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Top Mountie turns to women to overhaul front-line policing

New Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Bob Paulson holds the Tipstaff during a change of command ceremony in Ottawa Dec. 8, 2011.

CHRIS WATTIE/CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS

Bob Paulson promised swift action as he took official responsibility for all of the RCMP's ailments, including boosting the number of women in senior ranks, cutting back at headquarters instead of on the front lines, and meting out stricter discipline.

The new commissioner of the RCMP did not address the variety of setbacks that have hit the force in recent years at his formal swearing-in ceremony, preferring instead to focus on recent policing successes among Mounties.

"That is the RCMP that I joined, and that is the RCMP that I want to deliver to Canadians," Commissioner Paulson said at his "change of command" ceremony.

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Speaking to reporters, he laid out his plan for the RCMP to focus on its "core business" – policing – while aiming to solve matters such as the growing sexual-harassment allegations that he inherited when he accepted the position last month.

Commissioner Paulson said the RCMP has too frequently tried to deal with controversies by looking to improve administrative processes. Now, he said, it has to find concrete solutions, which often involve changing individual behaviour.

He promised to quickly expand the number of women in the RCMP's senior ranks, tasking Deputy Commissioner Line Carbonneau to come up with a plan by the end of the fiscal year.

"We need to increase women coming into the force, we need to increase women in the senior executive ranks," Commissioner Paulson said, explaining his goal is to have "more women in our decision-making process."

He acknowledged that the RCMP has grown more heavily in Ottawa than on the front lines in recent years, and said that if cutbacks are imposed by the government, he knows where to hit.

"Our headquarters is too big," Commissioner Paulson said, although he cautioned the situation is not as serious as some critics suggest. "There is ample room in the organization, in the back offices, for efficiencies and a rejigging of how we do our business."

To deal with RCMP officers who engage in "outrageous" behaviour – such as drinking and driving, brutality or other wrongdoing – Commissioner Paulson promised tougher and swifter discipline, including speedier suspensions without pay.

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"I don't want to appear heavy-handed, but we're going to act," he said. "What has happened in the past is that we have allowed too much of an administrative delay and … a perverted sense of what the principles of natural justice and administrative proceedings call for."

The ceremony involved 120 Mounties dressed in their red serge and accompanied by the RCMP pipes and drums, set up in a parade formation in a cavernous hangar near the Ottawa airport.

Following tradition, the ceremony include a strong native component, namely a blessing by Albert Dumont, spiritual adviser from the Algonquin Nation, and an address by Shawn Atleo, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. Mr. Atleo insisted on the need for natives to work with the RCMP, although he also expanded on the historical tensions between first nations and Mounties.

"The relationship that we have with the RCMP has moments of mistrust," Mr. Atleo said. "We encourage you to remain vigilant and passionate about first nations policing and efforts to improve relationships between the RCMP and first nations communities."

Outgoing commissioner William Elliott, a long-serving bureaucrat who led the RCMP from 2007 until Mr. Paulson's nomination last month, inspected his troops for a last time.

Mr. Elliott said that he has absorbed a large share of criticism during his four-year tenure, but added it reflected the high expectations Canadians have of the RCMP. He left after receiving three cheers from his uniformed Mounties and a round of applause from the gathered crowd.

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Public Safety Minister Vic Toews thanked Mr. Elliott for his service, and added that Commissioner Paulson is perfectly suited to handle the "challenging transformation" of the national police force.

"He recognizes that change is necessary," Mr. Toews said of the new top Mountie.

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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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