Sunday, October 17, 2010


OTTAWA - An independent "workplace assessment" of the fractious RCMP has found that the tepid pace of reform inside the national police force frustrated some Mounties.

"On a range of reform issues, much has been accomplished, although much remains to be done," former spy chief Reid Morden says in a summary of the assessment process, obtained by The Canadian Press.

Tensions mounted in the upper echelons of the Mounties over the summer, with senior members accusing RCMP Commissioner William Elliott of bullying and abusive behaviour.

The Public Safety Department hired Morden, a past director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, to interview disgruntled RCMP members at Ottawa headquarters for a report on improving relations.

In his Aug. 25 synopsis prepared for Public Safety deputy minister Bill Baker, Morden notes the RCMP had not even successfully publicized changes that had taken place as part of its sweeping transformation efforts.

"Whatever the actual pace of reform/transformation, the accomplishments are not well known beyond such prominent items as the restoration of an allowance for cadets to train at the RCMP Depot."

Morden says an account of "objectives achieved or changes made" will soon be published. "Unfortunately, it has been over six months in gestation."

The Canadian Press obtained a copy of Morden's four-page synopsis under the Access to Information Act.

Morden interviewed two dozen people, including Elliott, the first civilian to lead the force, and several deputy and assistant commissioners, from Aug. 3 to 11. He spoke with the Elliott early in the process and again once other interviews — including those who complained about the commissioner's actions — were concluded.

"I felt it was only fair that he be given an opportunity to give his side of any one of these examples," Morden said in an interview.

He also spoke to David Brown, a Toronto lawyer whose 2007 report for the government concluded the RCMP was "horribly broken," and David McAusland, chair of the RCMP reform implementation council, an outside advisory body.

Morden gave Baker a verbal briefing of his "tentative observations and conclusions" on Aug. 13. "In the interim, my findings and recommendations have not changed," he writes.

Citing confidentiality, Morden declined to repeat what he told Baker. A Canadian Press request to interview Baker was declined.

In an email, the Public Safety Department said the government "will continue to reform and strengthen our national police force, and remains committed to ensuring that the RCMP continues to be a strong, accountable organization."

CBC recently reported that Elliott told staff in an email there will be changes "to our senior management team" after Morden found an unhealthy level of tension and concern about the progress of reforms.

Indeed, there have been rumours of an impending shakeup at Mounties headquarters. Some who complained about Elliott are watching carefully to see what happens.

In the letter, Morden says there is a "tremendous well of respect for the RCMP" among Canadians.

"It is not a stretch to say that, if that goodwill has wavered as a result of the problems encountered by the Force over the past five-plus years, it is accompanied by the wholehearted wish to see the Force right itself and perform to the high standards that are central to its traditions.

"This is no less true in the leadership and management of the Force than it is for the constable on the front line," Morden adds.

"Thus the basic integrity of the RCMP, including its leadership and management, must be the centrepiece in considering what actions should be taken to resolve the current rifts within the management of the Force."

Not listed among the interviewees is former assistant commissioner Mike McDonell, who left the force to join the Ontario Provincial Police.

McDonell complained in a July 21 letter to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews that the desire of rank-and-file members for change within the beleaguered RCMP was thwarted by "inertia" under Elliott.

Morden did talk to the recently retired Bill Sweeney, who worked closely with Elliott at headquarters and has since spoken critically of the commissioner's style.

Rod Knecht recently took over Sweeney's post as senior deputy commissioner, serving as Elliott's right-hand man on front-line policing issues.

In a July 28 note to members in Alberta, where he was then commanding officer, Knecht said the force's senior executive was committed to the best interests of the force. "Despite media reports to the contrary, they will continue to work together towards the goal of positive change in the RCMP while the (Morden) review is underway."

*** The RCMP needs surgery. Let's just hope they don't get left in the proverbial emergency room and die a slow and painful death. I would rather hear, they are not there, for they have risen! :) MS ***