The RCMP are introducing a new disciplinary regime that will force the Mounties to police themselves in a bid to win back the frayed trust of the Canadian public.
The goal for the national police force is to try to turn the page on years of negative stories involving “bad apples” and to showcase a commitment to a culture in which Mounties improve their own conduct – and report any wrongdoing by their colleagues.
The final version of the proposed code of conduct and other rules has just been posted on the Internet and is now subject to a final 30-day consultation period before being implemented. There are logistical changes in the overhaul, aimed at speeding up the way the RCMP reprimand, suspend, demote and discharge officers. But the changes also entail a new vocabulary that places the onus on the Mounties to improve their own behaviour.
“We won’t be using the word discipline – it will all be about conduct,” RCMP professional integrity officer Craig MacMillan told The Globe and Mail.
“We have a whole range of measures, as we call them. So don’t call them sanctions or punishment or penalties. We have conduct measures,” Chief Superintendent MacMillan added.
The new system is designed to replace a 25-year-old law that prevented the RCMP from quickly sanctioning officers, with any measure beyond a one-day suspension taking months, if not years, to be imposed. The old system capped the maximum suspension at 10 days; the new system doesn’t have a maximum sanction, allowing greater discretion to local and regional managers to take their officers to task for any cases of misconduct and wrongdoing.
Whereas the RCMP had to assemble three-member panels to deal with most cases in the past, the new, whittled-down process will allow a one-member panel to handle much of the load. The new panels will have powers to prevent procedures from dragging on, including the ability to prevent officers from calling too many witnesses.
The RCMP have struggled to deal with a series of negative stories in recent years, from the death of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport to allegations of systemic harassment. Commissioner Bob Paulson vowed in 2011 to foster a new culture of accountability and leadership.
“I tell you, one day, there is going to be the removal of the Stetson if we don’t get this straight,” he told The Globe shortly after taking over from his civilian predecessor. “We’ve got to get onto this. This is urgent.”
The new rules are giving life to the legislation passed last year that amended the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act.
The code of conduct prescribes the proper behaviour for Mounties, including a directive to “report as soon as feasible and take appropriate action if the conduct of another member contravenes this Code.”
Chief Supt. MacMillan said that a recent survey inside the force showed that 77 per cent of members are prepared to report misconduct of other employees, a number that he hopes will increase under the new system.
“That’s a positive thing and what we are doing … is going to help to build on that and have even higher confidence levels in employees as they see that their organization is responding to these things in an even more timely way,” Chief Supt. MacMillan said.