The case of the Mountie who was suspended for close to seven years while collecting full salary has critics renewing calls for the RCMP’s cumbersome disciplinary procedures to be streamlined.
“It boggles the mind that a process could last this long,” David Eby, executive director of the BC Civil Liberties Association, said Tuesday, referring to the time it took the RCMP to dole out discipline to Constable James Douglas MacLeod.
“This is the longest delay that I’ve ever heard of, but it’s a familiar song and a very familiar situation,” Mr. Eby said. “Somebody’s going to have to step up, and I hope it’s [RCMP] Commissioner [Bob] Paulson.”
In a frank open letter issued earlier this year, Commissioner Paulson pledged to work to change a discipline system that he acknowledged was outdated by 25 years.
But so far, the government has not moved to make necessary changes to the RCMP Act. As well, the latest report by the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP noted that many disciplinary cases before Commissioner Paulson for final dispensation have been outstanding for more than six months.
“You’d think if the RCMP was frustrated by the delays, they’d be working to the max to fulfill their duties in a timely way, and that’s just not happening,” Mr. Eby said. “It’s not only the public that says [cases like this] are outrageous, individual RCMP members are saying they want matters resolved in a reasonable time, too.”
Rob Gordon, director of the school of criminology at Simon Fraser University, said internal RCMP disciplinary procedures include innumerable mechanisms and diversions along the way that seem to turn the entire matter into a neverending process. “It’s like the writhing of snakes around and around.”
What really annoys people is that those under investigation, like Constable MacLeod, receive their full salary regardless, Prof. Gordon said. “He’s the only person who benefits [from the process]. Meanwhile, we all pay. It’s ridiculous.”
Constable MacLeod was finally forced off the force this summer, over an incident of alleged sexual assault that took place in late 2005. During the long time in between, he was suspended with pay. Criminal charges against him were stayed by the Crown in 2008.
Now, the former RCMP officer has applied to the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review of the decision to dismiss him, alleging that Commissioner Paulson, who upheld the penalty, based his ruling on an erroneous finding of fact that was made “in a perverse or capricious manner.”
Prof. Gordon likened the MacLeod matter to the notoriety surrounding the case of Monty Robinson, the Mountie who was suspended with full pay for four years, after he was accused of obstruction of justice for trying to cover up his consumption of alcohol before his involvement in a fatal accident. Mr. Robinson resigned from the RCMP just before he was sentenced.
“No other jurisdiction would get away with this kind of system,” Prof. Gordon said, adding that he believes Commissioner Paulson is as frustrated as anyone.
“From everything he’s said, he’s hellbent on changing it.… These kind of cases should be able to be resolved in a matter of months, not years.”