VANCOUVER - The RCMP needs an attitude adjustment and the shift will need to be part of any new deal British Columbia and other provinces negotiate for future policing services, says B.C.'s attorney general.
Mike de Jong told reporters after a justice ministers meeting last week that he and his colleagues in other provinces are looking for a direct line of accountability between the RCMP and the provincial jurisdiction.
A "cultural shift" needs to accompany the structural shift that they are negotiating, the minister said.
"The RCMP needs to be accountable both provincially and at the community level."
But a long-time police psychologist says the RCMP instead need transformational change to save the force from itself.
Mounties provide policing services under contract in all provinces except Quebec and Ontario and an agreement negotiated in 1992 will expire in 2012.
British Columbia is the largest user of RCMP services in Canada, and de Jong said the province is using its lead role in contract talks to force change from the national police force.
Shortly after the results of the inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski, de Jong announced that a civilian investigation office would be established to investigate in-custody deaths and severe injuries involving municipal police and RCMP.
Dziekanski died after being jolted by an RCMP Taser several times at Vancouver's airport. The incident was caught on video and the resulting public furor over the death tarnished the once-squeaky clean image of the Mounties.
The incident was the peak in a series of Mountie missteps across the country in the last few years.
Mike Webster is a police psychologist and worked with the RCMP for decades before he spoke out during the Dziekanski inquiry.
He said the cultural shift de Jong is proposing won't be as easy as the minister believes.
"They're not going to change. You can have (police) report to the municipalities ... but that's not going to bring about an attitude change, you're not going to rekindle the moral of the membership or rekindle the trust in confidence in the public."
He said in an interview Sunday that type of change would be incremental.
Instead, he said "a transformational change would see the RCMP transformed into an entirely different organization with a much greater chance to survive."
He compared such a change to auto giant General Motors before and after the world's financial collapse.
"They swept the house clean of the old guard," he said. "They've downsized, they've knocked out middle management and so on, and they just might survive. That's the kind of thing the RCMP needs to undergo."
He said that would mean a change by the federal government of the RCMP Act.
De Jong said the federal government has been receptive to the idea that RCMP officers account both to the province and local communities for their actions.
The attorney general wouldn't say yes or no when asked if there was any chance the RCMP wouldn't get the contract.
He did say B.C.'s municipal leaders have told him they want the RCMP.
"They like that relationship, for all its shortcomings. So on the basis of those instructions we are actively working."
Webster said there's one main reason cities want the Mounties.
"They want the RCMP because RCMP is the Wal-Mart of policing. They're much cheaper than getting their own police services."
He said the mayors of those municipalities aren't interested in good policing, they're interested in cheap policing.
Webster said the RCMP cuts corners on the backs of its members .
He said the result is sick officers who suffer more stress at work and depression than the general public.
"The RCMP gets away with operating so cheaply because it asks so much of its membership."
Instead, Webster believes the RCMP should restrict its role in Canada to something similar to the FBI in the United States.
*** It's more than just in B.C. that they need an attitude adjustment...MS***