From Canada’s National Symbol to Canada’s National Shame: The RCMP

There comes a time when a dysfunctional police force puts the very people they have sworn to serve and protect in danger. For the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, it’s gone beyond even that—the officers in the ranks and their support staff are suffering from decades of bullying, abuse, harassment and reprisals against whistleblowers. Under this regime, the very notion of upholding the law has become a national disgrace—and a danger to national security. It’s time to completely remake the RCMP.

I’ve been following the toxic culture at the RCMP for more than a decade. In my book, From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire, I discuss how the RCMP typifies a dictatorial culture and the damage they are doing to their officers and the public. I’m not alone in my concerns. CBC News ran a report today calling for civilian governance of the police force. The sad truth is that the millions of dollars spent thus far settling harassment suits, and on evaluations and investigations, haven’t changed the dictatorial culture of the RCMP one iota. In fact, things have actually gotten worse. This brings little hope to people working in toxic workplaces. If the full force of the Canadian government, independent commissions and academic scholars can’t improve things—what hope does the average person have when it comes to bullying in the workplace?

As I’ve written before, in order to reform the police the force needs to be taken apart and rebuilt. The recommendations to the RCMP to add civilian governance is a good start, but it requires nothing less than a total transformation from A to Z. Adding a civilian police commissioner is nothing more than applying a band-aid on a sucking chest wound. It might shield our eyes from the ugliness for a time, but it does nothing to save the patient.

Illustration credit: Greg Perry/Toronto Star

For Bullied Mountie, Favorable Judgment Comes 12 Years Late

For Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sgt. Peter Merrifield, the February 28 judgment in his favor took 12 years to arrive. Ontario Superior Court Justice Mary Vallee found that the RCMP had serially harassed the decorated investigator “beyond all standards of what is right and decent” according to an article in the National Post. He was awarded $141,000 to compensate for his emotional distress, which caused significant mental health issues, and the ruin of his professional reputation.

Law enforcement organizations are particularly vulnerable to becoming dictatorial cultures. By their very nature they require a rigid chain of command and an ability to confront difficult situations. If abuse of this power structure is allowed to set in, a dictatorial culture replete with bullying, harassment and abuse can be the result—as is the case of the RCMP. The organization has been the subject of numerous accusations due to their toxic dictatorial culture, which I discuss in my book, From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire.

Despite the judgment, Merrifield told the National Post that the abuse by the RCMP still continues, which is why he’s become a vocal advocate for RCMP unionization. While that might be a good first step, nothing short of a systemic, organization-wide review followed by extensive managerial housecleaning will change such a deeply embedded dictatorial culture.

Credit: Toronto Star

Cultural Transformation at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police

The sexual harassment issues with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have been well documented. However, in the face of the settlement they’ve made to close the class-action lawsuit against them, I wonder how much the RCMP will truly transform its culture to correct the faults that led to this situation in the first place. As I’ve written in my new book (out in January!), sexual harassment in the workplace is often the result of power-dynamic bullying and can often result in retaliation against the employee being harassed. Complete cultural change is needed to root out a harassing culture as extensive as the one at the RCMP – as over 500 current and former employees were part of the sexual harassment lawsuit. While a formal apology to the victims is a good first step, we have yet to see the substantive details for the organizational makeover needed at the RCMP. Read more at The Globe and Mail.

Image: RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson, left, answers a question during a news conference, as plaintiffs Janet Merlo, centr, and Linda Davidson look on in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016.
Credit: Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS via Globe & Mail.