Q&A: Search for a new commissioner
Last Updated December 15, 2006
Giuliano Zaccardelli resigned from his post as Royal Canadian Mounted Police commissioner in December 2006. (Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)
The government has named Beverley Busson, a deputy commissioner of the RCMP, as the force's interim commissioner. The search continues, however, for a new, permanent RCMP commissioner, the 20th in its long history. With the fallout from the Arar case, what will the government be looking for in the new commissioner? Will it pick from inside the ranks or go outside? CBC.ca talked with Joseph D'Cruz, a professor at the University of Toronto's Joseph L. Rotman School of Management. One of D'Cruz's specialties is police leadership.
What are the differences in culture between the RCMP and other police forces?There are basically three different types of police forces in Canada. There are the large and small municipal forces, like Toronto or some of the towns in Ontario where you have a local police service. Then you have the two major provincial services which is the OPP in Ontario and the Quebec force. They provide both provincial-level services and as well as they provide a certain amount of municipal policing which they call contract policing. And then you have the RCMP, which is the national police and also is the provincial police in provinces where there are no provincial police force, and also the municipal services.
So how do you manage the RCMP?The RCMP is in many different lines of business. And that makes it quite difficult to manage because it actually is a multi-business organization and therefore it has multiple corporate structures and management. And there is within the RCMP very much attention between the centre, which is in Ottawa, and all of its regional operations across the country. Generally speaking, historically the regions have been run by fairly strong independent regional leaders. And that's always a relationship that's fraught with tension. There are the parts of the RCMP that are located in Ottawa which are addressing the national mission of the organization. As well, the RCMP is responsible for relationships internationally with police services around the world, including Interpol [International Criminal Police Organization]. It is a very complex organization. And a consequence of its complexity, it is a very difficult organization to manage. It is also an organization that has a very strong culture. The culture actually emanates right from the time when the recruit goes to Regina for training. The RCMP has a long and proud history.
Tell us about the culture of the RCMPThey tend to be a very proud organization, proud of their history, proud of their accomplishments and consequently they tend to be somewhat inward-looking. So far, they have resisted the idea of external control or governance. And that is out of tune with the current societal values that the police are expected to be accountable and responsive to outside governance. Now that's the big differences between RCMP and other police services across the country. In Ontario, we have a civilian oversight agency. The RCMP provide their own oversight. And I think the time has come to question the wisdom of that approach and to maybe think about establishing a formal oversight agency. It would completely change the job of the commissioner of the RCMP because the commissioner would then have to hand over some of the oversight activities to an outside civilian body.
Now looking at the process of seeking out the commissioner, how would internal candidates fare?I think within, the RCMP will have a strong desire to go the internal route, but it may not be the wisest thing to do at this stage. I think the organization needs leadership that is much more sensitive to the social and political environment in the country. And it may be difficult for an insider to make the changes that are necessary to evolve the RCMP into the next stage of its existence.
Would there be a culture shock if the force brought in a figure from outside the RCMP?There will be among many officers. There will be a strong sense of concern if one of their own is not chosen.
What skills does a potential commissioner need?The two categories for the skills that the person would need: leadership skills and management skills. The key to a successful candidate is someone who blends leadership with management. Zaccardelli was very good at the leadership and he struggled with management. Leadership skills involve activities both inside and outside. It has to do with having a strong vision for the role of the RCMP and the vision for policing in general in this country, and then to get others to buy into that vision. And at the same time, the candidate needs to understand how to mange a complex and large organization and appointing the right people to the right jobs. And developing the command and control mechanisms to make sure the organization fulfils its responsibility.
Do candidates need a lot of experience in policing?My sense is that without a significant track record in policing, it will be impossible for the candidate to exercise leadership because the policing community always looks upon itself as being somewhat unique. They swear an oath and call themselves sworn officers and that makes them unique. This uniqueness stems in large part from the fact that they have the legal authority to use deadly force. Therefore they need to submit to a very high level of discipline in how they conduct themselves and that makes them unique.
The commissioner reports to the government. How astute does the person need to be in politics?I think you need political acumen but you don't need the skills of a politician. In fact, it could be quite dangerous if the commissioner starts to act like a politician. You have to have a very strong sense of what the appropriate mission of the organization is. The mission of the organization is not to win votes or win public acclaim or anything like that. Those are the kinds of things that politicians look to. They want to be very strongly supportive of the mission of good policing, which is a service mission.
What issues does the new commissioner have to face?Going forward, there are clearly issues around terrorism and issues around organized crime which is now becoming large-scale, corporate-type enterprise. And crosses provincial boundaries … those are two immediate issues that come to mind and creating a force that is anticipating and heading off that type of problems.
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