RCMP boss in damage control mode over failure to track internal misconduct

A little more than a year after becoming Canada's top Mountie, Commissioner Bob Paulson still seems to be cleaning up after his predecessors.

The no-nonsense cop was forced this weekend to respond to revelations from a CBC News investigation that found the RCMP has never kept track of its internal misconduct cases.

CBC News submitted an access-to-information request more than four years ago asking for a list of officers who'd been disciplined between 2005 and 2008, including what offences they'd committed and how internal adjudication boards had dealt with them.

The list was finally handed over last November.

"An officer who handled the file offered an embarrassed apology, and explained the delay was due to the list having to be created from scratch," CBC News said.

[Related: Dissident group of Mounties highlight rift between officers and Paulson]

In an interview with CBC News, Paulson admitted the exercise revealed that the force's senior commanders did not have a clear picture of how big a problem misconduct was among its members.

“You’re right,” said Paulson, appointed commissioner in November 2011. “The RCMP hadn't been tracking until I got here and now we are. We're tracking them all."

Lawyer and former Mountie Walter Kostekyi, who represented Zofia Dziekanski, in the Taser death of her son Walter at the hands of RCMP officers in 2007, said he was astonished by the revelation.

“It tells you there's a serious problem in management," Kostekyj told CBC News.

“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?”

The executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Union said failure to track misconduct was irresponsible.

“The RCMP is an organization charged with keeping track of crime right across the country,” Paterson said.

“And yet within their own organization, they had no way, short of spending four years pulling this research together, [of] knowing the rate at which their officers were committing very serious misconduct.

“Senior leaders in Ottawa, and here in British Columbia would not have been able to say with any confidence, do we have a problem or do we not have a problem with the most serious kinds of misconduct with our force. They just didn't have that information.”

Interestingly, the data itself doesn't indicate rampant misconduct, CBC News noted.

In the four-year period just over 335 of the force's roughly 19,000 members were hauled before internal tribunals. There were about three dozen cases of assault, sexual assault and harassment, 30 instances of impairment while on the job or driving, 29 of Mounties giving false or misleading statements and 16 unauthorized uses of the national police data base.

A number of these cases involved criminal offences, including two of child-porn possession, but the RCMP refused to say which ones were referred for criminal prosecution.

About 50 cases were withdrawn, some because the statutory limit for a hearing had expired. But more than one third were considered so serious that the offending officer quit, was forced to resign or given the maximum penalty allowed, loss of 10 days' pay.

[ Related: RCMP says force is changing after sexual harassment allegations ]

Paulson, a veteran Mountie and air force pilot who succeeded civilian appointee William Elliott, has not been the most popular commissioner in some quarters of the RCMP. Dissidents last year warned of a backlash against him for labelling misbehaving officers such as Sgt. Don Ray as "bad apples."

That talk seems to have died down, at least in public, but his latest damage-control effort suggests Paulson has a lot of work left to do.