Public still skeptical of RCMP future 0
Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens - who answered questions recently regarding the controversial transfer of a disciplined Albertan Mountie to B.C. - speaks with media in Surrey in late March. (FILE PHOTO)
Mounties appear to have a long road ahead of them to regain public confidence, despite legislation tabled by Ottawa this week to repair the national police force's image.
That's especially true in B.C., home of the country's largest RCMP detachment, where critics question whether the proposed changes in the Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act would actually result in impartial investigations involving force members.
"It's one thing to say you want to crack down on the bad apples, it's another thing when your investigating officers can't find the bad apples," B.C. Civil Liberties Association executive director David Eby said.
"If the culture is one of clearing officers instead of doing good investigations and removing problem officers, then it doesn't matter what the new rules are."
The proposed legislation would give RCMP management more power to discipline "problem" officers, create an investigation and resolution process for sexual harassment complaints within the force, and establish a national civilian investigations body, among other changes.
"It gives direct managers and supervisors more of an ability to deal with problems when they arise and as they arise," said Candice Hoeppner, parliamentary secretary to the federal Minister of Public Safety, in Vancouver Thursday.
"We want to be able to restore full confidence that the public has in the RCMP."
She noted the legislation's powers do not cover past incidents - some of which are permanently etched in British Columbians' minds, such as Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski's RCMP-involved stun gun death in 2007.
"They're just getting away with too much," Vancouverite Greg Billey told 24 hours.
"Hopefully, they can weed out the bad cops and stop getting away by being above the law because sometimes that's how I feel about it."
Others acknowledged there are problems, but suggested those who criticize police haven't walked in their shoes.
"To try to achieve something better is great . but I think it's naïve," said 47-year-old Rocky Anderson. "It's probably the hardest job to do as far as civic duties go, law enforcement . Lies, cheating, death, blood - that's what they deal with on a daily basis."
Local Mounties have been subject to extensive negative media attention. Most recently, it was the B.C. transfer of Alberta RCMP Sgt. Donald Ray, who was disciplined for having sex and drinking on the job, the tearful conclusion to the Missing Women Inquiry submissions, and a suggested class-action lawsuit for female members of the force who claim sexual harassment.
STREETER: Will a disciplinary process reform improve the RCMP image in B.C.?
Greg Billey, 47
"If (the commissioner) has the power to do that and he follows through with it, it might be a good thing. They're just getting away with too much."
Marlis Funk, 34
"Everything might be a publicity stunt to cover up something else that might be happening. But if it's what needs to be done then maybe it's a positive to have more accountability."
Richard Christie, 34
"I can't blame a young guy who wants to be an RCMP officer or a cop. I blame the people running the show. There's some guys, some good old boys, who are dropping the ball."
Alan Johnson, 75
"The RCMP is just like politics; you fix it by getting rid of it. But you can't because the charter on which they were founded goes back 100 years or more."
Rocky Anderson, 47
"We as people are generally flawed. Even the cops who start with the best intentions of fighting crime, of justice, a strong sense of fair play, end up becoming (jerks), because everybody lies to them on a daily basis."