Ready, Set, Neglect!

Posted: January 29, 2013 by wrighter12 in RCMP Accountability and Oversight

In a recent article produced by CBC News, some disturbing statistics were released in regards to police misconduct by our national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Although these statistics were seemingly impossible to request for and took a hefty amount of time to obtain, CBC News finally received their request after four long years. How could such a simple request take four years to be answered, especially by the agency representing our country?

A mere request for basic data ultimately turned into an investigation about how the RCMP was collecting their data about police misconduct, if they were doing any at all. A request for data on police misconduct between 2005 and 2008 took four years to collect after the files had to be created from scratch. One might think, “Hey isn’t the RCMP in charge of collecting data on crime across Canada?” This would be completely correct, yet a simple request for data within their own organization becomes troublesome to locate without having to create it from the beginning. Walter Kostekyj, an individual with prior experience as an RCMP officer said “It tells you there’s a serious problem in management”, and he continued to say “How would they measure their training? How would they measure who they’re selecting to be a police officer if they’re not keeping track of who it is they’re having problems with?” This also raises questions regarding which regions had the most misconduct by police? Which areas did the most severe forms of misconduct take place, as well as the least severe forms, and which officers were committing these acts? While these questions were left unanswered by the RCMP’s report, they did however provide the basic information about counts of police misconduct which can be found at:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2013/01/13/bc-rcmp-failed-to-track-mountie-misconduct.html

Another interesting and highly recommended page to view which takes a look at a list of internal allegations of the RCMP can be found at:

https://fusiontables.googleusercontent.com/fusiontables/embedviz?viz=GVIZ&t=TABLE&containerId=gviz_canvas&q=select+col0,+col1,+col2+from+1BK5KcWmvML7O_4ViyYXeVkEWKJzcF5MfZUfQI-Y

In regards to the three-level typology of police corruption as outlined in Maurice Punch’s text “Police Corruption”, the following article depicts different areas of these typologies surrounding the RCMP. Under the first typology by The Knapp Commission (1972), the term “Birds” could be used to describe the actions that took place because the fact that the RCMP neglected to keep tabs on police misconduct shows that many decided to ignore this and not report it until an outside organization decided to look at it, flying above the mess and not looking down at it. Looking at the second typology by Barker and Roebuck, the activities of the officers involved in the police misconduct fits under the category of “direct criminal activities” due to the fact that some forms of the misconduct would be a crime for any individual to do. A statement by Abe Townsend, who is a long time serving member of the force, read “members are being held accountable. Even when they’re off duty, officers are still subject to the code of conduct”. Finally within the third typology based on the levels of police deviance, one may argue the term “system failure” because the entire system lacks accountability with no way to hold individuals accountable if no statistics are being collected throughout the years. However, this may fit that part of the definition but does not fulfill the other portion which requires the entire system to be in crisis. From my view, I believe the level of police deviance to be externally driven, due to the pressure being exerted on the force by communities, regions, and Canada as a whole to uphold the high status of the national police force. This in turn may have directly or indirectly caused the lack of statistics regarding police misconduct by the RCMP.

References:

Punch, M. (2009). Police corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2013/01/13/bc-rcmp-failed-to-track-mountie-misconduct.html

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Comments
  1. Mike Larsen says:

    An interesting and well-written post!

    You open your post by asking “How could such a simple request take four years to be answered, especially by the agency representing our country?” If you are interested in looking into this question in greater detail, you can check out my book – Brokering Access – Power, Politics, and Freedom of Information Process in Canada [http://www.ubcpress.ca/search/title_book.asp?BookID=299173819] .

    This case is difficult to locate within any of the typologies we have encountered. The Knapp typology, officer type typology, and the typology offered by Barker and Roebuck all focus on direct activities by officers. This case, on the other hand, deals with a form of ‘meta-deviance’ – the deliberate avoidance of record-keeping by police managers, ostensibly for purposes of image management.

    In terms of the final typology, I would agree with your analysis in terms of the concept of ‘system failure’. It would be reasonable to say that this case reflects a *failure of the system*, as opposed to a full-blown crisis. However, I am surprised to ready that you describe this as an externally driven phenomenon. The failure to keep accurate records of misconduct is associated with decisions made by police managers, and it has to do with the policing of public knowledge and perceptions. I would locate this particular case squarely within the police (management) domain.

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