The RCMP's disciplinary process is so bureaucratic and out of date that "bad apples" end up staying on the force long after they should be thrown out, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said in a remarkably frank open letter to Canadians on Monday.
Paulson, who has held the top job at the force for six months, pledged to work on modernizing the disciplinary process, which can now take years to resolve a case.
"I am trying to run a modern police force with a discipline system that was current 25 years ago," he writes. "Right now, this framework limits my ability to ensure our members' conduct is properly managed and corrected or, when necessary, to see to it that the bad apples are sent packing." The RCMP's current disciplinary process is enshrined in the RCMP Act.
Paulson's comments come as public confidence in the force has been badly shaken by damaging reports of disgraceful conduct by some officers — conduct that often went unpunished.
Six months ago, a CBC News investigation revealed allegations of a widespread culture of sexual harassment that allowed unacceptable behaviour to continue within the RCMP. Several current and former female officers in the force have since made similar allegations .
Last week, it was revealed that an RCMP sergeant in Edmonton was demoted and will be transferred to B.C. after he admitted to having sex with subordinates, drinking with them at work and sexually harassing them over a three-year period. Some wondered why the officer wasn't fired.
Without referring to any particular case, Paulson noted that "sometimes, [unacceptable] behaviour is met with punishment that just does not cut it."
In his open letter, Paulson says Canadians can expect to hear about more cases of unacceptable behaviour. "They are the inheritance of past behaviours and attitudes," he says.
Paulson also decried what he called the "administratively burdensome and bureaucratic decision-making process" that can see discipline cases tied up for years.
"It's unsatisfactory that we have to continue spending your tax dollars to pay individuals that don't deserve to be in the RCMP."
Paulson says he's started working on changing attitudes and behaviour at the force. "Since my appointment, I've clarified my expectations to my senior managers and all RCMP employees, and I have taken steps to address situations where I had the authority to do so."
But he acknowledges that "legislation alone is not enough to keep your trust," saying reforms must be guided by a commitment at each level of the RCMP to foster a respectful workplace.
"The challenges facing the RCMP are significant, but we will create a modern and even stronger organization that continues to make you proud," he pledges.
"The men and women of the RCMP are up to this challenge, and those you encounter deserve your respect and support."