NBZ 836 - Macleans.ca

NBZ 836


While Toronto’s police board tries to untangle a messy outcome of “Integrated Security Unit” policing, a story from Alberta raises questions about just how “integrated” our existing police forces are within themselves—indeed, within individual divisions of themselves. You have to put the tale of the missing Lyle and Marie Ann McCann in chronological order, and assemble several news stories, to get the weird effect here. The elderly McCanns left St. Albert on a camping trip July 3, intending to meet their daughter in Abbotsford, B.C., on the 10th. As is increasingly common with retired travellers, they were towing an SUV behind a spacious motor home. On July 5, the motor home was found unoccupied and burning in a forest clearing near Edson, about three-quarters of the way along the Yellowhead from Edmonton to the Rockies. The registration card was retrieved and handed over to the RCMP.

This event apparently didn’t raise any urgent concerns about the whereabouts of the couple. The Mounties originally told the media that the Edson cops had passed along the information to the St. Albert detachment, and that officers there had knocked on the door at the McCanns’ address. This information, as the saying goes, now appears to be inoperative. Tuesday’s rather critical story from the Globe says “…officers from the Edson detachment tried calling the McCanns. When they received no answer, they asked St. Albert RCMP to knock on the door of the McCann home. RCMP supervisors don’t yet know if anyone did that…”.

The police, at that point, arguably had no way of knowing they were dealing with a potential double-homicide case rather than a run-of-the-mill stolen-vehicle matter. But on the 10th, the McCanns missed their rendezvous with daughter Trudy, who then reported them missing, and the Mounted leapt into action—putting out an all-points bulletin for both the SUV, which is still AWOL, and the RV, which had already been in RCMP possession for five days at that point. The initial news story about the missing couple actually notes that “Edson RCMP have been searching the area”…for the same motor home the Edson RCMP had found nearly a week before! How could such a thing happen? One hopes there will eventually be a better answer than “Nobody is perfect”.

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NBZ 836

  1. I have tried to maintain a high level of respect for this internationally acclaimed police force. For quite some time there has been turmoil at the highest levels with some of the highest ranking officers most accurately described as goof-balls. (dangerous goof-balls) http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2006/12/06/zaccard
    In large complex organizations sometimes it is not the cream that rises to the top but rather curd. There is then hope for a quick fix. However, this incident (together with many others) indicate that the force has serious issues at a middle management level. It will take a long-term, consistent approach to rebuild first their capability and commitment to excellence. Repairing their reputation will take some time after that.

    • Co-ordinating information across any large org. is difficult and requires generous amounts of leeway when things don't go exactly the way an outsider might hope.

      But smugly manhandling citizens in contravention of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is unforgivable.

      • I have to disagree. In my opinion dealing successfully with co-coordinating information to rapidly respond to what may be a homicide (thereby perhaps even preventing the homicide) is much more important than minor civil rights violations due to over-zealous policing at an event that happens once in twenty years or so.

        Don't get me wrong, I don't support any abuse of police powers including anything that happened at the G20. But that stuff is trivial compared to the boring day to day communications issues that if not resolved may result in deaths.

      • True. But the current problem of the RCMP lies in the area of leadership, staffing levels and training.. BC has more RCMP officers than any other province by virtue of the fact that they are the national police force, are contracted as the provincial police force and once again contracted in various municipalites as the municipal police force. The roles are somewhat different, and for example, major crimes which I believe is a segregated provincial responsibility, is organizationally seperate from the day-to-day municipal policing.such as that at Edson, It is understandable that with staff shortages, new recruits and uneven leadership there will be screwups in priorities and matching comparing interpretation across the board.

        The G20 policing was very well done. If people put themselves in a hot spot and calculated mischief and rioting break out they have no-one to blame but themselves if they get mussed up a bit.

  2. We definitely need some sort of major investigation into policing in this country.

    • Nonsense. The RCMP need better leadership and more money because there split roles as discussed above.

      • Nonsense. The RCMP is a deeply politicized and irrevocably corrupted bureaucracy. There are no longer relevant outside of ass covering, and musical rides.

        Nice red serge there lads.

  3. I hate to say it about the RCMP, but it is a bureacracy. Most staff will therefore see little direct correlation between their own performance and some tangible benefit….which leads to inefficiency and carelessness. Politically constrained hiring (i.e. affirmative action) likely doesn't help either since it adds non-performance-based criteria to hiring and promotion decisions.

    Looking back at the Mounties' history one sees that there was a time when the force was composed almost universally of hard-charging make-it-happen types. I think they need to return to their former ethos of being the ones who always get their man, and they can start by dropping every politically correct hiring requirement so that they can get the best person for every job regardless of irrelevant considerations such as gender or colour.

    Beyond that, I think they need to regain their pride. Esprit de corps is a difficult thing to build, but with time, fair hiring, and support from the public rather than distrust, I bet they can do it. A force that makes it a point of national pride to bring swift justice would not let something like the McCann case happen.

    • Large organizations of any sort don't always work the way journalists say they shoud, even if *gasp*! sometimes a non-white person gets hired, you blathering tool.

      • And you appear to confusing the history of the RCMP with Dudley Do Right cartoons and Canada Heritage Moments.

      • "…you blathering tool. "

        I think you mean "blathering fool".

    • From the RCMP's own web page about Diversity:

      The RCMP is committed to attracting, retaining and advancing the best qualified candidates from all backgrounds and cultures. http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/recruiting-recrutement/

      Do you know the race or cultural background of the officers in Edson and elswhere who seem to have made a cock-up of this investigation so far?

      Do you have statistics to show the racial/cultural makeup of the RCMP today?

      Because, intentionally or not, as much you try and couch your language in a well-used phrases like "best person for every job" you are more than insinuating that things went awry once all these non-white types started joining the force.

      And I know you will argue that you are talking about how the RCMP has become a bureaucratic force rather than a police force but you also brought up the whole idea of affirmative action (which is an American concept and legislated practice).

      • "…you are more than insinuating that things went awry once all these non-white types started joining the force."

        No, I'm directly saying that it's not good to let irrelevancies like colour and gender influence promotion and hiring decisions. People should be hired/promoted based on performance alone. Colour-blind hiring, as it were. If you will. Which I rather suspect you won't.

      • the RCMP is committed to equal opportunity hiring, Canada's version of affirmative action laws.

        That being said, there are something like nine hoops you have to jump through before you land in Depot for six months of intense training. None of those hoops involve an examination of your skin colour or ethnic background. There used to be a height requirement (which precluded most women from applying) but that's long-since been eliminated.

        I took Gaunilon's points to mean that the members themselves have to feel that it's a true meritocracy, that the work they do makes a difference, and that they won't be hindered by bureaucratic red tape. They also have to have faith in their superiors and management to support them and make decisions that are appropriate applicable in the field, not just behind a lectern and microphone. As with most other organizations, employees tend to be motivated to perform better when their bosses inspire confidence that the company's headed in the right direction – and I think that's something the RCMP needs to work on.

        • Obviously if there was a problem, non-whites and the hiring of non-whites is clearly responsible, silly.

          • Do you honestly not see the difference between saying "hire and promote people based on performance alone; skin colour is irrelevant" and saying "skin colour is the reason for poor performance"?

          • Hair splitting aside, when faced with a perceived inefficiency reported on by a journalist, you immediately surmised the problem was a program designed to increase the hiring of minorities, that these minorities were incapable, and were the source of the "problem". None of which was based on a shred of evidence.

            All of these things speak incredibly poorly of you.

          • You're honestly saying that the distinction between "hire and promote people based on performance alone; skin colour is irrelevant" and "skin colour is the reason for poor performance" is "hair splitting"?

            You've severely misconstrued my point. I'm saying that I think there is a general malaise in the RCMP as a result of poor esprit de corps and that it leads to shoddy work and bureacratic performance. I'm offering, as a solution, that the RCMP strive for pure meritocracy and that we citizens offer them our support rather than general distrust. Nowhere am I suggesting that minorities are the source of the problem.

          • So the problem isn't actually a problem? The affirmative hiring you rail against has no measurable flaws? And the "solution" is to cave to those who don't understand the system and promote the incorrect perceptions of people who clearly misunderstand it? At the expense of minorities? And this was your position all along?

          • We're done.

          • Ah, so problems only exist when it suits your purposes to attack the concept of affirmative action obliquely.


          • What part of "hire the most qualified person for the job" do you find so absolutely racist? It's the nutters like you who call everybody racist if they don't love everything about every single minority group or individual. It's quite insane actually.

          • You know nothing of me or how equality based programs work.

            Please do not speak again.

          • Oh, I'll speak to my hearts content. And I know exactly how equality based programs work, but I don't think you do. I think you're ignorant of the facts and you make up for that by calling people racist because you have no legitimate argument. It's not just here, it's the way you operate across this forum, and I'm guessing in real life as well. Maybe if you tried to educate yourself instead of making baseless accusations against others, you'd feel better about yourself and not have to resort to smears and insults. Try it.

          • Your fancy words don't mask the lack of any coherent logic.

          • Sorry Gaunilon but you are the one who introduced the idea that affirmative-action was part of what was bringing the RCMP down.

            Nowhere in your comment, apart from your own adherance to "truthiness," do you demonstrate how having a more diverse workforce has had a negative impact on the Mounties.

            The RCMP is, if anything, a political operation where getting ahead is based on politics as much as , if not more than, merit. It is the injection of the RCMP into the political process (cameras in front of Glen Clark's house, Greg Sorbara "subject" of an investigation, fax in the middle of an election campaign etc.) along with lethal incompetance (Robert Dziekanski, Raymond Silverfox, Ian Bush etc.) that has brought disgrace to this once proud force – NOT the hiring a of a more diverse workforce!!!!!!!

          • Hiring a more diverse workforce isn't the problem, and would have happened regardless of affirmative action as Canadian society became more diverse.

            The problem, as I was describing it, is hiring/promoting people because of their diversity rather than hiring and promoting them based solely on merit. You get a diverse bunch of people either way, but in the second case you also get a meritocracy….which leads to people taking pride in their work.

          • Do you know for a fact that the RCMP has promoted people solely because of their skin colour? Can you cite examples?

            LynnTO has said that the hoops one needs to jump through before even making it to the Depot in Regina are pretty rigourous and do not invlove skin colour or anything like that at all. I would imagine that anybody who makes it there, regardless of race, creed or colour, would have earned it.

            I might have agreed with your argument that the RCMP needs to restore its sense of pride but to lay the downfall at the feet of having a diverse workforce is complete and total bs.

          • I think the second para is correct. Do we have American s on this page? Circumstances are totally different. And what does bureaucratic mean? It originated in US Public Administration as many government organizations were called bureaus. i.e Fed Bureau of Investigation.

            Now its a silly nickname for any government organization which conjures up; visions of fat overefd do-nothings and care-nothings – a typical comment of ignorant libertarians who think of themselves mainly and diss everything government that does not suit their fancy – the sharp end of this bunch are the so-called anarchists o'f G20.. There seem to be a good many posting here.

          • I'm not sure to whom you're referring here as anarchist types who could have been at the G20.
            By "bureacratic" I mean "administration characterized by excessive red tape and routine." It happens when results cease to be the raison d'etre of an organization, as opposed to irrelevant political goals.

          • You're imagining things that I haven't written or implied.

        • Well stated, LTO. I believe that esprit de corps depends on a meritocracy, and that when there is no profit-motive in an organization (as with the RCMP), esprit de corps is even more essential for high-quality performance.

        • And i took his point to mean "hmpf, must be those darn minorities again."

          But I'm sure he'll deny it.

    • "they can start by dropping every politically correct hiring requirement so that they can get the best person for every job regardless of irrelevant considerations such as gender or colour. "

      Is there any evidence that hiring practices are a contribution to the Mounties' ongoing problems?

      "…support from the public rather than distrust…"

      Trust is earned. I think the Mounties' current problem with public support/trust is that they've burned through the benefit of the doubt with the public, who now understandably wonders whether the RCMP deserves their trust.

      • I suspect that given the number of hoops each has to jump through just to go through basic training, and then the intense basic training that they go through before they are are "hired" and posted to a detachment, the frontline officers are not so much concerned with the quality of their comrades -they would all, by that sequence, be of the same mettle- as they are their ability to perform their duties as they understand them.

        The folks who would be most concerned about the hiring practices, and how they appear to the outside world, are the HR and management of the RCMP. And – again, I'm speculating – in a company where the management appears to care about one thing, and the front lines are not concerned much with that so much as they are another thing, tensions arise.

  4. The police, at that point, arguably had no way of knowing they were dealing with a potential double-homicide case rather than a run-of-the-mill stolen-vehicle matter.

    Well, OK, they had no way of KNOWING they were dealing with a potential double homicide, but really? REALLY??? You find the burned out hulk of an R.V., and can't find the people who lived in the R.V. (although, it seems they barely even tried). This isn't some complex scenario we're talking about. It shouldn't take years of police training to figure out what may potentially be going on. Maybe the police aren't as thoroughly trained as I might have suspected, but do none of them even own televisions???

    Perhaps weekly viewing of the CSI and Law and Order shows should be a mandatory job requirement for our police forces.

    • Hmmmm…before agreeing with you I'd like to know how many burned out vehicle incidents are part of a larger incident that includes a homicide and how many burned out vehicles are simply burned out vehicle incidents.

      On CSI or L&O the "includes a homicide" rate is essentially 100%, but out near Edson…….

      [later on edit] I posit this while acknowledging your tendancy to include some joking in many posts. [eoe]

      • I think the second para is correct. Do we have American s on this page? Circumstances are totally different. And what does bureaucratic mean? It originated in US Public Administration as many government organizations were called bureaus. i.e Fed Bureau of Investigation.

        Something scrfewed up. This is actually a reply to Gaunion

      • My tongue was indeed planted firmly in cheek, but still.

        Even if the number of burned out vehicles that involve a homicide is 0.00000000001% that doesn't change my view much of how this should (to me, OBVIOUSLY) have been handled (I'd also question the stat, whatever it is… just how much of an investigation was there into the burned out hulks of the other vehicles the police found?). Regardless, when you find the smoldering hulk of an R.V. with up-to-date registration, you ASSUME that something bad has happened to the owners, and maintain that assumption until you find them safe and sound. Then, you diligently try to find them. Calling their home, and then possibly (maybe) sending someone to knock on their door hardly seems remotely sufficient to me, and yet that's all the police appear to have done about this case for five full days. If I reported two family members missing, and then found out that the police had found their burned out car five days before I filed the missing persons report, and that they made a shockingly minimal attempt to determine if the owners of the car were still alive, I think I'd be livid.

        I have a small amount of sympathy for the police if they're finding a burning vehicle out by the woods every week, but still. You have to ASSUME that something bad has happened to the owner of that vehicle, always, until you discover that they're safe and sound. It's like firemen rushing to the site of an alarm in my building. It happens with maddening frequency that the alarm goes off in my building, and it's often not a fire at all, and never a fire that's actually a threat to my life. But I expect those firemen to hightail it to my apartment EVERY SINGLE TIME that alarm goes off, and to ASSUME that my whole building is a roman candle until they get there and prove otherwise. I simply expect the same type of diligence from the police.

        • I'm suggesting the stat is important because if 99.99% of burned out vehicles turn out to be insurance scams or just fires where the owner has abandoned the remains or is actually out arranging to get it towed or whatever, that probability will factor into how the police respond.

          And I don't think that your firefighter analogy is the best; in the case of firefighters I'll suggest that they have the luxury of time that the police, for the most part, don't have. If firefighters were essentially always out and about, away from the station, then they would have to do more of what the police are already doing, and that is to rank "requests" for their time. And then things like the false alarms at your location would start to factor into their decisions about which request to handle with what priority. You know, the boy that cried "Wolf", and all that…

          None of that to mean that I don't support some type of investigation to make improvements – I do support an investigation.

        • Whether you assume something bad happened to the owners or not, when you want to inform them that their RV was found hundreds of miles from home, would you really think showing up at their house is the best way to find them? During the summer camping season?

    • Yeah, there's something really boggling about the investigation to this point, for sure, but…

      Perhaps weekly viewing of the CSI and Law and Order shows should be a mandatory job requirement for our police forces.

      I think you just made a few Depot instructors' heads explode. Serial cop dramas are not reality.

        • Indeed.

      • Serial cop dramas are not reality!?!?!?

        But…. they're "ripped from the headlines"!!! I have to go lie down. Now I think MY head is going to explode.

        You've shattered my world Lynn.

    • Just to be clear, I don't actually think serialized cop shows are remotely realistic, of course.

      However, even if this happens EVERY SINGLE DAY in Edson, I still think that a police officer, presented with the still smoldering remains of an R.V. ought to ASSUME that something bad may have happened to the owners, and maintain that assumption until the owners are found safe and sound. In this case, they made a phone call. And, maybe someone knocked on the door of the couple's house. Or maybe not. Then, the couple are actually reported missing, and the police start looking for the R.V. that's sitting in their own impound lot??? Come ON!!!

      On the bright side though, if I ever commit a crime I now know where to take the getaway car before setting it on fire.

      • On your way to Edson with the getaway vehicle, stop by for a brew… :-)

  5. Any similarity between tv police dramas (imagine a forensics unit actually solving crimes on their own!!

    Apartfrom the fact they don't carry guns, the Brit police stories are a little closer to reality.

  6. I gotta agree with Lord Kitchener here.

    Edson is a 3 hour drive from St. Albert in an RV. Why on earth, when police find a burning RV hours away from the home of its owners, would they assume they could find the owners at home? Would this not be instantly a case of missing hikers? Can the RCMP not locate the next of kin and ask "hey, we found your Dad's motorhome abandoned in Edson and can't get a hold of them — are your folks on vacation?"

    This would have changed the nature of the investigation pretty damned quick, right? When my family members go off RVing, we expect them to be out of contact for days at a time (in the Alberta/BC mountains, cell phone coverage is spotty at best). We wouldn't know they were overdue long after the trail has gone cold.

    Seriously this isn't like somebody's BBQ or TV was found hours from their home: its a method of conveyance that people tend to live in! Who assumes they weren't driving it? Seriously…seriously.

  7. police forces are a non-externally competitive bureaucracy.

    There is little motivation to do anything but to punch the clock until fully indexed pension happens.

    Attributing anything more to the bureaucrats will result in unmet expectations and disappointment. Hopefully, I've saved you some time.