Agency to get their act together.

Is it a minor problem? You decide. CERB was budgeted to cost $24 billion –it came in at $81.6 billion. In July 2020 Employment and Social Development Canada knew already that $442 million was sent out to 221,320 people in the form of those double payments.

One must always “follow the money.” Where the money goes is where you will find people looking to take benefit from it and see it as an opportunity. The structure of these particular Covid programs created enticing pots of gold. Very little deception was needed.

Since Canada seems “reluctant” to undertake any kind of investigation or go after those that ripped the system, one wondered whether this was a North America wide malaise. Did this exceptional level of forgiveness for the under-handed equally permeate all of the liberal governmental establishments in the U.S. and Canada. As it turns out the American response to the potential for fraud that they too are now uncovering was in fact distinctly different.

In fact, the contrast in our two countries, even though they were running similarly intended programs is startling. If we reflect on the differences in approach and put Canada up to the mirror, our fermenting complacency boldly looks back at us.

Of course, the money amounts in the U.S. are staggering due to the size of their population versus Canada. The PPP as it was called in the U.S. was almost a carbon copy to that of CERB in Canada. (PPP was the Paycheck Protection Plan) The Canadians and the Americans also had more than one plan in effect. For instance, the U.S. also had the Covid disaster relief fund, and the unemployment relief fund.

Before one looks at the numbers, remember that the overall justification in Canada was at the onset of Covid, also echoed by the U.S. government. In Canada sacrificing “security for speed”, getting out the cheques to the populace was more important than the “security” of the system and the quick dispensation of the monies. The U.S. authorities also admit that most of the money was and is, “unrecoverable”.

Unlike Canadians, the Americans are a little more harsh in their language. They have no hesitancy in saying the program was: ” an invitation to fraudsters”, and the “largest fraud in U.S history”. That according to the official who was overseeing the payouts.

The Americans estimate that 10% of the monies paid out under their PPP was fraudulent. (We have seen estimates in this country under CERB of up to 30%). The Americans paid out $800 billion, therefore they estimate that $80 billion was paid out to fraudsters.

In addition, they estimate that $90 billion at a minimum and up to a maximum of $400 billion was taken from the secondary unemployment relief fund. Another $80 billion from a third program, the Covid disaster relief fund. Interestingly, they estimate that at least 1/2 of the stolen funds from the unemployment relief fund were stolen by “international fraudsters”.

Unlike Canadians, the Americans seem upset. They have set up the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee which is headed by General Mike Horowitz. This group has been given a mandate of 10 years to pursue the fraudsters.

Their results so far are in their words “minimal”, with only 178 people “convicted” so far. One wonders if in this country in the last thirty years if we have charged that many with significant fraud. What the investigators have uncovered is that the size and scope of the fraud may be overwhelming, continually expressing surprise on”how blatant it was”.

Using AI programming they are now scanning over 150 million records to identify patterns of fraud, such as the gas station in Houston whose phone number was used for over 150 applications for PPP. The perpetrators are appearing and being charged in increasing numbers; David Hines in Miami took them for $3.9 million; another person $7.2 million, some spending their financial gains on Lamborghini vehicles and mansions. A California couple stole $18 million and eventually pled guilty– the husband getting 17 years in prison, while his wife got 6 years. Yes, in the U.S. they also go to jail.

They have found that the service provider BlueVine, who was contracted to help the government dole out the funds and gave out $4.5 billion bragged about processing applications in less than 5 minutes. They estimate that a stolen identity or a fraudulent single identity could translate into a possible $30,000 in possible claims and benefits. The perpetrators would steal legitimate company names from the internet, inflate the number of employees or create the employees and then apply for the business loans.

One of the more blatant fraudsters was Danielle Miller out of Boston. Taking names from the state website and applying for Covid relief loans allowed her in 40 minutes make $100,000.

There is another myth that is also now also being dispelled. In speaking with experts in the fraud industry and in talking with private businesses they are quickly finding that “trade offs between speed and security” is simply not true. As one person pointed out, if this were true, why wouldn’t large private industries with a consumer facing business and who featured rapid response; why are they not going bankrupt? They describe it as categorically “false” narrative that speed necessitates neglect and oversight.

Of course, maybe none of this could happen in Canada, maybe we are much too honest here.

Auditor General Karen Hogan released a report which included the fact that the Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) “focused on delivering the benefit quickly…both organizations understood the rules…” and they “relied on applicants good faith”.

Let’s remember that the Canadian CERB program allowed anyone over the age of 15, who made a minimum of $5,000 in 2019, could apply for $2,000 for a period of 28 weeks; following an extension of the program in August 2020. If that was not enough, once the CERB ended for these folks, the government then directed them to a revamped Employment Insurance Program.

The Auditor General admitted that a “pre-payment screening structure could have been put in place” and that telling the government agencies to “ignore warnings or red flags” of fraud may not have been a good thing. The CRA did open a “snitch line”. The thinking must have been, if they couldn’t find the fraud, maybe the public could lead them to it.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by the end of January 2021 had 8500 cases of CERB related identity theft.

In a 2020 FINTRAC Report made public in November 2021, that the CERB program was “knowingly and actively defrauded ” by scammers, organized crime, and that payments were made to people engaged in illegal or suspicious financial activity”.

Have we learned anything? In 1991 in Vancouver, Murray Pezim was investigated for fraud, the classic pump and dump strategy in mining stocks. In 2022 the U.S. Securities firm (not the Canadian authorities) charged David Siddoo for employing the same system. In 2021 the Cullen Commission exposed billions of dollars in money laundering. Really, nothing has changed.

In this country we are structurally not set up to look for fraud, or any variation of fraud. And if we aren’t looking we are sure to never find anything. The RCMP were recently investigating Trudeau and the Aga Khan who were allegedly influence peddling through elaborate vacations– and lo and behold they found that there are no rules that really apply.

The RCMP which should be the first stop in large scale fraud investigations in this country, as an organization has proven itself time and time again as incapable in the field of economic crime. Investigations in this country are talked about in years, not days, weeks or months. The solution is either that this type of crime is pulled from their organizational mandate, or they need to be dismantled and re-built and resourced to 2021 standards.

Maybe, the general public is willing to let their rage to continue to bubble away just below the surface. The Liberals and the NDP are counting on it. Is it that we are so complacent, so ensconced in our own sphere of security and relative prosperity that we just shrug it off, politically helpless, morally and ethically spent.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons by Ryan Steele – Some Rights Reserved

Good-bye to Commissioner Lucki?

It has been widely rumoured, keep in mind, one knows what an Ottawa rumour is worth, that RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki is headed to retirement in June 2022. Let’s say from the outset, I do not know Ms. Lucki personally, have never even seen her in a public forum, so on a personal level one can only wish her a the best in her retirement after a lengthy period of service.

As an interested observer from afar however, or as simply a member of the general public, the time seems appropriate to evaluate her time on the Mountie throne.

In terms of our ability to measure her time and effectiveness, she did not leave us much to go on.

Ms. Lucki was “the leader the Mounties needed” according to Justin Trudeau in 2018; who he judged to be the “absolutely best person for the job, who just happens to be a woman”. The fact that he needed to add “happens to be a woman” is clearly a glimpse in to what Mr. Trudeau saw a pre-requisite for this job.

She was heralded as the 1st “permanent” woman to head the RCMP, her predecessor Bev Busson only being around for a short time in her “temporary” position. (Long enough clearly though to score sufficient points for an eventual Senate seat.)

In 2018 the decade of women advancement in policing was in full bloom much like in all the other government departments across the country. Women were reaching new heights in terms of leadership roles across the organization and at an unprecedented speed. They were in effect being “over-represented” in order for an organization to progress and just as importantly to at the very least be deemed progressive.

In her acceptance of the post as the 24th Commissioner, Lucki outlined her primary plans for “bolstering diversity”and “reconciliation with indigenous persons”. She pointed to her previous successes with the First Nations of northern Manitoba. The speech could have and may have been written by Gerald Butts. No real mention of the brewing problems of contract policing or the upcoming possible unionization of the membership. She, unlike most of her predecessors was a one dimensional candidate, with a singular approach to what ailed the Mounties. Diversity and inclusion would be from the beginning to the end her single mantra.

Her background reflected an insular policing career–in the Peace keeping program in Ottawa, as the head of Depot training centre in Regina, as part of the United Nations protection force in Yugoslavia. None of these positions pointed to a larger understanding of Federal or Provincial policing, the true fundamental core of the RCMP.

The problem of course, like many Federal employees is that Lucki was a liberal in speech only, in knowing the right things to say and where to say them as opposed to knowing the machinations that would be needed to carry out any re-conditioning. She was playing the game of “representation” and “diversity”, without really knowing how she was going to accomplish this, or fully appreciating that the Force that extended past Ottawa didn’t share the same level of concern. Secondly, decades of processes and ingrained cultural history were simply not going to be won over from the confines of a committee room in Ottawa.

In essence she was pulled up by the language of the Woke, then got entangled in the spider-web language of the Woke. Her credence and her dilemma began to unravel once she came under the Liberal magnifying glass of the truly Woke of Ottawa. She aptly demonstrated her conundrum a mere two years later when she flip-flopped on the term “systemic racism”.

She also quickly learned that the Indigenous leadership in this country will turn on you very quickly– should you dare to question their “truth”. Her award for building relationships in Manitoba was as flimsy as the paper on which it was written when confronted by the dialogue of the Indigenous victim. She was caught between knowing that in fact, in the policing world, there is little evidence if any of “systemic racism” by its true definition and on the other side was what she needed to say to appease. She floundered. She knew that if she stated her truth she would have been in full conflict with the people who put her there.

So twenty-four hours later desperate to be on the side of the righteous left, she became a convert, and admitted to “systemic racism”. Unfortunately, she was then asked for examples to prove her conversion and once again, she became the proverbial fish out of water. The example she felt that bolstered her new claim of “systemic racism” was the “height” requirements for Mounties. When someone pointed out that this was more likely “discrimination” rather than “racism” she bumbled once again. The next day, Bill Blair had to come to her rescue and do damage control.

So a mere two years after her start, Perry Bellegarde the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs called for her “resignation”. Apparently her “strong focus on advancing Indigenous reconciliation” had failed– the Indigenous now not wanting to “reconcile” with the Commissioner.

She kept trying though. When asked during an interview as a leader of the RCMP what was the toughest decision she faced, she confusingly answered that it was listening to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry testimony. Her need to appease clearly had overwhelmed her ability to even understand the concept of what constitutes a “decision”.

It may have became clear early on to the Liberals, that it may be best if she remained silent and in the background.

Suffice to say that for the last couple of years, we have never had a quieter Commissioner. We went from the somewhat bombastic Paulson to the uncomfortable introvert.

Even when the Force was chastised or lambasted for its lack of leadership, she remained quiet, seemingly unable or incapable to defend. Recently the Information Commissioner of Canada said that “the RCMP is failing in terms of its obligation to ensure Canadians have access to information about its operation and decision making…” that this “lack of action on the part of the RCMP leadership” had been going on for too long.

When a human rights watchdog agency had its requests ignored about the “spying on Indigenous and climate activists” it led to “inexcusable delays” and they accused Lucki of simply ignoring the matter. So the Commissioner who had promised to a program of “listening and learning” wasn’t listening and had not learned that one needs to get ahead of issues. The ongoing examination of the incident in Portapique, is looking like another embarrassment of riches in terms of failures to get things done, at least on a broader level.

Under Lucki, the organization has continued to be inert, unable to act or react, weighed down by a suffocating bureaucracy.

This would have been a difficult time for any Commissioner, it would have taken an extremely strong leader to counter the accepted narrative. Commissioner Lucki clearly did not have that capability. One would have had to at times embarrass the Liberals, stand up to ridiculous assertions, outline the resourcing and staffing difficulties, and point to the failings as well as the successes. She did not or could not do that.

We should also remember that Ms. Lucki was picked by a large panel of seven individuals headed by former Premier of New Brunswick Frank McKenna. How is it that this crew could have felt in those tentative times, that Ms. Lucki was the best choice from across Canada?

One wonders that if there was a Walk of Fame for former Commissioners built outside Leikin Drive –who would get a star or a set of spurs in concrete. Maybe Paulson, if infamy is important, for his crocodile tears on settling the sexual harassment suit and paying out millions of dollars. It was at the very least a memorable media moment.

Elliott who ran into the wall of Mountie intransigence and was apparently given to throwing papers around. Not likely. But then again his intemperance may have been earned.

Zaccardelli who was forced to resign by Harper over the Maher Arar incident for not quite telling the full truth about the RCMP involvement. Again, not likely.

Busson will probably get one after all, she was the first ‘woman” to accept the post, at least temporarily.

One wonders for the next round of Commissioner applications if we are we still in the age of firsts– first woman, first black, first Indigenous, first LGBTQ member? One can only hope that in the next selection for Commissioner we have run out of “first” as being a qualification.

So who will that next Commissioner be? There is another rumour that it may be the current Acting Executive Director of Strategic Policy and Planning Directorate, Alison Whelan. Apparently she is good friends of Lucki, but I am not so sure that Lucki’s pick will carry much weight.

Ms. Whelan is a policy wonk and a long term civilian civil servant in the RCMP. She joined the Federal government as a policy analyst in 2003, then into the RCMP in 2013 to “manage policy development” and to provide “analysis on national security, serious and organized crime.” In 2018 she moved over to National Security and Protective policy. She has a Masters in Political Science from Memorial University in Newfoundland and is co-chair of a task force to create National Hate Crimes Policy Standards as well as an executive director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. Policy, is clearly her noteworthy strength, policy is central to her being, but is the policy bureaucracy of Ottawa the place where we should be looking for change, understanding, and leadership? Would a “civilian” leader be the right choice at this time?

(On the off chance you want to learn more of Ms Whelan– she will participate in a “fireside chat” on May 4th, 2022 at the Law of Policing Conference.)

There have been a long list of Commissioners over they years, none of who’s names usually spring quickly to mind.

Remember Malcolm Lindsay in 1969, after all we named a boat after him.

There was William Higgitt in 1973– we also named a boat after him. He was followed by Nadon in 1977, and yes we named a boat after him as well. Simmonds and Inkster soon followed and we named boats after them. You would have thought we were building a navy.

Nevertheless, as we say bon voyage to Ms. Lucki maybe a new boat is in order or, at least maybe a small raft as she sails into retirement. Maybe, if we built a big raft, we could put the real root of the problem, Mr Trudeau, on the raft with her.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons via Benito Condemi de Flice – Some Rights Reserved