A leaked memo from RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson has warned the Mounties will soon be rocked by more revelations of officer misconduct on the heels of the crisis over the transfer to B.C. of a disgraced officer from Alberta.
The force’s head said Sgt. Donald Ray – internally found guilty of sexual misconduct with female officers but not fired and reportedly set to work in a federal RCMP office in Surrey – engaged in “outrageous behaviour” that put a “sad stain on our reputation” and resulted in understandable concern from the provincial government.
Paulson’s May 28 email warns members of the force across Canada that more recent and historical cases will soon surface in the media containing “salacious and troubling details of member misconduct” that will bring more criticism.
He urged them to “hang in there” and “weather this storm” while working together to change the way police address conduct and discipline.
Paulson pledged to have future inter-divisional discipline transfers documented for review and consultations when appropriate.
Paulson also warned of more details coming on misconduct allegations against investigators in the “Surrey Six” murder case, saying “here again, the incredible and successful work of the majority of our employees will be tarnished by the allegations against a few.”
Officers investigating the gangland slaying face accusations that include sex with a gangster’s girlfriend who is also a witness, filing false overtime, and trying to mislead misconduct investigators.
Paulson said policing is difficult work that takes a toll that can play out in sub-standard conduct, sometimes due to alcohol, stress or other dependencies.
“I need you to take responsibility for yourself, and for your colleagues,” he said, urging those who cannot conduct themselves professionally to leave the organization.
SFU criminologist Rob Gordon said Paulson clearly expected the memo to become public, calling it a deliberate and “smart” move to get in front of what emerges next.
“They’re now bracing for something even more horrible than has hit them so far,” he said. “This suggests we’re on track for another psycho-sexual drama.”
Ray’s transfer to B.C. took place without Paulson’s knowledge but was accepted by the RCMP E Division’s new leader, Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens.
Gordon said Callens should have refused to have E Division accept Ray, in light of a barrage of RCMP scandals centred on this province – from Robert Dziekanski’s tasering death at Vancouver International Airport to a class action lawsuit of female officers alleging sexual harrassment.
In any other organization, Gordon said, Ray would be fired with cause, but the RCMP agreed to keep him, likely as a negotiated deal with Ray’s lawyer that avoided the need to make female witnesses testify against him.
“It’s the optics [of the transfer] where they fell down very badly.”
Gordon said Paulson’s memo also indicates there’s no current mechanism to review inter-divisional transfers due to discipline.
He said Paulson’s direction to be professional or get out set a critical tone.
“If this marks the beginning of a new openness and transparency there’s some hope for the force,” Gordon said, but added a crisis of morale may already be underway that will be difficult to overcome.
NATIONAL DISTRIBUTION TO INDIVIDUAL MAILBOXES APPROVED BY COMMISSIONER BOB PAULSON ON 2012-05-28.
You may be seeing more media stories in the upcoming days and weeks focusing on discipline-related matters in the RCMP. The recent case of Sgt. Ray has ignited the controversy and propelled the need for change back into the public arena.
A few words about Sgt. Ray: this case meets my definition of outrageous behaviour. It is a sad stain on our reputation and I understand the province of British Columbia’s concerns about his transfer. I undertake to have future inter-divisional discipline transfers documented for review and, where appropriate, consultations. That said, I acknowledge the decision of the CO of E Division for stepping up and taking this responsibility on in the face of no other reasonable alternative.
The media are seeking and have obtained several records of decision in a number of recent and historical cases, as is their right. I expect salacious and troubling details of member misconduct to surface and be the source of much criticism of the Force. Hang in there and try not to let these stories interfere with the tremendous work you do every day on behalf of Canadians.
Some of the stories are historical, some are recent, and sadly some are not yet widely known — like the allegations of misconduct brought against the principal investigators in the Surrey Six murder prosecution. Here again, the incredible and successful work of the majority of our employees will be tarnished by the allegations against a few.
There are other difficult cases as well that may get a lot of attention: the Vancouver Special O case which was extensively covered; the K Division case that saw a constable be convicted of 14 criminal charges including criminal harassment, extortion and mortgage fraud; and, the persistent matters arising from the tragic death of Mr. Dziekanski at YVR. Sadly there is a lot to choose from if you want to criticize us.
There is also a lot to celebrate if you are so inclined.
But here is the thing; police work is challenging and difficult. It takes a toll on our employees and sometimes this wear and tear on our members manifests itself in conduct that doesn’t meet the standards we expect of the professional police officers in the RCMP. Often these transgressions are the result of alcohol, stress or other dependencies.
Sometimes they are simple oversights or negligence, and these instances require us to act in the interests of the employee, to get them help and give them a fair chance to right their behaviours and continue to serve Canadians in the fine tradition of the RCMP. But sometimes they can cross a line that requires decision makers to act in the interest of the organization.
I have already directed CO’s on what I expect of them in making these difficult decisions, and we have been working to bring changes to our conduct regime. These changes will seek to re-establish the balance between correcting individual employee behaviour and protecting the reputation of the organization, while also maintaining public trust in our institution which is so vital to being an effective police force.
The last element in this equation though is you, the individual employee of this Force. I need you to take responsibility for yourself, and for your colleagues. I need you to ensure that your conduct is consistent with our values, the standards we have established in the RCMP and the expectations of Canadians.
If you, as a member, cannot conduct yourself professionally — as the professional police officer who has been entrusted with special powers over your fellow citizens — then I need you to leave this organization.
I feel as though the organization is under threat right now, and my primary duty is to protect Canadians and to protect the RCMP.
I need you all to help me hold all employees of the RCMP to account for their conduct while we bring about changes in our conduct regime.
So HEADS UP, SHOULDERS BACK. Let’s weather this storm of criticism. Let’s continue to do our duty. But let’s all change the way we think and act about conduct and discipline and get back to our core duty: policing.