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The Globe and Mail

RCMP boss hurt G20 security efforts, senior Mountie says

Commissioner William Elliott speaks to reporters at RCMP headquarters in Ottawa on Feb 4, 2010.


A senior Mountie commander told the federal government that RCMP Commissioner William Elliott "disrupted" the federal government's billion-dollar security operation for the G8 and G20 summits - simply by showing up for the events.

"Despite being advised not to attend the summit command centres on June 25, 2010, the commissioner chose to attend, and in doing so, completely disrupted operations," Mike McDonell, then an RCMP assistant commissioner, wrote in a letter to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.

The scathing complaint was sent last July, just a couple of weeks after the summits. It sparked a federal review of Mr. Elliott's leadership, but its contents at the time were not known publicly, and a copy was only recently obtained by The Globe and Mail.

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Then commanding the RCMP's Ontario operations, Mr. McDonell raised a litany of criticisms of Mr. Elliott's leadership. The most pointed being that Canada's top cop may have had a negative impact on the biggest security operation in Canadian history.

Before the summits, the letter says, the commissioner kept his distance from all G8-G20 planning in Southern Ontario. In June, according to the letter, he suddenly came from Ottawa to visit his security forces just as they were scrambling to move U.S. President Barack Obama and dozens of other world leaders from cottage country to Toronto, and on a day when Black Bloc protesters were running wild in the streets.

The commissioner's visit to the command centre in Barrie, Ont., "caused a distraction to the RCMP and Canadian Forces personnel preparing to transport Internationally Protected Persons," the McDonell letter says. Mr. Elliot's visit to the downtown Toronto command centre also caused a degree of turmoil for local cops "preparing to respond/responding to protest activities in Toronto," the letter says.

The McDonell letter and complaints from several senior RCMP commanders led the Conservative government to hire an outsider to review Mr. Elliott's leadership.

Although chastened over angry outbursts against his subordinates, Mr. Elliott survived the review. Appointed by the Tories to be the force's first civilian leader three years ago, he is now looking to shake up the RCMP's upper ranks.

One of the people who complained about Mr. Elliott, Deputy Commissioner Raf Souccar, has been told it might be best for him to leave the force, but no decision has been made, sources said.

It is possible that Mr. Souccar will remain in the RCMP - or be seconded to another organization - after many current and former police officials, including Conservative candidate Julian Fantino, lobbied Mr. Elliott and other government officials on his behalf.

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"He has faced huge pressure that he is not wanted, but Mr. Elliott has also faced pushback," a source said.

The RCMP and Mr. Elliott would not comment on the McDonell letter on Monday.

"We will be moving forward in the near future with a number of changes to the structure and makeup of our senior management team," deputy commissioner Al Nause, the Mounties' new head of human-resources, said in a recent e-mail.

In his letter, Mr. McDonell accused Mr. Elliott of running a "dictatorship-like regime" and presiding over an era of institutional "inertia" that keeps the RCMP from delivering on promised changes.

In the letter, Mr. Elliott was also faulted for dressing down subordinates in a "brutal, disrespectful, intimidating and careless" manner, to the point that senior commanders suffered something akin to "battered wife syndrome."

The letter further said that Mr. Elliott has failed to make necessary friendships with U.S. police partners.

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Writing a letter to the Public Safety Minster was one of Mr. McDonell's last acts as a Mountie. After 35 years on the force, he retired in July, trading in the red serge to drive a black-and-white squad car for the Ontario Provincial Police.

He dropped four ranks to do so, but remains admired as a "cop's cop" by his friends in high places. Now an inspector, Mr. McDonell was last week fêted at his RCMP retirement party in speeches by Conservative candidate and former Toronto police chief Julian Fantino, OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis and Mr. Souccar, his former police partner.

"I leave with gratitude and I leave with an abundance of respect for the men and women of the force," Mr. McDonnell wrote to Mr. Toews in July. Nevertheless, he said he felt duty-bound to "share my observations on Commissioner Elliott's leadership."

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