There are several variables that influence how the police – and specifically the RCMP – view complaints. The major contributors are the dichotomy followed by police culture, the origins of the RCMP, their reputation and how the police deal with ‘rats’ internally. The changes in a post-9/11 environment indicate a high-policing atmosphere. In a perfect imagining the oversight and the compliant mechanisms are meant to be staffed by external police bodies. Staffed by civilians who make recommendations to better policing practices and accountability for the agency. But due to constraints of power and the fact that many such bodies are staffed by retired police officers this ideal is slow to realize.
There is distinct dichotomy between the public and the police. The Us vs. Them argument has been used to explain the isolation and the divide felt between the public and the police. The argument states that those outside of your social group are unable to relate to what your social group faces and/or experiences. Some factors that may help with this are irregular hours, sometimes impossible demands, high stress and extremely dangerous situation. This is reflective of Barker and Carter’s definition of police corruption, which is the “latent result of society’s attempt to execute unenforceable ‘victimless’ crime laws” (46). This has helped the police to foster negative mind set towards the oversight commissions and are intentionally subverted by the police; through intimidation, non-compliance, bias and questioning their message. When a complaint is issued, the investigation that follows puts undue pressure towards the complainant by placing them on trial and “reprehensible tactics to discourage citizens from filing complaints against.” [Barker and Carter 378]. The complaints form of the RCMP is more interested in the complainant then the event. This is reflective of the dichotomy argument. Non-compliance is shown as an unwillingness to comply with summons from these committees and by not heeding or implementing their recommendations. One consequence of the committees is their lack of power [Goldsmith and Lewis], although a few can make recommendations but the police agencies do not have to heed their advice. Bias was evident in how the police did not give these committees credence because they were not on ‘the job’. Also they have been frequently criticized for disregarding the interests of the complaints. The police often question the message of the committees. They claim that the community want someone to blame, scape-goats and fulfills the communities need for vengeance. It is important to mention the Nolan principals which emphasizes trustworthiness and accountability but this example is applied across the pond in the UK [Punch 2009].
Critics have many theories as to the cause of police deviance. One cause may be because of police [sub]culture, especially when use in concert with the dichotomy. Police [sub]culture is known to be stable over geography and time. Meaning that it is found elsewhere in the world at varying periods in time. As a result of the dichotomy the police fully socialize only within their group. Leaving them unable to socialize with those outside their group or even to be able to empathize with them. As a result, when socializing with outsiders causes suspicion, by the nature of the this provides positive feedback on said suspicions. This also feeds into the blue wall of silence that further helps to isolate peace officers from society, in that when they feel that society or others from outside their societal group have have unfairly judged them they effectively close ranks. Presenting an unformed front both externally and internally. Other peace officers sympathize and empathize with those involved. Through this isolation many officers begin to feel and treat the non-police identity [encapsulating those who are not part of the police force]. This is shown in how they refer to using a highly masculine and sometimes racist vernacular that permeate and is pertuated by the police culture. The police canteen culture also feeds into this. John Van Maanen describes how those who do not yield the instructions from the police are viewed with hostility and labeled as an Asshole.
It appears that the commissions, inquires and other complaint mechanisms are like the police, reactive to crime. As Punch states, the deviance is built into the system. Even with complete clean out of deviant characters the deviance will still be learned by other recruit. This means that there is some mechanism within the organization of policing that allows for this to grow. The oversight and inquires are rendered null by their lack of power and by the police under the blue wall of silence protecting their officers from prosecutions. This may be to protect their reputation or public image. But as Barker and Carter quote from the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice: these oversight committees are symptomatic of a larger problem of the lack of public confidence. Punch states that police are presented “with an inherent dilemma in relation to performing their task and enforcing the law in a context of rules, resources and laws that restrict them in some way” .
Sperico came forward to address the issue of his compatriots in “grass-eating” and “meat-eating”. This type of terminology came up at the Knapp Commission. Grass-eating refers to a sporadic deviance, that does not actively engage in deviant behavior. These opportunities can be receiving free or oppertunties discounted food stuffs based on their occupation of an officer. Where as meat-eaters were constantly involved within the criminal elements. The types of deviance elaborated on in this commission where, the padding of evidence to either convict a desired suspect and/or to increase their sentence. Because he went outside his ‘brothers in blue’ he was viewed as a traitor, one that could expose the deviant structure and place them all in jail. This was particularly worrisome because police officers do not survive long in jail. This is because of retaliation for other inmates and dominance/territorial disputes. Also like any social code, there are rules to follow. He broke the rules, an example had to be made to be shown to others who wanted to tell. Sperico was left with no back-up when raiding a drug-dealer which resulted in a gun-shot wound to the face. This incident is relevant because without confidence in the police who will follow their orders? Who will come to them with problems or sensitive information? As explored in the paragraph before, reputation is everything. Without it the police are powerless. With no merit in their symbols of their authority [squad car, uniform, issued commands, etc.] no one would heed their commands.
There seems to be a troubling occurrence that has been since the 9/11 occurrences. Information sharing, joint operations across the nation, the Anti-Terrorism Act and high policing are just a few significant occurrences. Information sharing although not outright adverse, in some practices it becomes draconian. Maher Arar, for example, spent almost a year being tortured in Syria because of information provided to the US from the RCMP. This type of sharing is manipulation of the system. Project A-O is where Canada kept a list of names of whom they viewed where a security risk. Surveillance was intensified around them. For joint operations, there is the G20 which was the largest collaboration of security personnel. It is difficult to ensure accountability because of so many participants. Was it the RCMP, who were managing the security, when the Ontario Provincial Police actually did the commission of the crime? After the US enacted the Patriate Act post-9/11 Canada mirrored it with the Anti-Terrorism Act with made terrorism criminal and within the realm of the police. This act was mainly to placate the US and grant the RCMP more security powers, which where lost when CSIS was created. The US is a major trading partner of Canada [Diab 2008]. High-policing is a form of policing [though not necessarily conducted by the police] in which the agenda of the government is carried out and the letter of the law is blurred. For instance, Security Certificate. This certificate allows the government to detain a ‘suspect’ without arrest or trial and ultimately deport them. If the ‘suspect’ held refugee status, they could be deported back to their fled country where their lives would cease [Larsen, October 27, 2011, personal communication].
Essentially the accountability structure did not expand as the police powers did. And any outside views is seen with distain and hostility with movements made hid evidence and particpation of other agencies or people within their own forces. The RCMP has essentially operated as it has been since 1919. Recovering their security responsibilities through the Anti-Terrorism Act.
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Diab, Robert. (2008). Guantanamo North: Terrorism and the Administration of Justice in Canada. Fernwood Publishing: Black Point, Nova Scotia.
Goldsmith, Andrew and Colleen Lewis (Eds.) (2000). Civilian Oversight of Policing: Governance, Demovracy and Human Rights. Hart Publishing: Oxford and Portland, Oregon.
Kappeler, Victor, Sluder, Richard and Geoffrey Alpert. (1998). Forces of Deviance: Understanding the Dark Side of Policing (2nd Ed.). Waveland Press, Inc.: Long Grove, Illinois.
Maanen, John Van. (1978). The Asshole. Retrieved from http://jthomasniu.org/class/Stuff/PDF/vanmanah.pdf. (Oct. 29, 2011).
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