Anybody who tunes into the catalogue of misadventures plaguing the RCMP, almost on a daily basis, will no doubt get the impression that this internationally esteemed and once nationally respected police force is rapidly becoming a police farce. At this moment, the bones of the legendary former Superintendent of the North West Mounted Police, Sir Samuel Benfield Steele, must be rattling in his grave somewhere in a Winnipeg cemetery.
B.C. has the largest provincial RCMP contingent in Canada, employing about 6,000 officers in more than 60 municipalities. An organization that historically was beyond reproach now appears intent on harvesting ever more fertile fields of disgrace. As accusations of RCMP wrongdoing, denials and lawsuits pile up, rogue cops are shuffled from post to post. Rarely does anybody get fired. At least Richmond RCMP Corp. Monty Robinson, who was found guilty of obstruction of justice, finally mustered the wherewithal to call it quits last week, possibly to avoid the ignominy of being shown the door.
Changes are coming in terms of how the force handles its membership. The federal government tabled legislation last month that will give the RCMP brass more power to discipline or fire dishonourable members. The new accountability act will remove bureaucratic red tape, especially when it comes to investigating serious sexual harassment and assault allegations within the Mounties’ ranks.
Recently, the District of Squamish renewed its contact with the RCMP at the 11th hour, spurred on by the prospect of losing $450,000 in provincial funding for failing to sign the deal. District officials insisted that all or some of the charges not directly related to local policing should be slashed. Those demands fell on deaf ears. Meanwhile, we’re on the hook for an extra $1 million in policing costs because of a population spurt in the Shining Valley.
But it appears only a small portion of that sum will be channelled into RCMP members’ pockets. The boots on the ground will receive a wage increase of 1.75 per cent this year. That figure is not exactly a budget buster when we consider the recent departure of planning department head Cameron Chalmers will cost the district a severance payout in excess of $100,000.
We know that in many jurisdictions, including Squamish, civic administrators and some residents feel they should have more control over how the Mounties are deployed and how municipalities are billed for police services. Despite those concerns, there appears to be a relatively high level of confidence in the local detachment.
So the upshot is that although the Mounties’ indiscretions may have reached toxic levels provincially, barring a sudden torrent of misconduct revelations from the RCMP bunker on Finch Drive, locally the force continues to provide a reputable and dependable policing presence.