RCMP harassment crisis shadows commissioner's 1st year

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson says a harassment culture has shadowed his first year in the role and that he once experienced it himself.

In an interview with CBC News's Alison Crawford, Paulson says he has spent the year responding to the stories of harassment while also trying to change the RCMP's strategic direction.

"We were driven to respond to a lot of things. We know the harassment crisis, as I'll call it, has basically shadowed my appointment, and has been, you know, appropriately and properly in need of attention. But reacting to that while trying to bring the sort of strategic direction to the organization that I wanted to bring has been a bit of a challenge," Paulson said in an exclusive interview.

A year ago, one of British Columbia's highest-profile Mounties said she's suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after years of sexual harassment. Cpl. Catherine Galliford went on sick leave in 2007 and launched a lawsuit against the RCMP last May.

Last spring, it was revealed that RCMP Sgt. Don Ray was demoted and transferred from Edmonton 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.

Paulson said sexual harassment is part of a culture of misuse of authority the force is focused on addressing..

"But I think that the bigger concern for me is the idea that people are resistant to reporting harassment generally. And so I really try to bring the sexual element of the harassment conversation out of it. I mean, it's terrible and we can't have it, and when we do have it, we act, but it's … the culture of harassment, it's the culture of misuse of authority. That's really where I've been focused on and where many of my commanding officers have been focused."

Paulson said last spring in an open letter that the current discipline system for the RCMP was designed 25 years ago. He also said it's "unsatisfactory" that tax money is used to continue paying people who don't deserve to be there.

Paulson also said he's had experience with the penalty box, the term used inside the force for officers who feel they're being pushed aside.

"I spent some time in the penalty box. I think in the day, if you weren't sort of in line with your officer's expectations or consistent with his or her vision of where the organization was going, then you were pushed aside. And it's a very uncomfortable feeling and a very destructive feeling, and it doesn't speak to a transparent, ethical, organization," he said.

Paulson wouldn't go into details, but said he was "just put somewhere I didn't want to go. I'd rather not say, but suffice it to say that I'm not unfamiliar with the concept."

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