RCMP commissioner worried about police militarization

Bob Paulson: ‘We need to be thoughtful, consultative and deliberate in these areas’

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Bob Paulson. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Bob Paulson. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

OTTAWA – RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson referenced the Mounties’ decision to give rifles to more frontline officers as he expressed fears Monday about the increasing militarization of Canadian police forces.

Appearing before the Senate national security committee, Paulson said he wants his officers to have the best equipment possible to uphold the law as well as protect the public and themselves.

But he said he is “afraid of the trend in policing for escalating military-style tools being used by law enforcement to conduct police operations.”

The result is a focus on enforcement and an increased reliance on force, Paulson said, “rather than the problem-solving, community-oriented, prevention approach that is better suited to the Canadian context.”

The commissioner admitted the Mounties have no shortage of heavy weaponry, including armoured vehicles, drones and machine-guns.

More frontline officers are also being armed with carbine rifles, which was one of a number of recommendations that came out after the shooting deaths of three Mounties in Moncton, N.B., in 2014.

But Paulson said the decision to distribute the carbines, which he described as “very electric,” must be matched with greater perception among frontline officers on the issues surrounding use of force.

“Are we going to be going (after) shoplifters with a carbine?” he asked. “Our policies have been refined to sort of think that through.”

Police forces need to spend more time thinking about how they present themselves to and engage with the public, Paulson added, right down to the choice of uniform.

The greatest risk is creating an “us-versus-them” mentality among police officers, which creates distance from and a potentially adversarial attitude toward the communities they are supposed to serve.

“We need to be thoughtful, consultative and deliberate in these areas,” he said.

The Senate committee also heard that the Mounties are struggling with a shortage of hundreds of personnel, with the average detachment understaffed by around five per cent.

Part of the problem is that many officers end up leaving for better-paid jobs with other police forces, Paulson said.

A request to increase officers’ salaries, which the committee heard are among the lowest in the country, is currently being considered by the federal government.

The RCMP is also preparing to make a case to the government for more resources to help with recruiting, the commissioner said, though he wouldn’t say when such a request would be made.

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RCMP commissioner worried about police militarization

  1. The RCMP does not respect the law or the public from my personal experience. I was assaulted in 2010 after calling 911 for help I was arrested with my school aged children left home alone by police. Lie after lie from RCMP. They ended up contradicting themselves No concern for our safety even after I was forced off the road or when a pet was killed. Years later my son was pulled over for speeding. He was told to park his car and then told to call me. The officer then issued a ticket for using his phone to call me from the parked car. I’ve heard more than once of drivers getting a ticket for having a cell phone on the passengers seat. Clean it up or shut it down. These screw ups cost tax payers money and damage society. I be been waiting since 2010 for some accountability from RCMP. Civilian Reviews had findings and recommendations but nothing back from the commissioner. The organization has lost credibility in too many taxpayers minds. Are they still seen as peace keepers by canadians? Not in our house! Sadly there ar many good people in the organization but it seems very poorly managed from personal experience.

  2. Militarization commenced under Harper’s fear of terrorism, providing the RCMP with military type TAVS, carbines, then legislation providing the RCMP with absolute power on Hill, an era of fear of terrorism which the RCMP were to combat on home soil. But the revelation of the extremely horrendous behaviour of officers across the country took center stage, from the many forms of harassment, unbelievable actions of RCMP managers, to in-grained attitudes towards certain minority groups including First Nations people. Quietly the influx of military influences continue all in the name of terrorism, which is real but to what extent here in Canada? Recruitment is down well maybe that could be the direct result of the numerous incidents of RCMP wrong doing. Harassment, belittling and demeaning of recruits by superior officers, huge number of sexual harassment cases, in-grained attitude towards First Nations but also towards the Missing/Murdered Women and Girls, lack of morale support for officers; mental health, inconceivable actions of officers in dealing with civilians who are under the influence of drugs/alcohol by killing them, lack of respect for the rights of civilians/property such as the High River kicking of doors of homes, and so forth. With the revelation of these “bad apples” who would be tempted to make a career with the RCMP thus low recruitment numbers. It is acknowledged that a majority of officers do their jobs well, but Paulson did, after decades, reveal or provided an access to do so the multitude of gross in-grained attitudes and behaviours. Perhaps with another decade of reversing, admitting and rebuilding the image of the RCMP the Canadian public will then respect, have pride in and honor our National Police Force.