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The Globe and Mail

Beleaguered RCMP wrestles with bloat at the centre

There are now 4,569 people working at RCMP headquarters in Ottawa, more than double the number posted there in 2000

brett beadle The Globe and Mail

Staff at the RCMP's head office in Ottawa has doubled over the past 10 years, prompting senior officials to complain the national police force is becoming bloated and excessively bureaucratized.

The growth at the centre comes at a critical time for the federal security apparatus. Bob Paulson, the new Commissioner, must confront a long list of dysfunction and leadership failures, the most recent being allegations of widespread sexual harassment.

Within the force, there is also a feeling that white-collar jobs in Ottawa came at the expense of front-line work – a situation that is reminiscent of National Defence, where the staff in Ottawa has grown much faster than the number of military personnel in recent years.

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Figures obtained by The Globe and Mail under access to information legislation show there are now 4,569 people working at RCMP headquarters in Ottawa, a hike of more than 100 per cent from the 2,242 people who were posted there in 2000.

The overall number of RCMP personnel has also grown – but by only 50 per cent over the same period, going from 20,000 to 30,000 members as the federal government has doubled the force's budget, largely to deal with post-9/11 security concerns. In terms of proportions, the staff at headquarters in Ottawa represents 15 per cent of the overall RCMP today, up from 11 per cent in 2000.

Commissioner Paulson did not offer comment on the numbers as he has only been on the job two weeks and is refusing interview requests. Still, he will have to deal with the size of his headquarters as the national police force continues to struggle with recent budget cuts, with the force bracing for more belt-tightening next year.

The cuts have caused morale problems within the force, as officers, already reeling from a series of scandals and controversies, feel that they don't have the resources to offer the expected level of services to Canadians.

According to the Auditor-General, the cash crunch has forced the RCMP to cut back on investigations into mobsters, drug gangs and white-collar criminals and to neglect some of its national laboratories and databases.

Gaetan Delisle, a recently retired staff sergeant who is trying to organize rank-and-file Mounties into police unions, is blasting the increase in managers in Ottawa.

"You have less people to do the work, and more people to report to," he said. "It's a shameful situation."

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Bloat at headquarters, he added, ultimately means fewer crime detectives working cases on the streets and more crime analysts writing reports at desks. Police managers, he suspects, will make hires in Ottawa if left to their own devices. "As long as they are not accountable this will continue to happen," he said.

As it stands, the RCMP can't fit all its Ottawa personnel into its new headquarters, which was purchased in 2006 and designed to accommodate 3,800 people – roughly the size of the Ottawa work force at the time. The Mounties are now spread out over two campuses in the city, leading to increased costs for support and security staff.

The RCMP defends the growth of its headquarters staff, saying its annual budget has doubled over the past decade.

"There is an inherent administration component to this kind of growth," an RCMP spokesman said in a statement.

The RCMP said much of the growth in the national capital was fuelled by a host of security initiatives launched after the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, as well as new programs to deal with matters such as child exploitation.

It said it is also handling an increased number of major events, such as offering security for international summits and official visits by foreign dignitaries. In addition, the work force at headquarters has gotten bigger due to the administrative transfer of personnel, such as the Mounties who guard embassies and Parliament, from another division.

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Linda Duxbury, a professor of management at Carleton University, said the staff in Ottawa conducts essential operations and that policing numbers also need to be increased in the rest of the country.

"There are not enough cops," she said in an interview. "The ratio is skewed, but the way to solve it is not to strip out a critical management layer."

Other federal security organizations also wrestle with bloat at the centre. For example, a senior Canadian Forces commander recently found that the military's "tooth-to-tail" ratio was becoming skewed. In a hard-hitting report, Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie (now retired) said personnel for military operations had grown by only 10 per cent in a seven-year period, while non-operational and headquarters staff had ballooned by 40 per cent.

Ironically, in times of austerity, security organizations often take their blows on the "teeth."

"Front-line forces … are not only the most valuable, they are the most vulnerable, as they have traditionally been the easiest to reduce or cut," Mr. Leslie said in his report.

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