Dissident group of Mounties highlight rift between RCMP officers and Commissioner Bob Paulson

When Bob Paulson took over as the RCMP's 23rd commissioner last November, many hoped the 25-year veteran of the force would put it back on course after three years of drift and deepening malaise under William Elliott, its first civilian head.

But it appears the blunt-talking former military pilot's style has only exposed further and maybe exacerbated the deep divisions within the RCMP.

What looks like a full-blown insurgency within the once buttoned-down paramilitary force surfaced this week after Paulson delivered slap-downs of two B.C. officers who criticized him, the National Post reports.

A group calling itself the Re-Sergance Alliance (a play, presumably, on the Mounties iconic red serge jackets) sent an anonymous email to news outlets warning senior officers it was ready to air the force's dirty linen publicly.

"Our Alliance is slowly now moving across the nation," said the group, which claims to have more than 500 members already.

"So those of you whom our leadership has 'Handled' for so many years, our so-called orchards of 'Bad Apples,' we simply state your time has arrived and your corruption is about to see the light and justice of your fellow Canadians."

The warning reportedly was posted on a blog set up by Re-Sergeance, but by Thursday the site had been shut down. The Huffington Post reported the blog at one point carried a number of anonymous postings blasting current and former Mounties and questioning Paulson's sincerity in cleaning house.

Elliott, the career federal bureaucrat whom Paulson replaced, was supposed to spearhead reforms of the RCMP. But its troubles - sexual harassment claims, questionable use of force, botched investigations, wrist-slaps for misbehaving officers just seemed to get worse.

The hope with Paulson's appointment was that reinstalling someone from within the RCMP, familiar with its culture, would put reform back on track.

Instead, Paulson's more open style appears to have made him a lightning rod for criticism. Last spring he admitted publicly current legislation did not give him the power to fire officers found guilty of wrongdoing, prompting Public Safety Minister Vic Toews to reveal the law governing RCMP administration would be changed.

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The debate over discipline continued via email between Paulson and his members, some of it nasty.

One message was from Sgt. Tim Chad, in which the B.C. Mountie said line officers distrusted senior Mounties who were trying to remake the force's culture to deal with a few problem members.

"We are not all a bunch of screw-ups but it is evident we are all being lumped into that category and we are not valued and trusted," he wrote in an email in July that was obtained by CBC News.

Paulson's response accused Chad of "living under a rock," if he didn't believe the RCMP needed an "all hands on deck" approach to restore the public's trust.

"Wake up Man, this organization is at risk," Paulson wrote.

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The exchange prompted another B.C. Mountie, Peter Kennedy to write Paulson, questioning his ability to reform the force, CBC News reported.

"At this time, I do not have very much respect for your actions," Kennedy, a 32-year veteran, wrote Paulson. "You are, at this point, a man of words only. Your words are falling on deaf ears, commissioner."

Chad's lack of confidence in Paulson is shared by "many thousands" of members, Kennedy added.

"I find your reply to (Chad) aggressive, insulting, arrogant, condescending and immature."

Paulson emailed his bemused reaction to CBC News, saying he wasn't sure what to make of Kennedy.

"Clearly he is unhappy. I think a lot of our members are feeling the stress of change and adapting," Paulson wrote. "One of my tasks is to make sure (Mounties) have all the information and tools available to get on board. It's their job to understand and implement the change.

"Most will succeed, some will find it difficult, some will resist."

Among the anonymous postings on the now defunct Re-Sergeance site was a defence of B.C. psychologist Mike Webster, who treats about 25 Mounties for work-related problems, but in recent years has been critical or the RCMP's leadership.

The Mounties effectively blacklisted Webster recently, informing him by letter that they would no longer pay for him to treat their members.

"Your lack of objectivity in both your clinical work and public commentary towards the RCMP have weakened your effectiveness in treating your RCMP client base," the letter read, according to the Post.

The RCMP also filed a formal complaint against Webster with the B.C. College of Psychologists.

Webster said he wasn't surprised by the RCMP's moves and would continue to meet with a members of the support group for free. One of the group's members is Peter Kennedy, Webster noted.