Posts Tagged ‘oversight’

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” [2].

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.


Barker, Thomas and David Carter. (1996).  Police Deviance (3rd Ed.).  Anderson Publishing Co.: Cincinnati, Ohio.

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 (Oct. 29, 2011).

Murphy, C. and McKenna, P.  (2007).  Rethinking police goverance, culture and management.  Ottawa: Task Force on Governance and Cultural Change in the RCMP, Public Safety Canada.

Payton, Laura and Alison Crawfor. (2011).  7 Issues facing the next RCMP Commissioner.  CBC news.  Retrevied from (Oct 27, 2011).

Perrott, Stephen and E. Kelloway. (2011). Scandals, sagging morale and role ambiguity in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police: the end of a Canadian institution as we know it?.  Police Practice and Research, 12:2, 120-135.

Punch, Maurice. (2009).  Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing.  Willan Publishing: Portland, Oregon.

The role of the RCMP accountability, oversight and complaints mechanisms and complaint mechanisms is defined mostly through different commissions, legislation and the public arena.  Another important aspect could be how information about them is distributed, in particular, in generic web-site searches.

In the beginning of the RCMP, they were responsible for most policing matters.  Over the decades its involvement in security and other powers escalated onto the national level.  The Mcdonald Comission reported their findings about their hearings on police deviance in 1979 and 1981.  Its last recommendation was particular poignant because it was actually enact with the creation of Canadian Security Intelligence Service three years later.  In 1985, when the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act was enacted it held that CSIS would be held accountable.  “To maintain an appropriate degree of ministerial responsibility” (Policing and Communities Safety Branch).  But the Inspector General, who the reports are forwarded to, does not deal with public complaints.  And, like the vast majority of commissions can not convene public hearings or make binding recommendations.  The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (Commission) was created in 1988, and they are an independent civilian agency.  They can investigate public complaints but again have limited authority to investigate and they cannot conduct a public interest hearing.  Previous chairs harken for better system of balance.  The Office of the Communication Security Establishment commissioner, established in June of 1996, had the authority to investigate complaints but like the commission have extremely limited authority.  This office cannot make binding recommendations.  The Anti-Terrorism Act effectively reversed the some of the legislation put forth by the Mcdonald commission by allowing the RCMP to become more involved in security measures by defining the act of terrorism as criminal.  And thus with in the realm of the police because CSIS cannot purse criminal cases, they may only gather information (Raaflaub, Tim).

In regards to the public arena, a fairly recent case stands at the forefront.  The Arar Affair follows a Syrian born but Canadian citizen, who though information leaked by the RCMP to the American government was detained then transported to Syria where he was tortured for information about his alleged terrorist activities for over ten months.  Mr. Arar, was never found to be associated with terrorism in any respect and was released back to Canada.  The O’Connor Comission, convened two years after the incident, found that the RCMP was indeed guilty of causing the above incident (Larsen, Mike).  And recommended an independent inquiries.  In association, Juliet O’Neil, a journalist, was said to have allegations about the Arar incident.  Search warrants were served and her place of residence was search along with various pieces of property.  When she went to court, the presiding judge ordered the immediate release of Miss. O’Neil’s property and dismissed the charges.  The crown has yet to refile. 

A simple web search shows unpromising results.  The results are filled with buzz words such as Right to Know and Civilian.  But the web pages display how they came to be, not what they are involved in now.  Government posts declare new commission or inquiry staffed by the public but hesitate to add its limitations of power, in that anything it suggests can be easily discarded.  As the search progresses, the results are flooded with why the public thinks that these commissions are necessary; excessive force, tasers, anger at unheard accusations, news casts filled with sensationalism of out of control policing agencies, assaults on the public by inebriate off-duty officers and general discordance.  perusing the Commission complaint form what is evident is that most of the form is taken up by information about the complainant, only a few boxes to describe the confrontation, resulting injuries and witnesses.  

In conclusion, the RCMP has several public inquiries and commissions but they lack to the power to make a difference with the RCMP lobbying for their previous power before the Mcdonald Commission.  Until more power is given to these popularly created commissions the entire process of complaints will not effect the RCMP in any significant way.  With the RCMP still only beginning judged by its peers of the occupation, who are more then willing to plead down their misconduct/deviance to policy infractions and not criminal charges.


Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.  (2010)  Significant Progress Made on the Complaint Commission’s Public Interest Investigation itno the RCMP into the RCMP’s Involvement in the G8/G20 Summits.  Retreived from: September 20, 2011.

Cook, Karen.  (2011) Abbott Commits to Increasing Police Accountability and Oversight.  Scribd.  Reterived from: September 24, 2011.

Larsen, Mike.  (2010) New RCMP Public Complaints Commission Legislation Tabled.  Prism.  Retervied from: September 27, 2011.

Policing and Community Safety Branch.  Civilian Oversight of Policing.  Retervied from: September 25, 2011.

Raaflaub, Tim Riordan. (2006)  Civilian Oversight of the RCMP’s National Securtiy Functions.  Parliament of Canada. Retreived from: September 27, 2011.