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Mountie chief William Elliott boots his main critic

RCMP Commissioner William Elliott has consolidated his grip on power by sidelining his biggest critic still on the force, and promoting loyal members and outsiders to key positions.

The changes announced Thursday follow months of bitter infighting at the top of Canada's national police force. Some impending retirements were also announced.

The overall effect is that Mr. Elliott - a civilian bureaucrat whose angry style has alienated many top cops since the Conservatives appointed him in 2007 - should have a fresher slate to govern. After surviving a near-mutiny in the ranks this past summer, the Commissioner has said he would like to get on with some long-recommended structural changes to the force.

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Raf Souccar, a popular Deputy Commissioner who had challenged Mr. Elliott's leadership, has been unceremoniously placed in police purgatory. Mr. Elliott has essentially demoted him to the position of Mountie without portfolio, amid ongoing negotiations about secondment to another security force.

The two men had had irreconcilable differences, but Mr. Elliott remains atop the chain of command.

"Pending his next assignment, Deputy Commissioner Raf Souccar will report to Senior Deputy Commissioner Rod Knecht," Mr. Elliott said in a Commissioner's broadcast sent to the force's members Thursday. "I would like to acknowledge and thank Raf for his many contributions in his role as Deputy Commissioner Federal and International Policing."

Over the past year, Mr. Souccar had borne responsibility for the Mounties' most sensitive operations ever. This list includes two billion-dollar security operations: the RCMP presence at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, and security for the G8/G20 meetings in Ontario in June. He was also responsible during the Haitian earthquake and the ongoing migration crisis regarding ships full of migrants setting sail from Southeast Asia.

Bob Paulson, a newly appointed Deputy Commissioner, is now in charge of federal and international policing. Previously, he had been leading biker-gang investigations in B.C., before going to Ottawa to take over terrorism investigations. Last year, he had been put in charge of the federal force's contracts.

The Mounties split their mandate between "federal" policing operations and "contract" policing. The former zeros in on big-ticket coast-to-coast investigations - involving terrorists, bikers, and drugs - while the latter is essentially the local beat cop role that Mounties take on after first signing contracts with provinces and municipalities.

Important changes affecting Mountie operations in the West have also been announced:

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* Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass, a 40-year Mountie who just last month was placed in charge of Western operations, is retiring. He will be replaced by Assistant Commissioner Peter German.

* Assistant Commissioner Bud Mercer, who had led the Olympic security effort in B.C., is also retiring.

* A deputy chief from the Edmonton Police Service, Norm Lipinski, is coming to the Mounties to be put in charge of the contract policing of B.C.'s Lower Mainland.

* The Mounties in charge of Alberta and B.C. operations are trading places, with now-Deputy Commissioner Peter Hourihan heading to British Columbia, and now-Deputy Commissioner Dale McGowan heading to Alberta.

* Surrey, the biggest Canadian city that the Mounties are in charge of, has a new commander: Fraser MacRae, now an Assistant Commissioner.

These moves follow a host of changes announced of late, including the retirements of senior brass who were also critical of Mr. Elliott's leadership style. Assistant Commissioner Mike McDonnell and Senior Deputy Commissioner Bill Sweeney left over the summer.

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The criticisms of Mr. Elliott's leadership - he had never worked as a cop before being placed in charge of the 30,000-person, $5-billion-a-year force - led the Conservative government to hire an outsider to probe the complaints. But those findings led to no concrete changes.

Several other senior Mounties who had emerged as critics of Mr. Elliott remain in their positions.

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About the Authors
Parliamentary reporter

Daniel Leblanc studied political science at the University of Ottawa and journalism at Carleton University. He became a full-time reporter in 1998, first at the Ottawa Citizen and then in the Ottawa bureau of The Globe and Mail. More

National security reporter

Focusing on Canadian matters during the past decade, Colin Freeze has reported extensively on the interplay between government, police, spy services, and the judiciary. Colin has twice been to Afghanistan to be embedded with the Canadian military. More

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