The federal government is investigating allegations by senior Mounties that RCMP Commissioner William Elliott is abusive and insulting, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said Tuesday.
"Some comments have come to my attention fairly recently and we are doing an analysis to see whether these concerns are merited," he said.
In a statement, Toews said he was "troubled by the issues concerning management conflict raised in recent media reports."
He said his ministry is undertaking a "workplace assessment of the RCMP" that will be led by an independent adviser.
Toews said the complaints are "essentially an internal matter in the RCMP, but one that concerns me because of the impact the RCMP have generally throughout the country."
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This is a stressful time for the force, which is implementing sweeping reforms, he said.
CBC News reported Monday that as many as 10 senior members of the force, including deputy commissioners Tim Killam and Raf Souccar, have complained to Toews and to the Prime Minister's Office about Elliott's conduct.
Behaviour at issue
The officers have accused Elliott of being verbally abusive, closed-minded, arrogant and insulting. One complaint described an enraged Elliott throwing papers at an officer.
Elliott, the first civilian to lead the Mounties, was appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in July 2007.
Veteran journalist Paul Palango, who has written extensively about the RCMP, says Elliott's ferocious reputation has been apparent since his appointment.
"From the time he took over, [he] was reducing assistant commissioners and deputy commissioners to tears," he told CBC News. "Some wanted to leave the force. Some did leave the force because of his attitude and his behaviour."
Last year, Elliott attended a $44,000 course in Arizona that dealt with behavioural barriers to success, the CBC's Alison Crawford reported.
He subsequently acknowledged to employees in a memo that he learned his actions "can and did have unintended, sometimes negative impacts."
"I believe this insight is helping me to change and to be a more effective leader," he wrote in September 2009.Whether it's warranted, there's no doubt the staff protest against the commissioner's behaviour is unprecedented. The RCMP normally keep their problems securely private.
"The fact that they have broken ranks within what is effectively a paramilitary organization shows that, I think, there are some deep fissures," Rob Gordon, director of the school of criminology at Simon Fraser University, told CBC News.