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RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson speaks to The Globe and Mail editorial board, Dec. 19, 2011. (Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail/Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson speaks to The Globe and Mail editorial board, Dec. 19, 2011. (Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail/Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)

At the editorial board

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson at the editorial board Add to ...

Real, significant change, to use perhaps a bad metaphor, will be only attainable when you clear cut.... there has to be some removal of any stain of former sort of ethos, or culture, or value system.

I don’t think you do that overnight. But I think you can do that in the very near term if you are consistent by making things simple and clear and making sure people in the organization get it.

Q. What is the No. 1 challenge?

Public trust. I don’t think people know how urgent it is in our organization. I’ve had officers say to me when I travel that they don’t like to talk about what they do sometimes when they go to new areas, when they are with their neighbours.

“What did you do?”

“Public security...”

Q. So they are ashamed to be with the RCMP?

Yeah. Some people are. But let me try to drag some context into this.... The lion’s share of our members and employees, day in day out, come in and do an enormous public service to Canadians.

I can’t be seen as the new leader to be running around and saying the place is falling down. I have to be persuasive in making the case to everybody, those 90 per cent of employees, and say I can’t do this by myself. So all of us got to go to those folks and we got to knock ’em on the head. ...

Without the public trust, you’re not going to be effective in your core business. If people don’t have some confidence in our ability to close investigations – market enforcement investigations, homicide, and organized crime cases – they are not going to participate.

Q. The auditor general pointed out that you had to cut a whack of money out of these investigations last year. Now you’re going to have to swing an axe again due to austerity ... is this going to impact your ability to put bad guys in jail?

One of the qualifications for the new Commissioner was doing all the things we are talking about in a climate of fiscal restraint.

Its premature to know where the axe is falling exactly – the principles we’ve applied to our deficit reduction action plan goes toward the back office. Support mechanisms.

We’ve been guided by the principle of not touching operations.

Q. Do you think police organizations are inherently change resistant and insular?

Yes.

Q. So how do you work to bring change?

Well, again, you take some risks. I’m a firm believer in that you’re not going to innovate at all unless you take some risk.

I’d like to have an experimental troop of direct-entry officers, commissioned officers at the Inspector level. People would be very worked up about that. But in order to bring some different thinking. Instead of going to Depot and coming out a Constable and going to recruit field training, you go to Depot do some recruit field training and come out as an inspector and go right to command.

The purpose is to change.

I have got to be persuasive. I’ve got a couple of hammers and grenades I can throw but I’m going to run out, given the kinds of change I have to do, I will run out of hammers and axes and bombs.

Q. What is the cause of losing public trust?

Policing requires a certain amount of public trust that I think is reinforced by a number of things, including a reflective and just exercising of special authorities. When those authorities are misused or used to allow behaviours other than the public interest, I think, the general average reasonably minded Canadian says “That’s no good ...”

If you make a well intentioned mistake, people get that. But when the dark heart comes out, and you can see certain sort of a lazy intent to go around what’s right, people get off the bus.

And I think we have had some of those.

Q. Is there anything you would like to change with respect to how you prosecute crime?

Incrementally, and to a different extent, our ability to charge people has gone off the rails.

We have different pockets of precharge approval. Which I think is a problem for a number of reasons.

Police investigate. Police lay a charge – Crowns either prosecute or don’t prosecute. What I need to have happen is have officers understand the various thresholds of evidence that’s required – to form a reasonably held suspicion; to a reasonably held belief; to reasonable and probable belief; to a substantial or reasonable prospect of conviction.

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