TORONTO — The record number of RCMP disciplinary cases involving incidents from having sex in cruisers and watching porn to lying under oath and assaulting members of the public, is indicative of a wider problem with Canadian police, a criminologist said Friday.
At root, said Prof. Darryl Davies, is inadequate training, lack of accountability, and a culture of impunity among officers protected by powerful, “militant” unions.
“There’s an attitude within the force — at least within some members — of a sense of entitlement, a sense that we can get away with this,” Davies said.
“It’s too prevalent, not just in the RCMP (but) right across Canada.”
In a new report this week from the Mountie in charge of professional integrity shows a record 104 new formal discipline cases were brought forward in 2012-13, including incidents of drunk driving, ignoring a court subpoena, and lying in relation to a criminal investigation.
The incidents involved both uniformed and civilian members of the federal police force.
Professional Integrity Officer Craig MacMillan said in his report the higher numbers are likely the result of a new effort by RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson — armed with a stronger government mandate — to crack down on problem officers.
“It was observed in last year’s report that increased scrutiny and the stated expectations of the new commissioner might lead to an increase in both the number of formal discipline cases and suspensions,” MacMillan said.
“This may well have been an accurate forecast.”
In most cases, punishment for the wayward Mounties was a reprimand and loss of up to 10 days’ pay.
One constable, accused of fraud for improper use of a government fuel card, was ordered to resign. In another case, proceedings were stayed against a staff sergeant accused of lying to superiors because the disciplinary case took too long. One constable was docked a week’s salary for sexually harassing a colleague — the kind of problem that has prompted widespread criticism of the RCMP in recent years.
Davies, an instructor in criminology and criminal justice at Carleton University in Ottawa, called the number and range of offences identified in the report “quite shocking.”
A more rigorous approach to tackling the problem is needed to restore faith in the RCMP and in police in general, he said, than wrist slaps and docked pay.
The solution, he said, is better recruitment, training, and “deprogramming” of a subculture in which officers place loyalty to one another above public duty.
“What Canadians are really looking for are consequences and what is the outcome going to be for these individuals,” said Davies, who noted officers can easily make up forfeited pay by working overtime.
“Until such time as we can inculcate values that place the rule of law and service to the public over and above service to the police subculture, nothing will really change.”
Despite the rising disciplinary numbers, MacMillan pointed out that the already low proportion of officers engaged in misconduct is falling.
“That is unqualified good news,” MacMillan said.