RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson visited The Globe and Mail editorial board on Monday, Dec. 19, 2011. Following are some excerpts from that conversation. This interview has been condensed and edited.
I’ve never done an editorial board before so I’m a little bit nervous and excited. I’m coming up to my month anniversary taking lead of the RCMP. I have a number of challenges that I’ve spoken about publicly already.
But I also have a bit of a plan that I’m trying to roll out over time. I’m interested in sharing it with you and answering any questions you may have around it.
My agenda is trying to get the organization to focus on its core business. My recipe is a simple one – to do core policing activities, in all of the areas that we do policing, we do it well, we do it to the satisfaction of Canadians and others, and then everything else should fall into line.
Essentially, it’s the simpleton’s approach to being the Commissioner of the RCMP.
Q. With respect to the female-harassment issue, what do you identify as the core issues that need to be changed within the culture? How do you restore the public’s faith?
One is the process that I’ve announced – centralizing the process in terms of having a more immediate and meaningful oversight in terms of how these things are handled.
The second issue is the behaviours. The behaviours of the people that give rise to these complaints in the first place. That is really the heart of the challenge, I think, in terms of making meaningful changes right across the organization.
The harassment issue is a bigger, broader issue ... and it goes right to the heart of the problem with the organization’s culture. Which is how authority is misunderstood to be power in its application.
It seems to me we are weak in our leadership area. How people, leaders, come to understand their duties, their responsibilities.
Most sexual offences, go to a power issue rather than anything else. Similarly the rest of the harassment cases go to, I think, also feature that sort of misuse of power.
Two of my priorities are accountability and leadership. Those are very simple but broad areas to be improved within the organization. Leaders have to action things when things go wrong – quickly.
Q. Some internal investigations go up in smoke. Can you change that?
Where we fail is in how we oversee and manage the decisions around discipline.
One of the things I did the week before last was to have all the deputies come together for an extraordinary senior executive committee. We sat around the table a little bit larger than this and got right into it, the heart of the matter, how we were overseeing our areas of responsibility.
One of the things that’s gotten into the public domain is how, at one point I said how there is no presumption of innocence in respect of administrative disciplinary hearings.
That somehow presents me with a risk that I’m seen to be some sort of crazy person. But procedural fairness is the operative term in disciplinary matters, not this criminal standard that officers have been applying to our detriment, frankly.
Q. This was an agency that, for decades, was held up as the pinnacle of Canadian identity and accomplishment. Now it’s almost become a running farce ...
I’ve had discussions with colleagues around the sense of urgency we need to attach.
Like the military in post-Somalia. I’ve talked to some colleagues in the military there and tried to understand how a leader would go about trying to set the organization straight. That’s really how I marketed myself during these interviews that went on for the selection of commissioner.
You describe failures upon failures upon failures. This will sound inappropriate, but I’ll say I watched those somewhat from a distance until I got into the senior executive ... because my experience has been success upon success upon success. Not because of me but because of the teams I was lucky enough to be a part of.
And it was incredible. It was remarkable. When you’re able to pull together a bunch of people and deliver a really complex and “Cadillac” piece of policing, for Canadians, it’s like no other feeling in the world.
I’ve flown airplanes upside down at 200 feet, at 350 knots and that’s exciting , but it’s not near as exciting as being able to deliver one of these big cases.
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