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RCMP Commissioner William Elliott moves to assert control

William Elliott's leadership of the RCMP is the subject of growing conflicts as high-ranking figures within the Mounties push for a new boss, insiders say.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

RCMP Commissioner William Elliott has been meeting with some of his fiercest critics inside and outside the national police force, hoping to showcase a tight grip on his position and promising swift changes among his management team.

Mr. Elliott, who has received the Harper government's support after a summer of internal dissent, is portraying himself as fully in charge of the RCMP, said Liberal Senator Colin Kenny a few days after meeting with Mr. Elliott.

"When I met him, I asked how he was doing," Mr. Kenny said in an interview. "His answer was, 'Better than you think.' "

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Behind the bravado, however, Mr. Kenny said he got the sense that Mr. Elliot is still smarting from the criticism that has been levelled against him in the media in recent months.

Mr. Kenny said the RCMP Commissioner must now decide how he deals with the officers who complained about his leadership style in recent months, and whether to focus on reform or retribution. The fear in RCMP circles is that some people are being urged to leave because they dared to speak out for what they believed in.

"What we're seeing, essentially, is a menacing or a threatening of people who had the courage to speak truth to power, and this is contrary to the objectives of transformation," Mr. Kenny said. "Transformation is about creating an environment where people can speak honestly to the people above them, even if the news isn't good."

Mr. Elliott has been meeting with some of his key officers as he works on his plans to fill a number of high-ranking positions in the force that were opened up by recent retirements and promotions. Some people emerged from the meetings with a sense that they are moving up, while others feel that they have hit a wall in the RCMP, sources said.

Carleton University professor Linda Duxbury urged Mr. Elliott to find a way to continue working with the members of the force who criticized his management style to their bureaucratic bosses.

"These people did not get promoted to these positions because they were doing lousy jobs," said Ms. Duxbury, who has studied the management of the police force. "If he gets rid of them now, it calls either his judgment into question, or it calls the entire promotion process into question."

Over the summer, high-ranking RCMP officers complained to officials at Public Safety Canada about Mr. Elliott's leadership style, referring to angry outbursts and an overall lack of respect for junior and senior officers.

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Newly retired deputy commissioner Bill Sweeney provided a massive shock to the system when he sided with the complainants and gave credence to their view that Mr. Elliott was a "man of extremes."

"There was considerable discontent with the manner that the Commissioner conducted himself, both around senior and junior officers. The tension was palpable, and I'm not surprised that people felt compelled to step forward," Mr. Sweeney said in an interview with The Globe and Mail in July.

The government responded to the crisis by appointing former top spy Reid Morden to conduct a "workplace assessment" at RCMP headquarters to determine whether the criticism against Mr. Elliott was warranted. Before the process was completed, however, the Harper government decided to stick with Mr. Elliott, the first civilian to become commissioner in the RCMP's history.

RCMP officials declined in recent days to comment on the impending management shuffle.

In an e-mail last month, Mr. Elliott announced to his members that he will be moving "in the near future with a number of changes to the structure and makeup of our senior management team."

With files from Colin Freeze

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Daniel Leblanc studied political science at the University of Ottawa and journalism at Carleton University. He became a full-time reporter in 1998, first at the Ottawa Citizen and then in the Ottawa bureau of The Globe and Mail. More

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