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Lying…

In light of various recent events, it seems that the vagaries of lying in this 21st century seem worthy of a little exploration.

Often one thinks of lying as being a black and white issue. However, lying as everyone and everybody who has practised the art can tell you, it is inevitably shaded and nuanced. Even whether one finds un-truths offensive seems to be tempered by who is doing the lying; or what they are lying about.

We, at times, seem to be more accepting of certain types of lies. Institutional or professional lying seems too often to go unchallenged, acceptance of it becoming more the norm.

Personal lies seem less acceptable, although even the distinction between the two can get murky. Are we more content with institutional lying? We often shrug our shoulders succumbing to it being the way it is, something for which we have no power over. Whereas the more personal lie has a greater chance of offending.

At the bottom of the lying scale, (if we admit to there being a scale) are what our mothers and fathers used to call the “white” lies. A dictionary would call white lying often “trivial” or “mundane”. When one says that dinner was “lovely, when it in fact was un-edible, this is acceptable. This lie was designed to spare a persons feelings, it’s even what a decent person would do under these circumstances.

Hope Hicks, the former advisor to President Trump on media matters, admitted she told “white lies” during her course of duties. Well, of course that is not true, that was a bit of a lie. A lie about a lie if you will.

What Ms. Hicks was doing was actually in the next upper layer of lying– the lies that are being practised and utilized by our very governments.

Donald Trump lies on a daily basis, over and over again, seemingly with little negative repercussions–well at least for fifty percent of the American public. On the other hand, Richard Nixon was impeached for the single lie of denying recording conversations in the White House and using the FBI to go against his political enemies. Bill Clinton found out that lying about sex on public television, along with getting wife Hillary to swear to the lie, was less acceptable and he too was forced down that same impeachment road.

It will be interesting this week to see if the Judicial Committee in the U.S. feels that Mr. Trump leveraging of government resources for a political purpose and lying about it becomes an “impeachable offence”. Or have the times changed and are the offences of yesteryear not the same as those of today.

Our own Minister of Justice at the time, Jody Wilson-Raybould spoke about “her truth” when talking about her problems with Trudeau and his underlings. One could only translate this to mean that “my truth” may be different than “her truth”. If one believes that there is a single unassailable truth, then this kind of phrasing is difficult to even grasp and at the very least, it muddy’s the waters both in its intent and message. The specific terminology used forces the listener or reader to be attentive to the semantics.

Governmental lies from the police, whether it be the RCMP, or the Vancouver City Police or any other police department, is a little more difficult to discern. Much harder for the general public to know they are being lied to, or at the very least being misled, as the actual facts are often hidden behind the “Confidential” or “Secret” labelled files.

The “spinners” and the “strategic” media sections of the RCMP and other police departments are mandated to be the practitioners of the art of the semantic dodge. Almost inevitably, it is done from a defensive posture, designed and structured to avoid criticism, or quell further scrutiny. It quite often works. Although their repeated and practised lines often become worthless over time, made useless with their constant repetition.

How many times have you heard after the latest killing or shooting in a residential neighbourhood that the public “has no need to fear”. This was a “targeted” offence (by the way –aren’t all offences targeted?) In truth, you actually should be concerned about a shooting in your neighbourhood. There are many cases of mistaken identity shootings and there are plenty of gangland drive-by shootings which spray the neighbourhood. Gangsters indiscriminately shooting in their twisted fist fashion and doing their best Scarface imitations are in fact a real danger to the neighbourhood.

The police if pressed would justify these kinds of pronouncements as being designed to ease the neighbourhood anxiety; to make you feel that you are safe. So they would argue if honest that they are doing it for your own good.

We have been told many times over that marihuana is a benign enterprise, not one of the drugs which promote or lead to violence. Or that the legalization of marihuana will eliminate organized crime. Now that the government is in the marihuana business this lie has become the government seemingly acceptable truth. In reality hundreds have been killed over the years in the marihuana industry and even government is now admitting that they may never eliminate the criminal element.

When the police say that it is “still an active investigation”, chances are they are lying to you. It may not have a C.H. (Concluded Here) notation on the file, but in all probability, nobody is actively working on those files. They tell that to victims families on a regular basis and they get away with it– as only they know level of investigation on those protected files.

Where the institutional lying can become serious is when it turns personal for the police officers involved. It could even lead to criminal charges. Usually that happens when the accusation(s) creep into the courtrooms or some other public body of inquiry where truths surface that otherwise would have remained hidden from view.

Criminal defence counsel is always accusing the police of lying: “I put it to you officer…”. But let’s forget about that nonsensical game playing practised by those that defend the indefensible.

Instead, what we are talking about is lying when the singular motive seems or is designed to cover up; to promote or defend one’s integrity.

Lying as a police officer used to be fatal to a career. Different levels of accountability now seem to be at play, sometimes directly tied to how far one goes up the managerial ladder.

The accusation of “you’re lying” is big ugly phrase that reverberates off of those courtroom walls. So the most vulnerable to the accusation are logically, those that spend a great deal of their time in those courtrooms. Once again, the uniform officers, or the officer actively involved in criminal investigations are the most likely targets; accepted as fair game for lawyers, judges, and the media.

In the RCMP as in other police agencies, if you get past the rank of Corporal, you are much less likely to end up in that maelstrom known as the Canadian justice system, and therefore less susceptible to any threats to your credibility.

If you get to the lofty heights of Executive officers (Inspector and above in the RCMP) you have a greater chance of winning the lottery than appearing in a Provincial criminal court.

There are some current police officers, or former officers who may feel that this blogger is overstating the cases of officers lying, but consider the following:

In a Toronto Star article in 2012 titled: “Police who Lie: How Officers thwart justice with False Testimony” authors David Bruser and Jesse McLean reported on over 100 cases across Canada where perjury had surfaced as an allegation in a courtroom.

The authors of this study, found that the usual reason given for raising possible falsehoods was to change what may happen if the truth were discovered. They also discovered that the greater the stakes, the greater the chance of someone perjuring themselves. These conclusions seem obvious.

What prompted this somewhat meandering blog about lying was a recent case in Lloydminster, Alberta which is an RCMP detachment of about 34 uniform officers.

This case started with a female civilian officer of the local Detachment, who was in a managerial position, having an affair (which she initially denied) with the local RCMP dog handler. At one point there was an ugly confrontation between the dog handler’s wife and the mistress at the house of the dog handler. (You know already that this story is not destined to end well.)

The head of the Detachment at the time was Inspector Suki Manj. Manj was married to Corporal Tammy Hollingsworth, who was also working at the Lloyminster detachment. (This too is not a good thing in a relatively small detachment where conflict of interest implications are bound to surface)

Both Hollingsworth and Manj apparently were good “friends” of the now aggrieved dog handlers wife. Both also considered themselves friends with the female civilian manager.

Inspector Manj questioned the civilian member, who quickly turned on Manj and accused him of “ruining her reputation” by “asking questions”. She complained to Manj’s bosses, who promptly told Manj “to back off”, that if they were having an affair it was none of his business. Manj clearly felt that it was his business, felt that the affair was “inappropriate” and “unbecoming” and therefore justified his questioning of the involved female.

Manj was charged for the misconduct, a total of 16 allegations were brought against him for the period of 2014 to 2016. These 16 were eventually dropped to four. One of the allegations being that Manj “didn’t provide a complete and accurate account of what happened”.

His spouse Corporal Tammy Hollingsworth was also charged with multiple offenses which seemed to amount to her getting a little too involved in the matter, trying to find out details, and that she failed to be diligent in protecting her “friend” from domestic assault.

The civilian female went off on stress leave. She also participated in the sexual harassment suit that was playing out in Ottawa. When she was initially questioned by Manj she denied having an affair; something which in the end she admitted to.

Both Manj and Hollingsworth were suspended “with pay”in 2017 and eventually both were transferred back to British Columbia.

Hollingsworth ended up being cleared by in a hearing held by Kevin L. Harrison in September 2018.

Inspector Manj went before a five day tribunal in Richmond, British Columbia which was presided over by Gerry Annetts (also a former police officer). Testifying at this tribunal for upper management were Manj’s former bosses Chief Supt. Shahin Mehdizadeh and Chief Supt. Wendell Reimer.

Annetts went on to call the evidence of Mehdizadeh and Reimer as “unreliable”. In other words, he did not believe either one of them.

He then went further in talking about another RCMP witness; Staff Sgt. Sarah Nelson. He described her evidence as, “some of the most biased, leading, unreliable statements I have ever seen”. He didn’t believe her either.

Needless to say, all charges were dropped against Manj.

Cpl Hollingsworth has now launched a civil suit alleging “malicious prosecution” and has stated that she suffered “emotional and psychological harm” by her bosses. It is unsure as to whether Inspector Manj will follow suit.

The RCMP have wisely decided that now would not be the time to comment further.

Let’s summarize. An affair, led to a lie about that affair, which led to two separate public hearings, where a S/Sgt, a Superintendent and a Chief Superintendent all were accused of being “unreliable” (the nicer spin on lying).

Two officers who were both also in a bit of a conflict of interest position, have been sitting at home since 2017 gathering pay cheques, and one of those officers is now launching a civil suit for further compensation for the harm that has been caused.

The person who started all this and originally lied about the affair is also sitting at home on a managerial salary, also on stress leave.

It would probably be fair to say that the taxpayers of Lloydminster probably deserved better.

A note of caution. Maybe these officers don’t deserve these comments by the acting arbitrators, but that would in turn mean that Cpl Hollingsworth and Inspector Manj could have been lying.

It looked like all problems were about to be solved concerning this nasty lying problem when this blogger discovered that the RCMP in Ottawa have a Truth Verification Section.

Only the Federal government could come up with this title, but when we explored further, it was realized that this is for most part only the polygraph section that they are referring to– so as it turns out, even the title of this section seems to be stretching our credibility a bit.

Where does this leave us all during this time of lies, counter-lies, sanctioned lies, and our parents white lies? It is hard to be sure.

George Orwell warned us when he said, “In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act”.

We may be in need of a revolution.

Photo courtesy of Ninian Reid via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Hearing Drums…

“No reason to think Debra’s indigenous background played any role in police decisions in this case, it must be acknowledged that indigenous women and girls are vulnerable to stereotypes” – Justice Renee Pommerance

An example of the somewhat twisting crooked line thought process of Justice Renee Pommerance of the Ontario Superior Court, who was recently presiding over the court case of Regina versus Doering. This case was either another misconduct case brought against a police officer– another example of the police victimizing an indigenous woman–or was it a gross miscarriage of justice?

In this London Ontario court case, Justice Renee Pommerance, at the end of the trial found Constable Nicholas Doering guilty: of one count of criminal negligence causing death; and one count of failing to provide the necessities of life.

The case involved the death of 39 year old Debra Chrisjohn of the Oneida of the Thames First Nation and occurred on September 7, 2016. Her cause of death was cardiac arrest– a likely and predictable result of prolonged methamphetamine use. This happened while she was last in the custody of the Ontario Provincial Police.

Constable Doering is an officer with the London City Police, who turned over his custody of Debra Chrisjohn, to the Ontario Provincial Police and it is while in the latter’s custody that Ms. Chrisjohn eventually died.

Cst Doering, however, was the one charged. This wrinkling fact, one that doesn’t seem to flow from any normal victim timeline. In trying to uncover and assign responsibility, this alone was a significant departure from what one would normally expect and raised some questions at the logic that must have been in play.

This aside, the highlight for the television and print news attending the trial was that the victim, Chrisjohn, was an “indigenous woman”. In the current times an indigenous person as a victim is an inescapable inference for the media implying, even if not stated, that there was a possibility of overt racism and wrong-doing on the part of the police.

Justice Pommerance would in her summation find nothing racist in the actions of the police officer; but then seemingly still drew a line of guilt to the officer hinged on the fact that the victim was a drug user and this combined with being indigenous made her therefore more open to being stereotyped. It is ok to scratch your head at this point.

Maybe more telling was the fact that the indigenous were protesting and drumming outside the courtroom throughout the trial, only there one would have to assume serving to imply racism, regardless of the facts that were being outlined inside the courtroom. The continuing photo and television coverage of the case never failed to show the indigenous protests.

This should have been seen as the first sign that this trial had the potential to enter into the political social atmosphere where the whims of a few would or could override common sense.

This set of circumstances started out like many calls during the normal life and routine of uniform police officers.

Constable Doering responded, along with other police officers and three paramedics, to several calls of a woman wandering into traffic and trying to force her way into vehicles. She was described as being “agitated”, “high on drugs trying to get into her van with her and her kids..yelling profanities..throwing herself against the car” according to the one caller.

When the police arrived at the scene, the situation had escalated to the point that Ms. Chrisjohn was now being physically restrained and held down on the ground by a member of the public.

Cst Doering was the officer who eventually stepped up to take responsibility for her; arrested her, and put her in the back of the police vehicle. Checks of her legal status showed that she was also wanted on a warrant for “breach of recognizance”. The warrant was held by the Ontario Provincial Police at a nearby detachment.

At the time she was put into the vehicle she was described as being “alert” and “conscious” and was responding to the police demands, talking and moving about.

Ms. Chrisjohn at the time of the call was quickly recognized by some of the attending officers as having been taken into custody the day before. She had a history with the police and was known to be a user of methamphetamine. In fact the day before the police had also dealt with her over a suspected overdose and she had been hospitalized. The warrant was not executed at that time as the police had to wait for a medical clearance from the hospital.

At the point of this latest arrest, Ms. Chrisjohn was observed by a paramedic but only through the cruiser window, at which point they offered up the opinion that it would be pointless to try and take her vital signs in this agitated state, that her vital signs would be skewed if in fact she was on methamphetamine. Her outward appearance was consistent with the use of “meth”.

There is an interesting sidebar with regard to the three paramedics who attended. In their reports they had indicated that Constable Doering turned down their offer of examination. However, under cross-examination by the defence, it was learned that they had not actually offered their examination, and it wasn’t turned down by Cst Doering. The implication was of course that the paramedics wrote their reports to to cover their own backsides.

Because of Ms. Chrisjohn outstanding warrant, Cst Doering made arrangements to meet an OPP officer at a local Tim Horton’s to turn over the prisoner to them.

So far there is nothing unusual in this story. This scene or one like it gets played out hundreds of times throughout this country on an almost daily basis.

But it is in the next 45 minutes, during the transport of Ms. Chrisjohn; that the Justice feels the officer failed in his duties.

Ms. Chrisjohn, according to Cst. Doering, goes from being abusive and a little resistant; sitting straight up and talking, but at some point slumps over and is “moaning” and “shaking”.

It was during this same time, that Cst. Doering stops the police cruiser to insure that she has not escaped from the handcuffs, not to check on her well-being.

Constable Doering stated there was no conversation during this time, that he had the window open so it would have been difficult to talk in any event.

In his testimony Cst Doering described the victim as displaying “interludes of angry outbursts…bouts of incoherence…” and “talking about bombs in the back seat of the police car”.

Justice Pommerance in her decision states that Constable Doering did not take into account Ms. Chrisjohn’s “deteriorating condition” and did not seek the “medical” help she couldn’t obtain for herself. She felt that Constable Doering’s “inaction” was “likely” shaped by “preconceived notions he had of drug users”.

The Justice further states that “it is not clear what if any observations would have prompted him to call EHS”. This too is a bit of a confusing statement. If the Constable did not observe anything that warned him of a medical condition, why in fact would he change his opinion?

The meeting took place and the prisoner was turned over to Constable McKillop of the OPP. She frisked her and put her in her police vehicle for the final journey to the cells. She did not call for medical attention at this time, so one can only conclude there was still nothing observed which warranted an immediate medical examination. She did state that she was told by Cst. Doering that she had already been “medically cleared.”

If this is true, Cst Doering made a huge error here and should have been forthright and accurate about her medical history. It would not have changed anything, but it would not have allowed for the perception of callousness that was being portrayed by Crown in the courtroom.

In the beginning, Constable McKillop had in fact been charged as well as Doering, but those charges were later dropped by the Crown who said that there was “no reasonable prospect of conviction”. One has to assume that McKillop being told that the subject had been medically cleared was an exoneration in terms of her personal culpability.

If one takes the Crown viewpoint however, how is that McKillop is not charged? Was she not in a position to also observe the prisoner and therefore have the implied need to observe the condition of the prisoner? It seems patently illogical.

Once the OPP officer had arrived at the lock-up in Elgin, Ontario Ms. Chrisjohn was “limp” and was taken into the cells: “feet dragging as being carried toward the cell, where she is placed on the floor in the recovery position”. There is no evidence that Ms. Chrisjohn is not breathing, it is only after a couple of hours that she is observed to not be responding.

At 7:52 pm she had lost consciousness and was rushed to the hospital. She died later that evening.

Those are the pertinent details and if accurate, this verdict should scare the daylights of each and every street level police officer in Canada.

One should also be reminded that criminal negligence causing death is no small charge. Section 219 of the Criminal Code says that everyone is “criminally negligent who in doing anything, or in omitting to do anything that is his duty to do, shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons”. Of course the key words in this case and other criminal negligence cases is how one would define “wanton or reckless disregard”.

As any observer of the news or recent court decisions will attest, the indigenous card is constantly at play in many levels of jurisprudence in this country. This is true especially in each and every circumstance involving the police. We now seem to have another example of the warping of the system to fit a repetitive narrative.

There are seemingly two subjects in this country which cannot be questioned or commented upon in polite political and social circles, or reported on in any meaningful way. Immigration and the Indigenous.

Many, including this writer, historically, always had faith in the court’s courage– the last resort for standing for what was right, not what was politically expedient. Many hope that the final arbiter would judge by the facts, immune to often hysterical special interest groups.

Unfortunately, that seems to be changing, as strong and compelling evidence is mounting of political interference seeping into the court system; whether it be in the naming of judicial appointments, or in the verdicts and findings of cases that have gone to trial. Evidence of Crown offices over-stepping their reasonable expectations of a successful conviction in the interest of political expediency is also growing in parallel.

The Indigenous with their constant cries of indignation and a seemingly endless supply of monies for lawyers, seem to be the blunt leading force of this drive to their particular view of what constitutes justice.

An indigenous involved criminal case is the equivalent of chumming the waters for lawyers who have discovered a new and lucrative speciality. Government policy puts them at an operating advantage. Settlement over trial– not likely to get their hands dirty in the confines of a public courtroom has great appeal to our learned friends.

This case is another glaring example and is similar to the case in Saskatchewan involving Colten Boushie, where no less than the Indigenous Justice Minister at the time, Jody Wilson-Raybould inferred racism with the acquittal of a clearly innocent and victimized Gerald Stanley.

Throughout this trial indigenous protestors were outside the courthouse, holding vigils, drumming, and putting out the usual media talking points of “she was a human being, she had a family, she was a mother, she was a sister, she had friends”, all duly reported and mopped up by the local media. A dozen police officers also attended the trial in support, but their pictures were not taken– the few indigenous who attended were on the front page.

There were the usual persons in attendance which seem to now flock to the side of the Indigenous, the requisite lawyer always now present for the victim family. In this case it was Caitlyn Kaspers, who was a lawyer with Aboriginal legal services and was also acting as legal counsel for the family. She made some curious comments including “that the family recognized and was thankful for was that the justice consistently respected the dignity of Debra”. That the judge was “making sure that all counsel tendered evidence that was as respectful as possible, and the family noticed that”.

Justice Pommerance said that the officer had “pre-conceived notions about drug users and that Cst. Doering held fast to those notions when dealing with Ms. Chrisjohn. Rather than moulding his theory to fit the facts, he seemed to have moulded his facts to fit his theory”.

And here comes the first indication that Justice Pommerance is open to the the race card. Judge Pommerance as noted in the introduction to this blog says: “it must be acknowledged that indigenous women and girls are particularly vulnerable to stereotypes”. Ms. Chrisjohn being indigenous, was more prone to be stereotyped according to the Justice.

So Constable Doering’s offence is that he did not somehow interpret the actions of Ms. Chrisjohn in the back seat of his police vehicle as being a person in need of immediate medical attention.

First lets point out the known effects of methamphetamine.

Negative effects of crystal meth according to the Foundation for a Drug Free World state that those side effects, in the short term are: “disturbed sleep patterns, hyperactivity, nausea, delusions of power, increased aggressiveness and irritability”.

Because they push their body to artificial levels they can also experience a serious “crash” or physical or mental breakdown. The long term damage is “increased heart rate and blood pressure” which could lead to “cardiovascular collapse”

The symptoms observed by the Constable were entirely consistent with the use of crystal meth, including her slumping over and becoming lifeless. There were no signs at the time, nor would there be many that she had entered the state of a cardiac arrest.

When examined later in the cells due to her irregular breathing, they determined that she had now become at risk for cardiac arrest, was alive when they transported her, but died after arriving at the hospital.

“She had been identified as a drug user who was known to London police. This informed the officer’s interpretation of her conduct” said the Judge.

Should history, or observed behaviours not be a factor in an officers actions?

The SIU who conducted the investigation and recommended the charges against Cst. Doering and Cst. McKillop should also be viewed in a critical light.

The SIU came about as a result of race relations that had deteriorated in 1990 in Ontario. It was labelled as the “first of its kind” and was heralded as “all civilian”. (If this sounds familiar to the IIO in the Province of British Columbia– it is)

The Ford government recently stated that the legislation supporting the SIU as the “the most anti-police legislation in history”. Lengthy delays in reports, lack of police insight, and civilian investigators led to criticism as to their capabilities to see beyond the political. Suffice to say there were a lot of growing pains, which continue to this day.

Having slumped over three times during her ride with Cst Doering, he should have interpreted this behaviour to mean that she was in need of medical attention and to not do so meant that he behaved with a “wanton, reckless disregard” for her well being.

There is no evidence that even if she had been examined at the scene, or enroute, that somehow this would have saved her from cardiac arrest.

In the end, Justice Pommerance seems to have listened or was able to draw a line from the police behaviour to the indigenous cause. It seems like she was hearing the drums, there doesn’t seem to be any other possible explanation.

No one should doubt that the Liberal progressives, the same ones which are paradoxically stymying freedom of speech in this country have the political majority. Bias is being shown and bias is being reported without any kind of journalistic conscience. In this atmosphere the message is clear, that there can be no criticism of the indigenous.

Ms. Chrisjohn at the age of 39, personally and as a direct result of her lifestyle brought eleven children and three grandchildren into the world that are now motherless. Her addictions did not cause her death, that was someone else’s fault, the colonial system caused her death, or so the current narrative goes.

Race is not the sole determinant in any court case and certainly was not in this one. Justice Pommerance seemed naive of the day to day vagaries of policing, but to then tie it to race was egregious.

The courts, like police management, the Crown and the media seem to be falling down the Orwellian precipice where justice is secondary to optics and pleasing the vocal few.

To be a uniform cop in this era is indeed a dangerous job, but it is not the criminals who are the threat.

Photo Courtesy of Ashley MacKinnon via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Citizen Paulson

The 23rd Commissioner of the RCMP has now entered into the phase of life in policing where you become redundant– back to being one with the people. Some coppers are pushed or dragged kicking and screaming into the older year phase; others just fade out, content in having reached the end worn but intact.

Of course, most doubted whether Mr. Paulson would fade out and spend his time “On Golden Pond“. Most ex-Commissioners seem to feel the need to return, to pad their already lucrative accounts, but also to catch a bit of the remaining light.

We all share some ego, some love of the limelight, no matter how brightly or dimly it lit your career. Some often get hooked on that ill- defined and elusive drug of empowerment that is part and parcel of this policing vocation. In some cases that power was dwindling by the time one leaves, for others their power was more perception than substance. Individual circumstances always fed this self-conceit.

In a recent podcast we heard in a public way from the recently retired Commissioner.

Mr Paulson is inarguably articulate, fluid in his delivery. He transitions gracefully from self-deprecation to being self-aggrandizing.

He chose to speak to an American based podcast; with an American based audience entitled: “The Oath with Chuck Rosenberg” which is a product of MSNBC.

Mr Rosenberg, the host and interviewer has an extensive and impressive legal background; formerly Chief of Staff to FBI Director Jim Comey and Counsel to FBI Director Bob Mueller among his many credits.

Mr. Paulson talked at great length about his career in the RCMP and as a result displayed some insight into his persona, whether it was intentional or not. Sometimes startling in his honesty, but in other instances he was conveniently vague.

Surprisingly and counter to my expectations, in light of Mr. Rosenberg’s legal background, this was far from a hard hitting interview–this was in fact a syrupy love-in. Mr. Rosenberg clearly was a fan of Mr. Paulson and clearly the two had met before and established some sort of relationship. He began by describing Mr. Paulson as “thoughtful”, “progressive” and an “impressive” leader. There is no point in quibbling with this description, but it was clear that Mr. Rosenberg had an American Nelson Eddy view of the Mounties.

Mr. Rosenberg allowed the free-wheeling Mr. Paulson to describe his career unencumbered, free of any questioning or challenges, failing to even come near the edges of some of the controversies which were in play during his reign. Mr. Paulson had clearly prepared and easily embarked on a lengthy running monologue, with Mr. Rosenberg only interjecting in to elaborate or explain what was being said in terms of the function and process in the RCMP.

There is nothing wrong with this type of interview of course, and Mr. Paulson clearly warmed to the style and narrative he was being handed.

The theme of this podcast as we gradually learn, was leadership; the ability to lead and what it takes to be a great leader. It became clear early, that both Mr. Rosenberg and Mr. Paulson seem to count themselves as members of this select few.

It was equally clear that Mr. Paulson and Mr. Rosenberg feel that they are now in the world of academia, philosophers rather than practitioners. Now, both safely ensconced in the ivory tower, now willing to share their intimate insider knowledge with the general masses.

It was during this theme of leadership and what had led him down the trail to eventual head of the RCMP that Mr. Paulson talked about his early life with the RCAF. His life as a “fighter pilot”, a Canadian “top gun”.

In the interest of accuracy, this blogger knew Mr. Paulson, but not extensively, and was certainly not one of his seemingly plentiful fawning inner circle. I knew him by personal and professional reputation, by observation of his manner among the police and in the face of the public.

Suffice to say that not all police officers were fans. In fact there was a distinct dichotomy between the lovers and the haters of his style and personality. The Paulson who elicited tears on the national stage when apologizing for the sexual harassment of female members was not the Paulson some of us knew or had seen in action.

One often repeated story included his days as a “fighter” pilot. Why he left was never fully explained. In this podcast he tells his version of what happened.

As it turns out Mr. Paulson got kicked out of the RCAF. Or as he terms it in the podcast “I had a bad go” in the RCAF.

In 1977, Mr. Paulson was an “instructor pilot” who even in his early assessments was accused of having a “downward flowing loyalty”; which apparently in bureaucratic speak, translates to mean that he was concerned with being one of the boys and girls, not too concerned with the organization, or the rules of that organization. He was interested in being “popular”, being their “friend” and “partying” in his own words.

His first major run in with the Air Force authorities occurred when Mr. Paulson had a student pilot, who in turn had a brother who was working at the Pitt Meadows airport control tower; a small airport east of Coquitlam, British Columbia. Mr. Paulson who was instructing on flying in high density airports at the time was in the Vancouver area and decided to stray over to Pitt Meadows– it is pertinent to note that at the time his military jet had no radio communication with civilian air traffic control.

Nevertheless, he decided to go out and do some high speed fly-bys by the small control tower in an obvious attempt to impress the brother of the student. He dived and climbed, spinning through the cloud ceiling in this impromptu air show– oblivious to the fact that he was flying directly into the civilian air path with whom he had no radio contact.

Unfortunately for him, he was observed by a civilian flight instructor who quickly took down the call sign of Mr. Paulson’s aircraft. Fortunately for the general public, there was no fatal air incident that resulted from this early Tom Cruise impression.

The Air Force was not as impressed as the air traffic controller.

He was officially “grounded” and was found guilty of a Code of Justice offence (the Air Force equivalent of a criminal act) and sent to a desk job in North Bay Ontario.

Mr. Paulson has the gift of gab and eventually talked his way once again into the airways, into a limited role of being able to fly Tudor training jets.

He hadn’t learned his lesson though, so this respite didn’t last.

There was a second incident when a warning light came on in the aircraft during one of these training sessions. Aviation protocol dictated that he land for safety purposes, but emergency landing protocol also dictated that he needed to burn off the extra fuel load prior to attempting that landing. Mr. Paulson, being smarter than everyone else including his over-ranking navigator, brought the plane in “heavy”, as they say and ended up almost using up the entire runway and over-heating the plane.

After this second incident, the RCAF sat with Mr. Paulson and told him maybe the Air Force was not to be his true vocation mainly due one assumes due to his lack of judgement and disregard for authority.

In other words he was terminated.

So, while back at school and bar tending at a shady bar for extra monies, Mr. Paulson decided to become a Mountie after meeting a “narc” doing his rounds, becoming enthralled apparently with the policing role.

While going through the application process he decided that being kicked out of the RCAF would not be the best look on his application form. When questioned further by the staffing officer as to why someone as clearly gifted as he would have left the glamour world of flying fighters, he decided to fudge the truth and just said he was “incompatible” with the Armed Forces.

Again, he got caught in the lies and was confronted.

He was told in no uncertain terms that there was no room in the RCMP for “liars”. Remember, in those earlier times applicants were often turned down for seemingly minor matters, such as less than 20/20 eyesight. So the fact that he got caught lying would and should normally have concluded his chances. But, for whatever reason, the interviewer decided to take a chance on him and he was given a “big break” and allowed in to the RCMP.

Mr. Paulson then goes into a fairly lengthy narrative of his mercurial rise to the top of the organization. He related a couple of stories– convincing a heroin addicted female into telling him about her crime spree in Chilliwack. Finishing “first in the country” on the Corporal’s exam while in Comox. He also bonded with the indigenous in Prince Rupert while investigating victims of the residential schools; which he highlighted with a story of crying while embracing an indigenous male. He was trying to make up for the “black marks on the Force” and their role when “the indigenous were ripped from their families”.

“I’m good at talking to people” he underlined.

He tells the story of driving around with his young daughter in tow during his time off, looking to pick up local criminals with warrants for their arrest, and bringing them in to face justice. This reckless behaviour, even in recounting, seemed to be only a display of his determination and drive.

He also confirms that during his rise, his mentor was Gary Bass, then the 2nd highest ranking officer in British Columbia and he became an Inspector in 2001. He was asked to become the Major Case Manager by Bass himself and tasked to go after the Hells Angels in British Columbia. He described the Hells Angels as being untouched “until his arrival”.

His personal determination in his telling of the story led to turning an agent from the Prince George biker chapter, by paying him $50,000. This was “leading edge stuff I was doing”. They were “ultimately successful” and had “several successful prosecutions” although he admitted that they “burned out the agent”.

In this re-telling of course, he is leaving out some of the background story. The project “E-Pandora”, spent $10 million investigative dollars, a total of 18 persons were charged. In the end the Hells Angels were still not declared a “criminal group” by the courts.

Mr. Paulson was promoted again by Mr. Bass, and eventually ended up going to Ottawa in 2006 where he continued to move up and ended up working under Bill Elliott, the first civilian Commissioner of the RCMP.

At that time in history there was an awful lot of talk and innuendo of a backlash against Elliott; stories came out of him having temper tantrums, of fighting with the upper established Mounties. Mr. Paulson would have been in the thick of it and casually makes reference to the Deputy Commissioner under Elliott not liking him.

In the end Mr. Paulson clearly prevailed. He came out of the melee as the new Commissioner and Elliott was sent to Interpol, the police executive equivalent of a lucrative elephant graveyard. Mr. Paulson’s role in all this, knowing his personality, would have been an interesting insight, but was not one which he decided to relate in this podcast.

So in December 2011 Prime Minister Harper appoints Mr. Paulson, despite in Mr. Paulson’s words, there was a lot of “political pressure for someone else”.

The interview only strayed into some of the touchier points during Paulson’s tenure when the topic of “sexual harassment” and the various lawsuits came up.

He admitted that the lawsuits were mounting and he described it as not being “failures of individuals” but “failure of a system”. Of course, there may be many that may take issue with this characterization.

Asked how he dealt with this, Mr. Paulson said that “I brought process to it”.

After ninety minutes and by the end of the podcast one could not help but think that this will not be the last we hear from civilian Paulson.

Apparently he is now lecturing on “leadership” and portraying himself as somewhat of an academic; similar to his old mentor Mr. Bass who now teaches at Simon Fraser University.

It is not easy to sum up Mr. Paulson and his eventual contribution to the history of the RCMP.

While in office, he tried to give the impression of being of the new dynamic, but it was simply not believable. Ultimately, the man appointed by Harper would not be able to adjust to the new progressives, the cowboy had to hand it over to the archetype of modern policing Ms. Lucki.

Nowhere in this regurgitation of the past did he talk about having to testify in Moncton over the delay in carbine rifles and the charges relating to violating the Canadian Labour Code. It was in Moncton that he testified in dramatic fashion that “I am accountable to the safety of my officers”; but then was ridiculed for denying any responsibility in the deaths of the three officers.

At no time did he mention his lack of support for civilian oversight which is now being thrust upon the RCMP.

At no time did he mention the critical report on the RCMP mental health strategy where the RCMP was decried as being “poorly funded, partially implemented, and no one measuring results”.

At no time was it mentioned that the frustration level of the uniform officers led to an uprising where some officers pulled off the yellow stripes from their uniforms.

At no time was it mentioned the stagnating level of pay, the frustration with working conditions, the inability to fill the contracted positions, and the changes to health and dental benefits.

At no time did he answer to the constant criticism of the RCMP being too secretive.

In some ways Mr. Paulson could have been rejected outright as a member of the RCMP, but in the end he rose to the very top. A somewhat remarkable story to be sure– but historians may not end up being as kind to Mr. Paulson as was Mr. Rosenberg.

Welsh poet Dylan Thomas , who in writing about death and oblivion said that one should “not go quiet into the night”. Civilian Paulson probably agrees. He even joked during the podcast that he had driven down to the local RCMP office to sign up for the Reserve program of the RCMP.

Of course, he laughed, how could one expect him to be just a Reserve officer?

A leader he may be, you can be the judge, but humility clearly is not one of his strong points.

Photo Courtesy of Luigi Mengato via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Did the RCMP purposely aid the Liberals in the election?

On September 24 2019 Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives announced to the public that there would be an impeachment inquiry of the 45th President of the United States Donald Trump. It had all been initiated by a “whistleblower”, and for the last month there have been a half dozen witnesses paraded before the Justice Committee overseeing the “investigation”. Most of their evidence has already been corroborated by a team of investigators. Several persons including the U.S. Attorney General William Barr have been implicated.

Let’s compare the speed and efficacy of the U.S. with the Canadian ability to investigate political over-toned “investigations”.

Go back to February 2019, when former Attorneys General Peter McKay and Douglas Lewis (albeit Conservatives under Harper and Mulroney) in an open letter to the RCMP requested that the RCMP investigate “fully and fairly” allegations of obstruction on the part of Justin Trudeau and several of his inner circle. In total, five former attorneys-general also came forward, calling for this same investigation.

An official complaint which would under normal circumstances trigger a formal “investigation”. This is relevant because the RCMP from the beginning, in the odd public utterance or reference, has been glossing over the “investigation” terminology. This in itself should raise an eyebrow.

Is it that they don’t like to implicate themselves in anything for which they will be asked to be accountable? Are they reluctant to even go so far as to use the very phrase just to avoid any taint associated with the word “investigation”?

Even seven months after this initial complaint, in August, the RCMP stated in a press release that “The RCMP is examining this matter carefully with all available information and will take appropriate steps as required” according to spokesperson Chantal Payette. Examining? Carefully?

It is not often that one sees this obvious dancing on the head of a pin. An investigation being referred to as a “careful” examination. The evidence was continuing to mount that the RCMP was more than reluctant to call this an investigation. Any reason for this terminological dance could only come down to politics.

The “careful examination” wording came in spite of a separate report from the Ethics Commissioner which was issued this summer. In the report the Ethics Commissioner concluded rather emphatically that indeed the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, had in fact violated the Conflict of Interest Act.

Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion stated in his findings that Trudeau had “improperly pressured former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to reach a deferred prosecution agreement with SNC Lavalin”.

The Ethics commissioner’s report did not stop there. It described:” flagrant attempts to influence Wilson-Raybould…directly and through the action of his agents to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions”.

We also learned, maybe even more significantly, that even though the Ethics Commission produced their report, they also remarked that their investigation had in effect been hampered in gathering the testimony of nine (9) witnesses. It had effectively been blocked from gathering further evidence by the Prime Minister’s office.

Mr. Dion was damning in his criticism: “Decisions that affect my jurisdiction under the Act, by setting parameters on my ability to receive evidence should be made transparently and democratically by Parliament, not by the very same public office holders who are the subject to the regime I administer. ”

This of course created a bit of kerfuffle in those old limestone buildings and a tingling in the groin of the Conservatives. So the matter which had begun to fade from the public conscience came to life once again.

All the righteous Liberals who were implicated, pointed to the clerk of the Privy Counsel Office, Ian Shugart, as their scapegoat. They said it was out of their hands because Mr. Shugart was, conveniently, described as the ultimate guardian of “cabinet confidences”. To underline their lack of culpability, Cameron Ahmad, a spokesman for Trudeau, said that the PMO had no role in the Clerk’s decision. However, he didn’t dawdle on the fact that Trudeau could have waived that privilege.

In other words the foxes were guarding the henhouse.

Now, in a freely functioning and unencumbered police agency, whose job is to ferret out crime, you would have thought this alone would have spurred the Mounties to at least think that they needed to get moving on their separate investigation.

There are a small group of people who would be central to this “investigation” or “examination”. That would be of course, Jody Wilson-Raybould, Gerald Butts and Michael Wernick. They testified in a very public forum, to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in late February and March of 2019.

In other words the version of three of the key players, all of which would have to be instrumental in any complaint of obstruction had now exposed the details, in their respective versions of course. Or as Wilson-Raybould likes to call it “her truth”. She also later revealed that in the spring of 2019 she had already been interviewed by the RCMP.

It is indeed rare for any investigator or investigative team, to have the bulk of the statement evidence handed to them on a platter and already on the public record, which would it make it difficult to refute at some later date. The speed of this investigation and the complexity of it was greatly aided by these details, making it even more difficult for someone to argue that this was a long drawn out investigative process.

There was a bit of a slip up in this iron curtain that had been put up by the Commissioner when on September 17, 2019 Lucki during a news conference which had been called to deal with the latest embarrassment for the the RCMP. Wannabe spy, Cameron Ortis (an apparently favoured child of ex-Commissioner Bob Paulson but that may be another blog) had been found out and charged with seven counts of having contravened the Security of Information Act.

It was during this rather painful press conference that Lucki was asked– off topic –about the SNC-Lavalin investigation. The ever smiling cherub faced Lucki grew a little ashen, stumbled a bit, but came back with:

“Today we are here for the Ortis investigation so I don’t want to comment very much…but we do take all investigations seriously and investigate to the fullest”. The counter narrative to this of course would be that the RCMP doesn’t investigate fully and some of those investigations are not to be taken seriously.

Lucki however with her repost did not get her out from under the press glare. After the press conference was over, no doubt once she was back in the safe hands of the media liasion group, she discovered that she had gone off her earlier practised talking points. She had committed the sin of referring to the matter an “investigation” and not an “examination”.

That political tiger, Andrew Scheer, hiding in the Conservative weeds leaped on this quickly; tweeting immediately that his nemesis Justin was in fact “under investigation.”

The Mounties had to act quickly.

An RCMP spokesperson Cpl Caroline Duval came to the rescue of Commissioner Lucki and provided a clarification. She re-framed the words of her boss saying that her leader’s statement was just “a general statement about investigations”. She was able to say this with a straight face. For good measure she underlined the fact that “The RCMP will not comment on the SNC-Lavalin issue”.

Phew, back to calling it an “issue”, not an “investigation”. Scheer had to take back his tweet as a result of the RCMP clarification.

Since September and up to the time of this blog, the RCMP are still saying nothing. The usual “no comment”— a stance which seems to be becoming commonplace under Ms. Lucki’s reign.

In October just before the election, the Globe and Mail further revealed that the RCMP will put the investigation on “hold” pending the “election”. In the Globe story they confirmed that there was indeed an “investigation” into the SNC-Lavalin affair, and that the Mounties had been stymied, like the Ethics Commission, by the lack of witnesses or documentation that would support the allegations due to cabinet privilege.

The decision to put any investigation on “hold” pending the election is alarming.

If true, the RCMP may have crossed the line. Were they now purposefully aiding the Liberals in the election?

At this time it might be beneficial to go back in history. One must also keep in mind that Commissioner Lucki at that time was reporting to Ralph Goodale, the Minister of Public Safety.

Back in 2006, we were also in the midst of an election campaign, one which eventually would bring Harper to power. The Liberals were suffering in that the “sponsorship scandal” was tainting them; although still leading in the polls.

The RCMP Commissioner at the time was Giuliano Zaccardelli, who announced during this election period that there was a criminal investigation into an alleged leak from the Federal budget. The Liberals had decided not to tax income trusts and that information leaked out from somewhere in the Finance Department.

Commissioner Zaccardelli named Ralph Goodale in that investigation and there were calls for his resignation. Goodale was eventually cleared and an official in the Finance department was eventually charged. Many argued at the time that this allegation and investigation was a fatal blow to the Liberal campaign, who ended up losing to Harper.

The RCMP complaints commissioner of that time looked into the matter, but concluded that there was no evidence that Zaccardelli meddled in the election for political purposes. Interestingly, Zaccardelli refused to answer questions during the investigation by the complaints commission.

The parallel is obvious and a little disarming.

So what can we conclude from all this?

a) The Mounties would have had to enter into an investigation. Anytime a formal complaint is made, a file is started, a file number assigned. Whether the investigation is big or small. In this case, several individuals had made complaints, and formalized those complaints in writing. If the RCMP did not open a formal complaint, they were simply derelict in their duties. Call it an examination if you are so inclined, but there is no doubt a process was started.

b) What was being alleged is a serious offence.

The definition of Obstruction under Section 139(1) of the Criminal Code: “every one who wilfully attempts in any manner to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice in a judicial proceeding, a) by indemnifying or agreeing to indemnify a security, in any way and either in whole or in part …”

This is termed an indictable offence; with a maximum 10 year sentence.

c) The investigation may have been hampered by Cabinet confidences which blocked testimony and documentation. But, is there an obligation on the RCMP to report that fact; to report that indeed the investigation had been compromised by the Privy Counsel office and that the PM did not waive those privileges? Does the public have a right to know this fact? Justin Trudeau Prime Minister Mandate Letter to Ralph Goodale in Public Safety, emphasizes the need “to set a higher bar for openness and transparency in government”. If only they chose to live by their words.

d) Has sufficient time passed to have conducted this investigation? The complaint was originally received in February 2019, so at the time of this writing nine months have gone by. This is more than sufficient time to have conducted this investigation. The case was not complicated, the numbers involved relatively small and the documentation for the most part would have been emails. The key witness Raybould-Wilson was interviewed in the “spring” and even some of the email documentation was willingly provided by some of the witnesses.

That being said HQ division operates at a pace of a snail on heroin, so it is still possible that they have not concluded their investigation, but investigations besides being competent should also be timely. The Supreme Court Jordan decision was based on this very principle. As was referred to at the beginning of this article, the U.S. may impeach the President before the Mounties can investigate a relatively simple obstruction charge.

For the investigation to still be ongoing is the equivalent of being put on hold in terms of its effect. There is only one political party that would benefit from this. The same party that appointed Lucki as the Commissioner.

It should be stated that this blogger is not convinced that Trudeau and his associate actions in this case were in fact an act of obstruction.

It’s not clear that Trudeau didn’t obstruct justice, but it’s also far from clear whether there is any reasonable expectation of conviction.

Maybe, there is no crime.

Even Wilson-Raybould testifying before the Senate committee said she did not believe that it amounted to a criminal action, but forgive this writer for not holding the legal opinion of Ms. Wilson-Raybould as the learned final authority on this matter, especially when she at the time was trying to remain a Liberal.

But we can reach one final conclusion. The RCMP, under Lucki, made a concentrated effort to both downplay the investigation, and then to withhold any results until after the election.

There is only one party that stood to benefit from nothing being said. The same Liberal party that appointed Lucki, and a Liberal party which has now been re-elected with a minority government.

Is it possible that a revelation, whether proven or not, of a criminal investigation of a Prime Minister would have dealt a fatal blow to the Liberals? Equally, is it possible that the RCMP purposefully aided the Liberals in their election?

If there is any element of this thesis which is indeed correct or is later proven to be correct, then it is a very dangerous political game the Mounties are playing, one that could and should result in the removal of the Commissioner if true.

It is a game that has no place in a democratic government.

Photo Courtesy of the RCMP Instagram Some Rights may be Reserved

“I am about to snap!”

Admittedly, one was a little taken aback by the head of the Surrey RCMP Detachment, Assistant Commissioner Dwayne McDonald, recently admitting in a public forum that he has reached his limit; effectively fore warning the public that he was about to“snap”.

The clearly friendly audience of Mounties, who had paid $105.00 per head, to hear of the great times past and present of the Surrey Mounties as chosen by the Surrey Chamber of Commerce; dutifully applauded. That is to be expected and not surprising, after all, someone was finally speaking up on their behalf, trying to counter the daily barrage of negative publicity that has left their public image reeling like a punch drunk boxer.

It didn’t really matter to them, at least he found a voice, a voice not speaking the usual pablum of government aphorisms. Was this finally a public push back? Was there now someone who would defend them against those dark hatted McCallum assassins.

Their acceptance of their chief finally having found his public courage was as it turns out, a little misplaced.

A few days later, this same believed fearless leader, announced another move in his professional upswing. In the heat of this battle, he was leaving. He was moving on to replace the retiring Kevin Hackett at CFSEU. This announcement proving only that the incestuous RCMP Sr. management is alive and well.

After three years he is leaving the detachment. Heading to a new location where he can operate in relative privacy, with little need for direct accountability. No longer would he be under the public scrutiny of that pesky City counsel.

At the time of his ra ra speech, although applauded by the local police, it is not quite as clear as whether members of the public, the Surrey citizens themselves appreciated this “snap” type of comment. Hearing from an Assistant Commissioner, that he had joined the ranks of the mentally stressed and was about to blow, may or should have raised an eyebrow. It would not be a prudent comment, if for instance, one lived in a country prone to right wing extremism if the local Chief of Police proclaimed that he was going to “snap”.

However, Mr. McDonald like any good public speaker warmed to the applause that night and feeling his audience approval, he carried on to more cheers by saying that “We can’t police a large city? We’ve been doing it since 1951. I would challenge any other large city in this country to police with the resources we do and do a better job”. “If they want more boots on the ground, give me more boots on the ground”.

Of course, no one had the audacity in this audience of community policing award winners to point out that he may get his wish if the new Surrey police force is formed.

What was striking was the fact that Assistant Commissioner McDonald sees the move to replace the RCMP in Surrey as a personal one. That the challenge to the RCMP and their ability to do the job was a personal measurement of each and every individual police officer working there and was an affront to their capabilities.

The question arose in this writers mind. Was it possible he doesn’t get it?

Is it possible that he doesn’t understand that this whole movement to replace the Surrey RCMP is not an attack on the individuals presently working there?

It is not personal.

This is not an argument or a policy decision which is based on the theory that they are being told that they are inferior officers, that by somehow changing uniforms was somehow a significant and effective change. That would be patently ridiculous.

Does he not understand that this in its broadest terms is about organizational structure. This is about the very structure and management of those at the very top of this bizarrely diverse national, provincial, and municipal organization. This is about the ability of a structure, set up in this manner by history and circumstance and whether it is able to adapt to changing times in a timely manner. This is about a Federal government which has grown oblivious to the problems in the outer reaches, a government with a set of principles and policies which do not necessarily align with either policing, or with this part of the country.

The RCMP in Ottawa have become a very political organization, genuflecting before the current Liberal gods and their politics of identity and gender; specific issues often determined by the socially hyperventilating public. Twitter is their conscience.

The RCMP in the Province of British Columbia, like the other Provinces, have to follow the path chosen for them regardless of any plausible or local counter arguments. Direction is provided and that direction is given to all Federal Departments. Crime rates and filling needed positions in a policing operational environment are not in the lexicon of Ottawa. It is not a concern, it is being lost in the noise of government.

Amongst the politicians themselves, the Mounties and the myriad levels of organizational problems, are not a priority. How else could you see a two hour candidates debate with six candidates over-talking each other along with five female moderators trying to outshine their opposing talking heads, and not one person talked about the RCMP being taken for hundreds of millions of dollars from harassment lawsuits and the effects that would have on any organization.

The other infuriating explanation is that perpetual “boots on the ground”argument offered up Mr. McDonald and many others which is mired in myth and false assumptions. Mr. McDonald apparently thinks that the solution is simple, that you just need to give him more “boots”.

Let us look at the numbers in broad terms. Most policing manpower determinations are made vis a vis the size of the population. In 1996 the population of Surrey was 304,477. There was roughly 350 officers in Surrey Detachment. The population of Surrey in 2019 is roughly 517,000, an increase over that period of time of about 58%. The Surrey detachment in 2019 is over 800 officers. A 228% increase in the level of officers from the late 1990’s.

But scratch even deeper. The numbers of General Duty personnel, the real measure of”boots on the ground” has grown at minimum levels, leaving less of a police presence on the road, answering calls, dealing on a personal level with the members of the public. So from a visual perspective there are less being seen — this is a reality not a perception of less on the ground.

They don’t need more boots, the boots they have need to be re-aligned.

The RCMP in Surrey in effect have become a fatted calf– one overblown with rank, supervision and specialization. The organizational chart currently, if you were to visualize it, is an upside down triangle.

The plan of the group advocating and promoting a new force are only arguing, in simple terms of turning the pyramid right side up. That the base of the detachment become the uniform, that the general duty officers, the boots on the ground become the largest contingent and the base of all operations. The savings that they hope to incur will come from less promotion, less rank drawing larger salaries. A back to basics if you will.

Mr. McDonald of course grew up in this rich and promotion ripe RCMP environment; he has prospered on a professional level from this growth. He is clearly a guardian of the status quo.

The Mountie management don’t seem to be able to comprehend that there needs to be this operational structural change. They don’t seem capable of understanding that this unbridled growth and promotion is unsustainable. The weight at the top has begun to topple the whole. It seems to be just basic physics.

Mr. McDonalds announcement of a move to a new job is in effect another primary example of what is wrong within this massive RCMP hierarchy. The current management practise and theory is that all managers are just managing people. Knowledge of the specific location or its environs is not an important determinant in this philosophy. The ability to manage people can be learned and is universal so the belief goes, no matter where you put them.

Therefore, there is no individual ownership or need to understand issues specific to a location. As a result we see multiple moves over short periods of time, with little or no apparent purpose. This is one trait that seems consistent throughout the RCMP and is buried within its very promotion system.

Of course a move every two or three years in a community provides no sense of belonging or understanding that very community, no true sense of ownership. Surrey is just a cog, albeit a big one, in a vast machine– one which they have been taking for granted for far too long. How could anyone be expected to institute any lasting and significant change in two or three years in this multi-layered, nationalized RCMP world.

But alas, we are living in a country and an area of the country which seems to want to reduce any political argument to simplistic black and white arguments. It is a trying time for those that argue for a little more complexity. To dig deeper, to offer up reason to emotion.

By making the argument that this is a personal affront to the RCMP, it makes it more understandable to the general public, easily digestible to a forlorn media presence. By keeping it on this level and reducing it down to a simple change in uniform, it makes it seem illogical. Which it would be, if that was the argument.

But this simple treatise that is being offered up by Surrey RCMP is their only hope. At almost every metric level, the performance of the RCMP in the last number of years is proving to be an embarrassment. Nationally, they have failed completely in the area of such things as white collar crime, or cyber crime. Provincially, they have diminishing solvency rates in terms of homicides, and they have lost some of the more profound cases ever faced in British Columbia. Gang crime is virtually untouched in Surrey, and the Hells Angels are still not even considered a criminal group in the courts despite years of effort.

This is not the result of poor officers, or officers who haven’t been trying.

This is the result of poor projections, a lack of planning, an organization incapable of meaningful change, an organization worried about political colourings, an organization more concerned with self-promotion than serving its client base.

In Surrey now, the Provincial NDP storm clouds of obfuscation are gathering. The appointment of Wally Oppal and a couple of Mountie supporters are going to show the way forward– to these upstarts in Surrey –or maybe more appropriately slow the way forward. Mr. MacCallum is clearly a quirky figure and there is little doubt that part of the seed of discontentment is personal, but it should not obscure the fact that the RCMP needs to be both reined in and held accountable and re-structured brick by brick.

Talks between the two groups seems to have hit a bit of a snag. McCallum complaining about the build up of red tape. Thats not hard to imagine with this government, nor is it difficult to picture Oppal and his group overstepping their mandate and authority. Mr. Oppal sees his priority being the setting up of a governing Police board for the region, which at first blush does not seem to be completely relevant to the establishment of a separate police force. The final evidence of whether this whole thing is designed to forestall McCallum and his group will be exposed if we see further delays.

So the murky, often dark future continues in Surrey. There was a story circulating the other day that on C Watch twenty officers called in sick on their shift. If true, it is just further evidence of the eroding morale and the background disintegration that further delay and deny are causing on the ground level.

Mr. McDonald will go on to another job and by all accounts he was liked on a personal level. But remember, this is not personal. The Mounties don’t need any more nice people.

In reviewing McDonalds rather brief tenure, one can not help but be taken in by the “cardboard cut out Mountie” program that was developed this year in Surrey, designed to slow down speeding drivers by in effect stationing a picture of Mountie roadside in lieu of a real police officer. The irony of this can not be lost.

Maybe he can put one of those cut-outs in his soon to be empty office to give the illusion that someone is actually leading this detachment during this very crucial time.

There is a massive need for someone who will change this arthritic organization, or at least have the courage to try and change. Right now, there is no evidence that they are out there.

Otherwise, let’s just leave the cutout in place.

A Farmer’s truth….

This dispatch is coming to you from the Prairies, a bit more personal, more of an observation.

This is coming to you from what seems like a different world, a different topography, a different agenda. It’s a world where discussions often centre around the direction of the winds, and the ever-changing weather that those winds bring. At this time of the year, the winds are beginning to blow cooler over the wheat and canola fields, the sheaves have already been laid over, now waiting to be gathered. It is the time of the year for the annual dance with Mother Nature.

The “bins” and grain elevators stand like sentries at each dusty village or town site, anticipating the impending crop arrival. A harvest moon slowly rises in the late afternoon, highlighting the changing Fall colours of the birch, aspen, and balsam trees which lay in long lines, deciduous dividers of the farmers fields, encircling the homesteads.

One can not help but be staggered by the difference and beauty of this part of the Canadian mosaic, this lifestyle which has been harrowed out of dark rich brown fields of dirt for over a hundred years. It’s big sky country. It is such a polar opposite universe to the lifestyle found in the assorted cities across this country. Little has changed here, technology has pushed equipment advances, but the standards remain the same; hard work and perseverance are still the determinants of outcome.

Meanwhile in that other more common world, a seemingly more complex world, Ottawa and the big metropolises of Canada are now poised and have swung into election mode. The farmers watch from a distance, with both frustration and amusement. A slightly raised eyebrow often serves as a statement in its own right.

From the perspective of the plains, looking to the East, the politicians seem to be speaking in some form of language which is not easily understood by those working with and who are closer to the ground. It’s a language which seems foreign, somehow distant from reality, or at least distant from the experience of these folk. Two separate conversations, going in different directions, taking place in different parts of this country. A growing chasm in political thought and point of view. Two disparate groups.

There is an inherent distrust. When one questions or attempts to explore the roots of the these farmers suspicions– it seems to point to one thing–a perception of a fundamental lack of honesty amongst the ruling elite. They believe that there is a basic, maybe insurmountable misunderstanding, of the needs and wants of this agricultural world.

The farmers sit in the local coffee shop, where the kibitzing and haranguing of the others who join them often interrupts the more serious talk. It’s 6:30 a.m. and they huddle around a Tim Hortons coffee. It’s a bond and a dialogue developed over many years, their wrinkled hands and sun and wind browned faces proudly showing the signs of age and hard work. As they gather in the booths, it is an easy friendship, dry wit, interspersed with sparse caustic comment. And it is here, where you get exposed to the bare, often raw truths.

As we have now entered the period where the politicos have 40 days to bombard the rest of us with fatuous ads, make hundreds of promises and cater and appeal to all those city folk who hold the real power.

These two groups seem to be on an inevitable collision course. They feel that in the end they are destined to be crushed by the weight of the majority. In the political power pyramid their votes are only a small portion of the population; their wishes pale in comparison to the 905 area code or to those in the French speaking parts of the country.

They feel that the general public is being fed a narrative which is simply untrue. That political correctness has wiped out the ability for open and honest discussion. They do not feel that there is room for them, that the dialogue swirls around them and like a prairie dust storm, touches down briefly, wreaks havoc, and then leaves.

They ask continually as to why the media won’t report what is actually going on, not what the elites and the cognoscenti want us to believe is going on. They believe that the media is part of that mainstream stream of consciousness which has been co-opted.

This place is a long way from the issues of climate change and ride hailing. There are no Teslas parked in the gravel lot, just F-150’s and Chev pickups covered in the dust of the fields. Working vehicles, no polished chrome. The NDP promise lower cellphone plans, they just want cellphone coverage.

Grain prices and the latest issue of the U.S Department of Agriculture which reveal the American anticipated crop yields is much more important, more important than the CBC or CTV news out of Toronto. Prices, yields, and the weather are the talking points for many of the conversations, but the fundamental moral of most of the stories is always similar, not unlike the fishermen on the East Coast– its about the money being made in the middle. The shippers, the buyers, the retailers all making significant money whereas the growers and the harvesters cling on with reduced or diminished prices.

The canola embargo by China is not effecting the city folk, or at least in a significant way, but it is hurting these folk.

Rural crime is often a topic of conversation. When one asks about the police, they swing their arm around gesturing to the outside wide world, “Do you see any?” they ask.

When a background television on the CBC talks about the latest round of monies being given to the Indigenous it is an issue with serious resonance in this part of the country. A flash point. They shake their heads and mutter a few remarks under their breath because even here, in this conclave of white rural Canada, they realize they can not speak freely; there is no free speech when it comes to certain issues.

No one, when they are pressed for an explanation, they believe, has the ability to be forthcoming on what they see in the indigenous communities; the ever multiplying birth rates, the local hospital emergency rooms filled with the indigenous and their babies, and the constant referral to residential schools as a full justification for massive crime and incarceration rates.

Is this racism? When one actually listens to the words and the anecdotal stories, it seems deeper and a little more profound. That explanation is too easy, the racist card is candy to the media establishment, no one seems interested in digging deeper.

This group have the strongest of work ethics. To them, not working or not providing for your families is the lowest end of the expectation spectrum. To not work hard, to rely on others is both foreign to them and is morally repugnant. There is a flint edged pride in cultivating a living from this often harsh land.

The Indigenous claims of nationhood and their constant referrals to ceded or un-ceded lands does not resonate here. The constant monies being fed into a system to support economically unfeasible communities does not make “common” sense and therefore does not make sense to them.

In their view, their own ancestors settled this country and are just as much an intrinsic part of the foundation of this country. The history books are filled with stories of unbelievable hardship in trying to cut out a living, a free section of land worth dying for. In their eyes you can see the hereditary determination. Their hold on this land was earned. No one is going to take it or give it away.

And of course the biggest comeback to the politicians is “Who is going to pay for all this? Cents and dollars are measured here in a bushel of wheat, so they know the value of a few cents, a few dollars.

Round and round the conversations go, but then a train rumbles close by, interruptive, the sound drumming out normal conversation, rail cars full of oil gently sway by, hundreds of rail cars in procession, destined for the refineries on the coast.

The irony of all this oil going through the middle of these small rural towns, in clearly a much more dangerous way than through a pipeline, can not be over looked. One wonders if these trains were rumbling through Burnaby, Port Moody or Elizabeth May’s riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands, whether the debate and the protests would be the same. The farmers sitting around the tables pay little attention, shrug it off, it’s just the way it is. Just another example of the political rhetoric slamming up against reality.

So as the winds cool and begin to switch to the northeast, they begin to blow a little stronger and rain seems to be in the air. The farmers get up from their tables, sore backs eliciting mumbled moans as they push back their chairs and begin heading back to their labours. It is a grudging labour of love, it is hard labour, and it is relentless.

Who is going to take their place? Their children are reluctant to commit to a life of seven day work weeks and paycheques dependent on the weather. Even they don’t blame them.

Are we witnessing the end of an era? Maybe. Life and death are more evident here, more accepted, maybe because of the interdependence of nature and the four seasons. Although, it is hard to imagine a world where everyone is a government employee or conducting whale-watching tours.

The election will come and go, politicians will promise and then renege or back away on those promises. It means little to these farmers.

For the most part, they just want to be left alone, left to their land– the duality of the land which has been forever filled with both promise and hardship.

It is indeed humbling to be around them.

Photo courtesy of the Author.

Here comes the Union..there go the Surrey Mounties–maybe….

In a rather resounding vote, the National Police Federation (NPF) has been certified as the new bargaining unit for the RCMP members. Who would of thought? Of the 14,459 ballots cast, 14,012 voted to certify, a 97% approval, a landslide if there ever was one. Vote getting the Conservatives and the Liberal political shape shifters this coming October could only dream about.

At the same time the C Division Mounties (the QMPMA), who had been wanting to strike out on their own (pardon the pun) were resoundingly told “no” by the Federal Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board. Their albeit rather weak case was dismissed on somewhat technical grounds, in that they were maintaining that the designation of a single bargaining unit was unconstitutional; and the Board replied that they could not rule on it as it was a constitutional matter. Therefore dismissed.

It is interesting to read some of the rationale provided by the old C Division guard, like Gaetan Delisle, who testified as to the cultural differences as part of their argument. When asked to explain some of the differences he described the “anglophones” as being more “militarized and were used to receiving orders while C Division has more “discussion””. The anglophones liked to talk about “cars, firearms, and uniforms”, while they liked to talk about benefits. Suffice to say he did little to advance the melting pot duality of Canada, but the starkness of his comments should be kept in mind by the NPF, as one suspects there will be some further issues coming out of Quebec for the new bargaining unit.

In any event, the stark verdict of the vote for certification did emphasize the level of discontent; as if there were any doubts at this point in time. The ground moved in a seismic shift as some of the old guard rolled over in their respective graves, having never in their lives imagined a time when the RCMP would stop being “members” and are about to enter the era of now being “on the job”.

Ironically, two of the three co-chairs of the new NPF were part of the old DSSR system; Eddie McDonald and Brian Sauve having come up through that system, where they were at the mercy of the officers of the day, no matter how persuasive or effective they may have been. Their adjustment to the new reality will be worth watching, as their arguments one would think will need to become more strident.

As the process begins, no one should be expecting a quick response from government or in particular Treasury Board. The first “phase” will be the NPF putting forward a “request for disclosure” in order to collect the data required to prepare a “proposal” thats “comparable in the police universe”. In other words they want to see the data from the other agencies in order to help form their argument.

The primary issues, of course as is always the case, will be in negotiating “wages, hours and terms of employment”. And equally predictable, the focal point for on the on the ground Mountie is pay, and they will now be vying for a 14% increase in pay, which is what they say is needed to just keep up with the current municipal contracts.

Sounds good of course to each and all, but there are some further factors which should be taken into consideration.

First, Treasury Board oversees 29 collective agreements with 17 different bargaining units. Suffice to say, this is not their first trip to the rodeo. To think that they are going to simply rollover on this is naive at best.

Secondly, the general ratcheting up of police salaries throughout Canada is economically difficult to justify in times of declining criminal numbers. As much as the membership would not like to be reminded of it, it is not easy to measure productivity in policing, and to simply go in and demand equal pay for equal work, a sound argument, may need to be bolstered with some other more sophisticated arguments.

As an aside, in the Government of Canada the average employee makes $68,456, and in 2015 the median “household” income was $70,336.00. All of which underlines that sooner or later, the salary of police officers which are all hovering around $100,000 may be looked at with a bit of a raised eyebrow,– if and when the bureaucrats become cost conscious.

Third, the Mounties already have some of the best medical and secondary benefits in policing. So if one wants to use a comparison model with other municipal agencies this may be one area where they may lose this argument.

Then there is the upcoming election.

If the free spending, no cause too small Liberals retain power will they be ripe, right after an election, to incur another big bill? Probably, since there is absolutely no evidence of the Liberals ever being fiscally prudent.

Will the crime fighting Conservatives, who continually point to fiscal responsibility be prepared to grant a 14% pay increase in times of 2% inflation. Possibly, but if any party grants a raise it would likely be increased to those levels in more manageable bites; say 3 or 4 % per year for the next three years.

The average Federal government negotiated contract usually runs 2 years, sometimes 3, so even if a substantial raise is imminent, parity with others could be short-lived.

For this blogger the area of greater interest in terms of unionization will be in the area of “working conditions”. There should be little doubt that there is a massive shakeup coming for the RCMP in terms of the human relations or labour relations process; the handling of grievances, internal investigations, promotions and transfers, all of which will be the subject of possible union intervention.

One could easily predict, that once faced with this new universe, that much of the old upper management guard of the RCMP will leave, take their lucrative pensions and run for the retirement hills.

Or maybe apply to the new Surrey Police Force.

This awkward segue brings me to the latest development in the RCMP, which is their somewhat feeble attempt to stay as the operating and relevant police force in the growing and problem laden community of Surrey. Surrey, the land of strip malls, school portable trailers, gravel trucks and gangsters may be about to go through a significant change.

The NDP, being the NDP, whether it be about ride sharing, or money laundering, when forced into a clear bend in the road, likes to avoid making clear decisions, preferring instead to study the situation. After all taking a stand is always offensive to some particular interest group.

So they have now green-lighted the plan for the new police Force in Surrey proceeding, but then to keep everyone happy have appointed the all knowing multi-talented Wizard of Government Oz, Wally Oppal to head up what is being referred to as a “transition team”. This team, made up of City and Provincial employees will “ensure all key issues are addressed and all complex details are in place to facilitate an orderly transition”.

It is easy to interpret this as a stall tactic, but even if one accepts the good intentions of the government one would have to admit that this will delay the implementation, probably past the proposed date of 2021.

As to Wally Oppal leading this team, no one here sees a conflict, so maybe it is just me, but on the one hand he is being hired to keep the RCMP relevant on a national level (see previous blog), while at the same time helping to remove the Mounties from Surrey as some form of transitional guru. It boggles the mind, or at least a linear mind which looks for some co-relation in all this.

One must also be reminded that the former head of the Mounties in B.C. Butterworth-Carr now heads Police Services which was directly involved in the “green-lighting” of this transition. Is the appointment of Wally a slick slowing down of the process, in the hope that in the end the Mounties, or as they are now referred to as the “cheaper” option will prevail? Only time will tell.

No one in the fraying journalism world that exists in British Columbia seems to have the capacity or the interest to look a little deeper into the factors behind the calls for a new agency. So their reporting has fixated on costs, hanging on to the 10% figure as if it were some absolute truth on which the whole debate of stay or go must revolve.

In this blogger’s opinion, the Mounties have become irrelevant in the city policing environment for one reason only. But it is a big reason. It is their structure.

They are being run as a Federal government department, not as a viable policing unit which needs to bend and continually adjust to change.

It is like all Federal departments overrun with useless and redundant supervision, overly bureaucratic, and stymied by consensus on far too many levels. It suffers from a promotion system out of touch with policing needs, a system of advancement which has emphasized political need, one which does not take into account experience and knowledge of the job.

It is an organization in Surrey being run and dictated to by Ottawa, 4584 kms away from Surrey, but it is a mental distance, not a physical distance.

Meanwhile, rumours and talk are now seemingly endless as to the number of municipal police employees who will be applying for the new Surrey jobs. Vancouver City PD could lose a couple of hundred officers, and Delta and New Westminster could lose the majority of their members as police officers are always on the scent for greater monies and benefits, not to mention a shorter commute; and who could blame them. Some see the possibility that if Surrey goes, there will be a domino effect, of further and other jurisdictions moving to regionalization, which on paper and in theory would seem at least logical.

Even the white-shirted officers in the Mounties, although they maintain the public facing image and follow the dictated talking points, you have to know that behind the scenes, the pyramid climbing types are sharpening their curriculum vitae pencils. Many “loyal” senior management Mounties will be salivating at a 2nd career, retire from one, and join another, effectively doubling their salary. Loyalty to the red tunic is elusive, part mirage. After all not everyone can double dip with CFSEU, which is turning into the latest elephant graveyard for the officer rank.

One interesting rumour heard the other day was that any new agency would not hire any RCMP personnel over the rank of Sargent (the logic being of course why would you hire the problem as part of the solution). This frothing and gnashing of teeth that is going on behind the scenes although sometimes entertaining will begin to take its toll the longer the system grinds on.

Meanwhile, in the smaller ranks of the RCMP, many are gearing up and excited about being the new Canadian FBI—ahhh, finally a chance for a desk job. Brenda Lucki as the new Jim Comey, or J. Edgar Hoover, which ever comparison works best for you.

So with his thumb in the dyke of change, Mr. Oppal will attempt to stem the ever rising tide, but it is rising slowly.

Nothing is going to happen quickly, it is government after all, but there should be no mistake, the RCMP is about to become altered forever.

When Commissioner Lucki was asked what modernizing the RCMP meant to her, the reply was: “I am sort of a glass half-full kind of gal. So I don’t consider them challenges more like opportunities. And I think we can’t rush into things. ”

So, Ms. Lucki get ready, …. opportunity knocks.

But, I think you may be better served if you act with a little haste—maybe have a plan? Or those same people knocking on the door, may get a little impatient, and they may start kicking at that door.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr via Creative commons andBiblio Archives 1941Some Rights Reserved

The Ridiculous notion of “Closure”

Every once in awhile this blogger has to be reminded of the new cultural order; to be reminded that this is the new age, the age where everyone is a victim and where there is any evidence of trauma it is followed by the need for counselling. Anxiety is the new lifeblood; life counsellors, death counsellors, trauma counsellors, all part of a growth industry. Counsellors of all shapes and sizes now held up as the new absolutely necessary guides to carry us through this selfie driven world. Unable to deal with a situation? No worries, there is a help line for you.

We go even further now, now imbuing whole communities with human characteristics: “the town” is “in shock”, the community is “grieving”, the city is “living in fear”.

To counter these ailments, the pundits, the journalists and the psychologists advise there is the ever increasing need for “closure”.

“This should bring closure to the community”….

“This should bring closure to the families”…

“this should bring closure ____” ( fill in the blank with a person or a place)

Closure, closure, closure. It has now joined the annals of the most repeated and misplaced with those other words like “diversity” or “reconciliation”.

It has been uttered and repeated thousands of times and the most recent trigger has been the discovery of the two individuals responsible for the three killings in B.C.

The social order has to be restored, there is the need for healing, as two desperate and disturbed youth, Kam Macleod and Bryer Schmegelsky have been found and identified. They were rotting in the bush, in a remote part of Manitoba, a long way from Port Alberni.

The orchestra of grief on hearing the news, warms up, and within a few hours is in full throttle. The message needed to change, no longer was this a hunt for fugitives, now we had entered into the phase where everyone needed “closure”.

In the last few few weeks all had become enraptured by the homicide of three innocents in northern B.C. The search and the theories grew with each passing day as journalists burned up Whats App and Facetime with reputed experts, all of whom knew nothing and added nothing to the conversation. Even ‘Mantracker’ offered up the opinion– that they were in the woods, escaped from the woods, or were dead. Pretty safe bet, but apparently riveting journalism.

The public and whatever retired detectives could be found fuelled the speculation with more speculation.

Therefore the ending, because of this massive buildup was unsatisfactory –at least to the rapt arm chair Sherlocks and viewers of the 6 oclock news.

Not great for the future ratings.

The pair apparently were not willing to face a rather limited and dark future, not wanting to return to a society that somehow never worked for them, so they took the easy way out. It was a pretty common ending to this kind of case, but how dare they.

What sustained this possibly sociopathic relationship seems to have been some sort of twisted bond shared over coffee breaks working at Wal Mart. All hard to understand at an initial glance, but there is little doubt that the dysfunction ran deep and may come out as time goes on.

As evidence of that, the father wrote a book apparently while his son was running with blood on his hands, running for his life, and as it turns out his eventual death. It was now that Dad apparently took the time and had the ability to sit at a desk and type out his life story explaining how the world had made him a victim too.

A type written selfie, his 15 minutes of fame now extended.

Yes, the dysfunction is there, it usually is, likely to be strip-mined by anyone willing to undertake the process.

But everything has now changed in the public forums.

With no shoot out, or video capture, to entice the viewing internet the narrative had to change course. It was now about the need for healing. Everyone after all needs “closure”.

The mayor of Gillam Dwayne Forman said, “If you see someone that is holding it in, just make sure you let them know that help is available, and bring them to the help, or bring the help to them. One way or another we have to heal as a community”.

Grand Chief Garrison Settee speaking for the nearby Cree community where the two were found said, “for the indigenous culture, the land is our way of healing ourselves, now they can go back to the land and they can go back to that and that will bring the healing for their minds and spirits. “

As one who by choice and by circumstance was surrounded for many years with victims of violence –suspects who had committed violence, and all those secondary individuals who had somehow been touched by the violence; here is my take.

There is no such thing as “closure”.

It is the one characteristic particular to murder; there is no finality. Murder is a fascination to those of us that worked in this environment, partly because murder can never be fully understood.

Senseless death is incomprehensible to the casual observer, but unfathomable to those in that family circle or close to the situation. Everything in the lives that have been in direct contact with this case, from this point forward, will be viewed through the prism of death.

They will be forever haunted by the nature of the death, and the unsatisfying outcome.

There will not be a day, a couple of hours maybe, where they do not think of those that died. Families will break apart, couples will divorce, brothers and sisters will develop latent psychological issues –all because of a single act of violence.

The condolences will flow in, neighbours will deliver dinners to ease the family daily existence, but slowly that will stop. There will be funerals, eulogies, women in black dresses and veils, pews filled with incomprehending children. But that too will end.

The affected will then be left alone with their gruesome nightmares, trying to cope with daily existence –a going through the motions life– one where even inanimate objects reminds them of someone gone.

The religious buoyed by their leaders, will attempt to ease their suffering by pretending in their belief that there is a place where the victims can look down and be with them, comforting them in their disquiet.

Trying to cope will be never ending, a chapter turned maybe, but the book itself will never end.

For the alleged killers, their families will suffer as well. Forever tainted, forever in ignominy.

They will never escape the “look” by other townspeople.

School or work mates will be seen as having wrongly befriended the two. It will be a point of reference, a point of infamy, of having known either of the boys.

The parents of the two will be seen as having birthed and raised two children; two children who as semi-adults were capable of cold blooded murder. Nurture versus nature. People will point, snicker, but always turn away. People will drive by their houses, as if part of a Hollywood tour group, identifying the now forever damned houses as places where a satanic mind must have been hatched.

The parents of the suspects will be identified just like the Salem witches, but they will not be offered a trial to prove their innocence, to prove their inability to stop what happened. They will live forever behind closed doors.

Both sets of parents on polar ends of the spectrum, victim and suspect families will point at each other, often accusing, replaying a mistake that was made, an error in judgement, which in some sort of obscure tangential way, may have added to this outcome.

For the police the file will not end even though they do have an outcome. Behind closed doors, they will breathe a sigh of somewhat twisted relief having avoided going to trial to and proving their case in full scrutiny of the courts. God forbid there would be an acquittal. The justice system itself has averted some costly litigation, but the file will not end.

There will be exhibits, continued tips that need to be followed up on, further secondary and maybe pointless inquiries still to be done. When that is complete, the file will stick around for annual reviews and possible updates. Some officers who were left holding the case will spend months just sorting and filing the information.

For the rest of us, life goes on pretty much how it was before. We will try and ease those odd pangs of regret and the social media will be filled with expressions of sympathy, round faced emojis with streaming tears, hearts and flowers exuding empathy. All will opine that now, finally, there will be “closure”. Some may even start up a ‘go fund’ me site, which seems to be the latest panacea and repository for misplaced guilt.

The only closure is for the media as it needs a bow to be tied around the present that this story was for them.

These practised and knee-jerk anxieties seem somehow disingenuous. They may even be insulting to those truly hurting; to those who wake up every night in a cold sweat, replaying their child’s moment of gruesome death. For them there is no end in sight, no counsellor, no spirits, that will relieve their torment.

Life amongst the living is not always easy and death is never easy.

Violent death is obscure, secretive, and often profound and the grief is unrelenting.

Photo courtesy of Robert Dill via Flickr Commons – the 9/11 Memorial some Rights Reserved

In Need of Love…

Policing like most trends in society has often been described as being on a constant invisible pendulum, not necessarily evolutionary, but constantly moving to or away from its central role and the perception of that role in the eyes of the public.

In the 1950’s the cop was perceived as stern but benign face, but mostly fair. A neighbourhood icon, someone familiar with each and everyone, the good people and the troubled. Quiet justice was enforced, discreet sometimes to a fault. The cop was part of a Norman Rockwell painting, an emblem of a white middle class, protecting values of the then well-defined church and state.

The 1960’s brought on Woodstock, kids were dropping in or dropping out. An amalgam of life currents where below the surface, there was a brewing discontent, aimed at a war in Viet Nam, or more loosely, anything representing the establishment. Woodstock was the age of Aquarius, set in an unlikely location, a coming together on a bucolic dairy farm in up state New York.

But, it was also the year of Charles Manson and his followers. A vicious and random massacre of nine innocents– Aquarius now blending with Helter Skelter. The peace symbol tilted and perverted into a Nazi symbol.

Joan Didion in her book ‘ The White Album’ detailed this era when drugs were mixing with the Black Panthers; where a communal sense of well being was being curiously mixed with a sense of paranoia and detachment.

The pendulum had moved decidedly to the left. Cops began growing into the enemy. A thousand young Americans were dying every month in 1968 in Viet Nam generating protest after protest on streets and on campuses throughout the United States. During a political convention in Chicago violence erupted, cops now featured on the television screens of America beating on people mercilessly with their night sticks. The violence was now coming directly to the people through their television sets, aimed at the contented middle class as they ate their t.v. dinners on their couches and loungers.

The police represented “the man”, stalwart defenders of the establishment, tools of the rich, now being repeatedly termed racist, amid accusations of brutality. The disquieted older generation still sided with the cops for the most part, but in this Nixonian age public opinion would eventually swing to the young.

J Edgar Hoover continued building the FBI into a monolith, his iron-gripped tenure lasting until 1972. But, even this agency fell into distrust when it was learned that its agents were also gathering information on sometimes legitimate dissenters.

Policing on every front was now becoming suspect in its intent and motivations.

Extolling the virtues of remaining some distance from the bad influences of the U.S., Canada, with its hybrid French/English policing efforts began to grow in size and scope, but Canadian policing management and Canadian policies kept one eye trained to the goings on south of the border.

The RCMP now formed the nucleus of policing in Canada. It was a para-military organization from the outset where discipline and adherence to the orders of one’s superiors was sacrosanct, untouchable, never challenged, never questioned.

Gradually the influences of the neighbours to the south began to seep into the mindset of Canadians and thus policing managers. SWAT became ERT, Homicide cops became Serious Crime or Major Crime Units.

It was confusing too many, even those inside Canadian police groups, who tried to keep up with this somewhat copycatted version of policing during this growth process. Dissemination was followed by integration. Integration followed by de-centralization.

The RCMP was further confounded by trying to be all things to all people–mixed mandates, Provincial, Municipal and Federal responsibilities all overlapping in some governmental policy rubik’s cube.

Cops in Canada during the 1970’s were perceived as gentler, more open to argument or differing views than their American counter parts. They initially believed that the problems of the Chicago south side, or the Bronx could not be applied to the suburbs of Mississauga or Burnaby.

But then the downtown skids of Vancouver began to grow and expand; the Mafia took root in Toronto, Montreal and Hamilton. The Hells Angels were no longer restricted to Northern California and were not just a disenfranchised bunch of rogues.

Heroin, cocaine, and poverty began to drive the crime rates. The police both inside and outside management felt that they needed to become more like their American counterparts– more street cop, crime fighters, disciplined, and brothers in arms; the blue wall was being built brick by brick.

Crime rates, including homicides began to reach its zenith from the years 1968-1983.

It was into this generation that most of us, newly retired or about to retire baby boomers grew up and thrived. Solving the case was your reason for being, sometimes by any means; burning barns in Quebec to combat the FLQ a glaring example. You needed to be tough, you needed to exude combativeness, you always needed to get your man. It was during this time that Pierre Trudeau said “Just watch me” in instituting the War Measures Act and bringing in the army to the streets of Montreal. Even the politicians of the time had developed an edge.

Internally police officers gravitated to alcohol and cigarettes which were proscribed to combat the fear or what was witnessed on the street; a way to dull the observations of man’s inhumanity to man.

And you always respected the uniform, the symbol of what you stood for, some battles won, some lost, but it was us against them. You were proud to be standing in blue.

Then the pendulum began to swing left, just like in the U.S. Criticisms of the police and their policies began to emerge. The barn burning turned into the MacDonald Commission, which would eventually strip Security Service from the Mounties and lead to the formation of CSIS.

Problems were identified as originating with policing not being representative of the very population over which they held sway. Policing was portrayed as neanderthal, incapable of adapting to the new realities.

It was gradual, as the old guard kicked up a fuss over the hiring of females in the early 1970’s, but the theory being that women would bring a more humane and understanding attitude to the hardened police departments managed to hold sway. There was a loosening of physical height and weight restrictions to try and be realistic in terms of the physical differences between man and woman, or the different ethnicities. The Bill of Rights in the United States became the Charter of Rights in Canada. Some still saw it as a general slide into policing oblivion.

The pendulum continued to swing to the outward reaches of the left. Representation became inclusion in all its forms. Natural recruiting programs, since they were still failing, were replaced by affirmative action hiring, promotional incentives dangled in front of all who had the cultural genetics to claim to be one of the dis-enfranchised.

Police wanted to be one with the public. Not distant enforcers, but caring, understanding and educated in the cultural differences, and therefore as the theory went, trusted by these groups to the point that they were better able to deal with crime.

A subtle switch to crime prevention, crime enforcement now in the background to a myriad of social worker styled programs –community outreach, school liaison, bike patrols, and victim services.

The police now wanted to be loved. They are being ordered and taught to be more sensitive. They wanted to be seen as persons who suffered from the same problems as the general public, no longer the immovable rock of authority, but able to cry and empathize. We are people too and we need a hug from time to time.

If everybody grew to love the police, the job of policing would be better served–again, in theory anyways.

And more dramatically in terms of its effect, the Mounties decided that it was ok to be political in their ongoing battle to be sympathetic to all causes, whether it be gender, ethnic or life-style based.

Recently Surrey Detachment hung the Gay Pride flag at the detachment. It was met with some opposition, and even the City of Surrey declined to enter into this political fray in case of appearing to one-sided. The local Mounties did not see a problem.

In a recent circulating video a red serged Mountie, also in Surrey, became another one of the “dancing cops”; this Mountie lip syncing to Queen–mincing and strutting at the Gay Pride festival to the applause of those attending.

Many are beginning to feel brave enough to voice concerns over this latest evidence of the pendulum going too far. They point out that Section 37 (d) of the RCMP Code of Conduct states that the Mounties are to “avoid any actual, apparent or potential conflict of interest” and according to the deportment guidelines, Section 7.1 of the Code of Conduct ‘Objectives’ states that “members behave in a manner that is not likely to discredit the Force”.

Does this most recent caricature of a gay Mountie cross the line? it all depends on where you think the pendulum is right now.

Does the striving and quest for acceptance and love by all supersede the need to be neutral? Does it allow for such obvious pandering? The local RCMP justify it by saying “the RCMP lead by example in promoting diversity and inclusion”.

Management does seem to have lost the ability to see that this was a political supportive statement of a specific political group and its mandate, being still blinded and forever loyal to the government led need for “inclusion”.

Under this obvious strategy the obvious question that never seems to be asked is, does it work?

Did years of marching in the Pride parade in Toronto, aid or hinder the gay community criticism or aid in the investigation of the Bruce McArther killings? The Toronto Police , despite their loving efforts, were even disinvited to the parade this year. (Of course, the Toronto Police Chief vowed to work harder to understand why they have been disenfranchised. )

So the pendulum slows slightly in its grind to the left, but police management seems unable to change track, unable to move away from this politicization of their agency.

The overall effects of the politics of inclusion will probably be unknown or even measured in the coming years, as government rarely looks at things that don’t work; but cracks are beginning to show. Surrey RCMP faced protestors in the raising of the Pride flag and one could argue that the attempt to switch from the local RCMP detachment to a civilian Force is the result of people tiring of the current political model of the RCMP, that they just want safer streets.

In somewhat menacing fashion, right wing political populism is growing around the world, reflective of a changing mood, whether it be to immigration or justice.

There is evidence of growing crime rates after being at all time lows.

Some may argue that all this political pandering works, but only when political culture remains calm, when the public is economically content. That too may be changing. One only needs to look once again to south of the border.

The middle class is in jeopardy, being gradually forced to two ends of the wealth spectrum. Economics or more specifically, economic power, may be a better measure of the need and demand for policing change. Poverty breeds unrest. Unrest breeds violence and a call for stricter policing.

In Canada, the latest ‘Breaking News’ and the fodder for all amateur sleuths and commentary is the ongoing search for two Port Alberni teenage alleged “killers”. The focus on the police intensifies with each passing day.

What does the public want? Do they want empathy over their public safety being threatened? Do they worry about policing models of inclusion?

No, they want the two caught.

All the dancing in the world is not going to change that.

The pendulum seems to swing back in times of trouble, when the policing role gets stripped down to its barest essentials. The key is to let it return to some middle ground without going too far to the very dangerous right.

The public don’t want to love you, they want to respect you.

Photo courtesy of CTV and Global News – Some Rights Reserved

Civilian Oversight – Optical Illusion?

Well, it took about ten years from when RCMP management was called “horribly broken ; then a further two reports, one by Auditor General Sheila Fraser and the other by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission calling for change in 2017–all before Ralph Goodale in January 2019 announced the formation of a 13 member civilian oversight committee to “give advice on best ways to manage and modernize the Force”.

Commissioner Lucki called the announcement in practised dramatic tones, an “unprecedented journey”, which will lead to a “healthier and more diverse police force”.

Several more months of delay followed before in June 2019 they finally named the chosen 13. The numbers are reminiscent of the last Supper and the 12 Apostles. One wonders how they arrived at this number? Who is the tie breaker and gets to play Jesus?

Religious comparisons aside, this whole political play raises the rather obvious question as to whether this is a serious effort on the part of government, or is this the latest of some pre-election pandering to the unwashed masses? Is it a band aid when many believe surgery is needed?

If one is to make a decision, one must first consider the makeup and structure of this committee.

The estimated cost for this committee is $1.56 million per year, not an unusually high amount (about $120,000 per year per committee member); especially when one considers that just a few days ago the Mounties announced their latest thumb in the sexual harassment dyke; another $100 million for civilian members or public servants harassed or hurt by those old, leering, ass grabbing Mounties of the past.

Suffice to say the RCMP is not investing a lot of money on this righting of the administrative ship.

The structure of this effort is also somewhat puzzling.

It would appear that this ‘oversight’ group is there only to give “advice”.

It is not there to re-write or reform policy, but to tell Lucki and Goodale what they would recommend. Goodale had already gone on record in that the committee will not be dealing with any operational policing matters. Goodale stated that the committee will not “have any direct role in policing operations, which will remain the purview of the independent RCMP”.

This of course raises the obvious question as to the effectiveness of a group which only gives recommendations to a politician who always has his finger in the air testing the winds of change. When pressed by a reporter as to the effectiveness of such a committee, Goodale defensively added that the Minister could issue “directives” based on recommendations coming from the Committee.

Commissioner Lucki who is about to lead the Mounties on this “unprecedented journey” said that she would meet the Committee for the first time “sometime” in “the upcoming months”.

With young Mounties jumping around trying to get into the station wagon, clearly Mother Mountie is in no hurray to get going on this trip of a lifetime. Needing to pump up the value of this exercise, she obliquely added, “their advice will provide additional, valuable perspectives to help us make decisions that support our people and the communities they serve”.

She later said that she planned on meeting with this group 3 or 4 times a year. Quarterly in other words. Now anyone who has graced the corridors of HQ, or any government department will tell you that nothing, absolutely nothing, gets done without dozens of “meetings” usually choked down between bitter thermos coffee and chicken wraps. Meetings, often to arrange other meetings– never-ending discussions which often spiral into infinity, no resolution in site.

Finally, the mandate of this current group of committee members is a mere 18 months. One would have to assume that they are then to be replaced, by another group of committee members and the process could start anew.

18 months is about time enough to order office supplies, get new business cards printed, and get some cafeteria jello in your belly.

Nothing in government gets done in 18 months; it’s a political, logistical, impossibility. It took six months for the government to decide who was going to be on the committee.

As to the members of this new committee, well first and foremost you better be on the Liberal end of the political perspective, conservatives or any other political stripe need not apply. The eventual chosen could have fallen out of any Liberal convention gathering in Ottawa– all would be waving their brightly coloured red placards with stencilled slogans crying for diversity and inclusion.

So who are the lucky thirteen, in the apparent overwhelming number of applications that were received? (the Liberals said the delays were caused by the many applicants)

The thirteeen are; Richard Dicerni, Leanne Fitch, Randy Ambrosie, Elaine Bernard, Angela Campbell, John Domm, Ghayda Hassan, Maureen Darkes, Douglas Moen, Wally Oppal, Kevin Patterson, Keith Peterson, and Emoke Szathmary.

There are a couple of eyebrow raising selections in this group, but most of the membership is quite predictable, at least in terms of their backgrounds, even if their names are not easily recognizable.

Seven men and six women. Good balance on the gender teeter-totter keeping in mind that whoever is going to play Jesus will need to be standing in the middle.

Five list themselves as academics or public servants, so the ivory tower will be looming large over the proceedings, government jargon will rain down, political niceties will be evident, Senate committee style protocols will be observed.

There is some police representation, albeit a little suspect.

From the policing world they chose a female, Leanne Fitch from that hotbed of city policing–Fredericton, New Brunswick. There are a total of 113 officers on the Force there, and Ms Fitch recently gained headlines in that city by not replacing retiring officers in a budget cutting initiative. But she is female and was named officer of the year by the Atlantic Women in Law Enforcement and the International Association of Women. Goodale could not possibly ignore the opportunity to hit so many boxes in one move.

There is also John Domm, a former Chief of Police for the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service. At the time he was the Chief of Police they were not even a fully mandated police department which did not occur until 2018. He is also a member of the First Nations Chiefs of Police Association. Two more checks for Mr. Goodale.

Doug Moen, a lawyer and public servant helped establish the Saskatchewan Commission on First Nations and Metis Peoples and Justice Reform. Check.

Keith Peterson was a former member of the legislative assembly for Nunavut. Check.

Elaine Bernard is an academic and according to her listed resume is a “proponent of the role of unions in promoting civil society”. Actually, this could come in handy when members begin trying to figure out the union dues they will soon be paying. Check.

There is Emoke Szathmary, the former president of the University of Manitoba, an advocate for “diversity, inclusion and accessibility”. Check.

There is the head scratching appointment of Randy Abrosie, a former member of the CFL and the current commissioner of the CFL. Apparently he has “championed diversity”, which may explain his selection, but maybe he just needs to stick to making the Toronto Argonauts viable again and avoiding any talk of concussions. No check mark here.

Finally there is Wally Oppal, who I am going to proclaim as Jesus for the time being, as he miraculously walks over water into another government contract. The 79 year old Wally just does not seem to want to retire, but one has to wonder whether he represents a new, modern voice. This savant of double dipping goes on; and on, and on.

One must not get the wrong impression. All of these people are well educated, accomplished in their professional lives. They should have some good “suggestions” in areas where the senior management Mounties have proven themselves utterly of no consequence.

But there are many questioning this Committee and its ultimate effectiveness.

The always available for a quote Robert Gordon of Simon Fraser University said “I don’t think the mandate, at this point, is to undertake the significant restructuring and reform of the RCMP that is required…It’ll be settling problems that have arisen inside the house as opposed to problems that have arisen as a result of the structure of the house”.

Other questions arise. Will Mr. Goodale be still around after October 2019?

Will Commissioner Lucki turn into some sort of leadership firebrand, able to forge ahead without her political Prairie brother in arms, while relying on those Executives who now encircle her, many of whom who have contributed to this mess?

Maybe she underestimates the problems.

On May 30th, 2018 Ms. Lucki appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence. Her primary testimony was about indigenous, harassment and diversity issues, which seems to be the focus in Ottawa, seemingly oblivious to the myriad more substantial issues facing the RCMP.

She ended and summed up her testimony this way: “I tell my staff, don’t ask me how to fix it because my answer is going to be “”We’re not broken””. Because we are not broken”.

“Do we need to innovate, and do we need to modernize? Absolutely…”

“We’re not broken and I am not here to fix it but we need to move forward from those past experiences, and if we don’t, shame on us. If you have a great idea of how you can help me to navigate things, don’t be shy to call me”.

Well Ms. Lucki, many believe that the RCMP is in fact kinda broken and actually we expect you to fix it.

So maybe call that Committee and maybe meet them every week, or every day, and not just in a few months; then listen to those voices who are from outside the RCMP, listen, and then have the courage to lead.

For all the rest of you out there, her phone number is 613 993-7267, because apparently she would like you to call with any ideas you may have.

(If that doesn’t work, the website tells yo how to fill out a “contact form”)

Currently, this committee in both form and structure looks like a political stop gap measure, one which garners a few headlines, speaks to the liberal left, and holds out little hope for the working officer.

So maybe Canadians should be calling 911 and not waiting for a callback from the Commissioner’s office.

Photo Courtesy of Matty Ring via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved