Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Reconstruction: a new national police force

Some time ago
I called for disbanding our "horribly broken" national police force. I have now been joined in this enterprise, after the Dziekanski killing, by the esteemed Crawford Killian over at The Tyee and by several other bloggers.

I believe, pace Crawford, that we do need a national police force, although the provinces should maintain their own provincial forces.
Assume the federal political will and substantial funds (I know, I know) how would we go about creating a new one? The following are some suggested steps:

1) A comprehensive, top-to-bottom, outside organizational audit of the RCMP. This would look in detail at the present organizational structure,
accountability frameworks, practices, and the over-all corporate culture of the force. It would include a detachment-by-detachment review, covering both internal practices and relations with the communities that they serve. Public hearings would be an essential part of this review.

2) The production of a report, with specific recommendations, to a special parliamentary committee charged with overseeing the creation of a new national police force. These recommendations, based upon the audit, would define the parameters for that force, and establish timelines and costings for phasing the new force into being. They would deal with questions such as:
  • New name and service mandate
  • Training/re-training needed for front-line officers and administrators alike to carry out this mandate
  • Transfers of personnel (corporate cultures are built and maintained with relationships and networks: to rebuild the culture, old networks must be replaced, new relationships created)
  • Possible replacement of senior managers through early retirement
  • New accountability frameworks and whistleblowing mechanisms
  • Relations with the community
  • What corporate structures need to be altered or replaced
  • What current practices need to be amended or replaced with more efficient and effective ones
  • Regular comprehensive audits
3) In tandem with the creation of a new force, a Civilian Complaints Commission that has the authority to mete out appropriate discipline must be established without delay. A possible outline for such a commission, with an Office of the Citizen Advisor to assist the public, might be found here (declaration of interest: I am a member of the Ottawa Witness Group) and here (scroll down to p. 36).

4) What's in a name? Suppose it turns out after the audit that much of the existing structure, and many of the existing personnel, could and should be retained? I would argue that a name-change is an essential symbolic rupture with the past. It would send a message to the public, to the police administration and to front-line officers that the old ways are gone, and that a new body with a new mandate to serve has been born from the ashes.

Discussion, pro and con disbandment, is welcome.

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