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Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner William Elliott waits to testify before the Commons public safety and national security committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 6, 2008. (CHRIS WATTIE/Chris Wattie/Reuters)
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner William Elliott waits to testify before the Commons public safety and national security committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 6, 2008. (CHRIS WATTIE/Chris Wattie/Reuters)

RCMP set for shakeup as Ottawa stands by commissioner Add to ...

The RCMP is facing more upheaval after the Harper government dismissed the complaints of a group of high-ranking mutineers and decided to stand by the national police force's embattled commissioner, William Elliott.

Senior sources said the Harper government has weighed the long list of complaints that top-ranked Mounties outlined over the summer against Mr. Elliott's leadership style - namely that he screamed at his officers and did not treat them with respect - and opted to keep the RCMP's first civilian leader in his position.

"The government has confidence in Bill Elliott, and he will remain Commissioner until he chooses to leave the position," said a federal official who has been briefed on the matter.

The attempted ouster of Mr. Elliott, who was given a mandate to shake up the Mounties when he was appointed three years ago, comes at a time of considerable turmoil for the force. It has been buffeted by several controversies, including the investigation into the Air India bombing, the deportation of engineer Maher Arar, the tasering death of Polish traveler Robert Dziekanski and the botched investigation of serial killer Robert Pickton.

In July, at least seven assistant and deputy commissioners complained to their bureaucratic bosses about Mr. Elliott's frequent outbursts. At the time, there were rumours of a management shuffle, and the moves could now be implemented, especially if the complainants feel that they can no longer work with Mr. Elliott, or if Mr. Elliott wants to have different people around him.

Sources said other changes are also in store for the RCMP, which is seeking more resources to fulfill its crime-fighting mandates. In addition, the RCMP is hoping to modernize its disciplinary system, in which the maximum penalty, short of dismissal, is a two-week suspension.

There is hope that proposed legislative changes dealing with the disciplinary changes will quickly go through Parliament this fall. Senior officers want to be able to impose larger financial sanctions, and to limit the length of time needed for the appeal procedure.

"We want to get rid of the folks who shouldn't be in the RCMP, and there are folks out there who shouldn't be in the RCMP," said a high-ranking Mountie.

However, the main priority is bringing back a sense of cohesiveness to the senior RCMP ranks, where there are ongoing personal and professional rivalries. Sources said high-ranking Mounties continue to work with one another daily on the senior executive committee, but tensions remain. In particular, the situation of deputy commissioner Raf Souccar, who was widely seen as one of the main complainants against Mr. Elliott, will be closely followed by everyone in the RCMP.

Just before he retired as an assistant commissioner in July, Mike McDonell sent a letter to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and other government officials listing complaints about Mr. Elliott's conduct. Other assistant and deputy commissioners vented their anger with the deputy minister at Public Safety Canada.

The so-called mutineers received the backing of Bill Sweeney, the recently retired former senior deputy commissioner, who told The Globe and Mail that tensions steadily grew after Mr. Elliott's appointment. Mr. Elliott has said he would like to remain in his position for another two years.

"There was considerable discontent with the manner that the commissioner conducted himself, both around senior and junior officers. The tension was palpable, and I'm not surprised that people felt compelled to step forward," Mr. Sweeney said in July. "The commissioner is a man of extremes. In some instances, his conduct was unacceptable to others around him."

The government hired Canada's former top spy, Reid Morden, to conduct a workplace assessment to determine the extent of the problems within the RCMP brass. His report has been completed but will not be made public, the Department of Public Safety said.

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