Royal Canadian Mounted Police Issues
The RCMP Commissioner, with the support of Public Safety Canada, is pursuing a transformation agenda to ensure a sustainable organization that delivers modern policing services, one that is healthy, characterized by inclusivity and respect, and trusted by employees, partners and the Canadian public. Success will require continued action to respond to evolving public expectations, address critical issues such as systemic racism and discrimination in policing, and adapt to an evolving criminal landscape.
This note provides an overview of the issues facing the RCMP with a focus on work to reform and modernize the RCMP, as well as some of the actions taken to date in this regard.
Relevant Platform Commitments
- Enhance the current Management Advisory Board to be in-line with other Canadian police services to have full oversight over the RCMP.
- Bring forward clear timelines for compliance with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) recommendations.
- Support an external review of the RCMP’s sanctions and disciplinary regime to review the adequacy of existing sanctions and whether sanctions are being properly applied.
- Prohibit RCMP from using neck restraints and prohibit the use of tear gas or rubber bullets for crowd control.
- Make the new Independent Centre for Harassment Resolution fully external to the RCMP to ensure there can be no conflicts of interest while reviewing complaints.
- Commit to a full external review of current de-escalation training to ensure this training results in the safest possible outcomes for both officers and Canadians.
- Work with the provinces, territories, and municipalities that contract RCMP services to make the service better connected to community social support workers.
The RCMP is a complex and multi-faceted organization that is implementing a comprehensive modernization agenda.This has been instigated by a number of factors including the reports and reviews in the last several years that have recommended on organizational reform, including: changes to workplace culture, improved governance and oversight, and sustainability of operations. In addition, the organization is seeing declines in measures of public trust and confidence due to several high profile incidents and awareness of organizational challenges.
In April 2018, Commissioner Brenda Lucki was appointed with a mandate to modernize the RCMP with a particular focus on supporting employee wellness, addressing harassment and violence in the workplace, and enhancing the organization’s role in reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. While there is much work to do, progress is being made and there is a recognition that in any organization, and particularly one with such a long and storied history, change will take time.
Internally, change is being supported through the RCMP’s Vision 150 and Beyond modernization plan, which is central to shifting the RCMP’s organizational culture, governance practices, workplace capabilities and overall accountability. In 2019, the RCMP Management Advisory Board (MAB) was established to provide the Commissioner with expert external advice on the management and administration of the RCMP, including advice on transformation. Finally, the recent signing by the National Police Federation and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat of the first ever collective agreement for non-commissioned regular members and reservists is a significant milestone in establishing a modern labour relations regime for the RCMP.
Workplace Change (Improving RCMP Culture)
Challenges with the RCMP’s organizational culture have been highlighted in multiple reports over the past two decades. For example, the recent report of the Honourable Michel Bastarache detailed violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination experienced by women employed by the RCMP between 1974 and 2017, and outlined the toxic culture of the RCMP over many years. The Bastarache report and those that came before, highlighted the need for sustained changes in key areas to contribute to meaningful changes to workplace culture, including: improved RCMP governance; strengthened diversity and inclusion; improved harassment prevention and resolution; and enhanced leadership development and professionalization.
The RCMP’s public response to the Bastarache report, released in November 2020, commits to a long-term holistic approach to culture change and an RCMP free of workplace harassment, violence and discrimination. The response builds on actions already underway through the RCMP’s broader modernization plan, points to important progress made to date and highlights four priority areas for action, including:
- Improving harassment prevention and resolution, including through the new Independent Centre for Harassment Resolution and an external review of RCMP conduct measures;
- Addressing systemic barriers, by expanding the use of Gender-based Analysis Plus across the RCMP, and through the launch of a new Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy;
- Improving recruitment and onboarding, through a recruitment modernization plan and examining changes to the Cadet Training Academy; and
- Enhancing leadership development and training, including through the integration of Leader Character principles in promotions processes to ensure leaders have the skills to support a healthy workplace.
Enhanced Governance and Accountability (Improving Oversight)
There is heightened public awareness around issues of excessive use-of-force and systemic racism in law enforcement organizations. Recent studies conducted by the Angus Reid Institute and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation indicate public concern over police interactions with Indigenous and racialized people, as well as the overrepresentation of these populations in incidents involving the use of deadly force.
Key reports from the CRCC and SECU have made specific recommendations for improved RCMP accountability and oversight, such as reduced response times to reports issued by the CRCC.
In response to several use-of-force incidents, the use of body-worn cameras across the RCMP is being implemented as a means of enhancing transparency and accountability. The RCMP is also taking specific actions to promote de-escalation and the reduction of use-of-force in interactions with the public by updating its mandatory training and de-escalation tools. The RCMP will also improve its data collection practices and is committed to publishing information on calls for service, wellness checks and use-of-force. Additionally, the RCMP has partnered with the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) to create a Task Force to standardize and improve police response options at the national level, as well as associated training, focusing on de-escalation, crisis intervention and responding to mental health incidents.
Sustainability of Operations (Restoring Federal Policing Mandate)
Over the past decade, RCMP federal policing resources have steadily declined as a result of government cost saving exercises and RCMP resourcing issues, while the contract policing program has continued to grow. Despite organizational efforts to become more efficient significant funding pressures have persisted.
In May of 2017, a resourcing review of the RCMP conducted by KPMG concluded that RCMP’s overall funding envelope is not sufficient to support its mandate and activities, but addressing this is not simply a matter of increasing financial authorities or increasing cost recovery.
Subsequent reviews led by the RCMP and Public Safety identified a number of systemic sustainability challenges impacting the whole of the RCMP:
- contract policing impacts the whole of RCMP, raises sustainability challenges, and limits resources available to rebuild and modernize federal policing;
- since 2010, RCMP’s ability to execute its federal mandate and responsibilities, and to keep pace with an evolving threat environment has diminished;
- RCMP programs and structures have evolved to largely serve a generalist, front-line policing function as opposed to specialized business lines (e.g., federal policing);
- RCMP’s capacity to recruit and train enough Regular Members (RM) to meet demands across all business lines is challenged;
- under-resourcing is resulting in RM health and wellness concerns; and
- not all costs related to policing in contract jurisdictions are being recovered.
Provincial/Territorial and Key Stakeholder Perspectives
The administration of justice, including policing, falls under the constitutional responsibility of provinces and territories who delegate fiscal and governance responsibility to larger, urban municipal governments. Jurisdictions that contract RCMP policing services expect to be meaningfully consulted on changes to how the RCMP works.
There is growing concern from provinces, territories and municipalities with:
- the rising cost of policing, including RCMP services, particularly in relation to unionization;
- the shift in federal policing responsibilities due to diminishing resources;
- reduced value-for-money/return on investment for RCMP contract policing services;
- a one-size-fits-all national policing model that does not meet the particular needs of North of 60° communities and in eastern, rural, remote and Indigenous communities; and
- low levels of control and accountability over local policing.
The City of Surrey is in the process of transitioning from the RCMP to its own independent municipal police service, the Surrey Police Service (SPS). Trilateral partners (i.e., Public Safety, RCMP, British Columbia/Surrey) are working jointly to implement the transition beginning this fall in a phased approach likely over several years. The first phase will see SPS officers seconded to work under the direction of the RCMP pursuant to the provisions of the existing Police Service Agreements, and the second will see RCMP seconded to the SPS once it becomes a fully functional police force. Phase 1 is scheduled to launch on November 30, 2021, which is when the first cohort of SPS officers will begin patrolling Surrey streets.
In parallel to the launch of Phase 1, trilateral partners are committed to developing a joint human resources plan, which will identify the tempo/staffing levels for future SPS cohorts in Phase 1 as well as finalizing an overarching transition agreement to govern all transition elements until its completion in the coming years.
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