William Elliott sworn in as RCMP commissioner

Lawyer and career civil servant William Elliott was sworn in as the new RCMP commissioner during a low-key ceremony Monday, becoming the organization's first chief not to have served on a police force.

Lawyer and career civil servant William Elliott was sworn in asCanada's newRCMP commissioner during a low-key ceremony Monday, becoming the organization's first chief not to have served on a police force.

William Elliott (left) was sworn in Monday by Justice Stephen Brown in Ottawa. ((Photo courtesy of RCMP))
Elliott, who was appointed 10 days ago,was sworn in as a peace officer without any of the police training that's normally required for that position. He now has the power todetain and arrest, but hemust undergo firearms training if he wants to wear a weapon.

No television cameras were permitted at the ceremony and an official photo was issued around noon ET.

In a move aimed at easing tensions among members of the force upset at the civilian posting, Elliott didn't wear the official red serge uniform during the private ceremony.

RCMP officials said angry complaints from within the force subsided since Elliott told senior officials last week he would wear a business suit when he took power.

Members of the force were upset that Elliott might wear the iconic red uniform of the national police force without undergoing training.

In an e-mail sent to RCMP members Monday, Elliott acknowledged "much has been made of what distinguishes me from my predecessors and from other men and women who serve."

He wrote that supporting members of the force will be his "first priority."

"My first order of business is to meet and talk with you to discuss your priorities and concerns," he said.

"I recognize the importance of gaining a better understanding of the important work you do. I want to hear your concerns and answer your questions."

'Cautious optimism'

RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve Walker saidthe appointment rankled many within the force.

"We groom ourselves through years of process within the organization. They wear their uniforms on a daily basis doing their daily duties with pride," he said. "The shock resulted in a certain degree of anger."

Walker said he believes many inside the force are willing to work with an outsider to create a better force.

The RCMP has been rocked by scandal in the past year, including the resignation of former commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli, its handling of the Maher Arar affair and allegations of mismanagement within the force's pension plan.

Walker hopes the new commissioner will take the time as part of his duties to visit RCMP detachments across the country, including a stop at the training depot in Regina.

"I think at this point in time, our membership across the country is approaching this with cautious optimism."

2 key challenges: expert

Wade Deisman, a criminology professor at the University of Ottawa, said Elliott has two key challenges: to establish himself as a team player and outline his vision for the force.

"He's got to set out a… process, in terms of the hard structural reforms they have to do, that brings other people in and gives them a sense of confidence," said Deisman.

"Since he's coming from the outside, I think there's still people who are doing a bit of nail-biting around that issue."

Elliott mustalso spell out his plan for the future of the RCMP, said Deisman

"He's got to project a strong vision of where the organization needs to go, howit's going to get its house in order and how it's going to win back public confidence."

While police organizations are traditionally stubborn when it comes to opening themselves up and making changes, Deisman said he believes many in the RCMP will welcome the change.

"If there is a need for structural reform, many in the rank and file and upper echelon are welcoming that opportunity to put the RCMP back on the right page and get its house in order," he said.