Monday, July 09, 2007

Choice of new RCMP Commish Underhwelming

William Elliott appointment is, frankly, inexplicable

After a year of controversies -- one of which forced the resignation of RCMP commissioner Guilliano Zaccardelli -- the RCMP finally has a new top cop.

In order to head an institution as historical, venerable and respected (despite its recent tarnishings) as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, one would expect an individual with decades of experience enforcing the law -- perhaps having spent time as both a street-level, rank-and-file officer, and within the command structures of a police force.

Then again, maybe not.

On 5 July, William Elliott, a bureaucrat from the Department of Public Safety was revealled to be the next commissioner of the RCMP. He has never spent a single day as a police officer.

Stockwell Day defends Elliott as an "independent" leader. "Even when he was working with me as an advisor in his role as assistant deputy minister, he was very strong on the independence, the proper independence, of the RCMP," Day insists.

Regardless of however "independent" Elliott would be as RCMP commissioner, this is a terrible appointment.

First off, there have to be several candidates with actual experience in police work. Even if the RCMP needed to shop out-of-house for a new commissioner, the ideal individual for the job should have impecible credentials in terms of policing experience. Elliott doesn't fit the bill.

Then again, considering the most recent scandals to plague the RCMP, a bureaucrat may be the individual necessary to ensure that proper procedures are followed. RCMP officers following proper procedures in their communication with the US department of homeland safety could have spared Maher Arar his unacceptable plight. Proper oversight would have prevented the pension scandal that has drained so much public trust away from the RCMP.

To top it all off, recent nasty incidents involving the RCMP and pepper spray -- including one wherein infants were sprayed -- have effectively mis-painted the RCMP as a band of vicious thugs, waiting to abuse their authority with anyone necessary.

Of course, this is an unfair image, one that ill fits the RCMP. Civilian oversight would help to prevent such incidents. This oversight should be independent from the RCMP. No matter how independent Stockwell Day may feel Elliott would be, he could never be independent enough to provide that kind of insight as the commissioner of the RCMP.

The fact is that experience not would not only provide the RCMP commissioner with the expertise necessary to do the job effectively, it would also help them relate to the experiences of street-level officers -- valuable knowledge that could help guide decisions that otherwise could be made in ignorance.

Colleen and Kieth Myrol, son of slain Mountie Brock Myrol, agree. "It's so very important for a Mountie that really is a Mountie to be the head commissioner, (someone) who knows how it feels for those Mounties out in the cars and being undercover," they announced at a recent press conference. "As parents of a Mountie we know that Brock would be truly dismayed and shocked that it is OK to take a bullet for Canada, die for your country as a Mountie, but a Mountie isn't good enough to be a commissioner."

Not all Canadians have lost faith in the RCMP to the extent that appointing a Mountie as the new RCMP commissioner is entirely unthinkable. Quite the contrary.

In fact, it's most likely that the best person for the job is already a Mountie. William Elliott simply doesn't measure up.

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