Long-time Mountie chosen as next RCMP commissioner

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has gone back to the ranks of the Mounties and has chosen Bob Paulson as the next commissioner of the RCMP, CBC News has learned.
Bob Paulson, the RCMP's deputy commissioner for federal policing, will succeed William Elliott as commissioner, CBC News has learned. (Tara Brautigam/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has gone back to the ranks of the Mounties and has chosen Bob Paulson as the next commissioner of the RCMP, CBC News has learned.

The official announcement is expected Wednesday.

Currently working out of RCMP national headquarters in Ottawa, Paulson is the deputy commissioner heading up federal policing.

Paulson, who served with the Canadian Forces and trained as a jet pilot before joining the RCMP 25 years ago, spent most of his policing career in British Columbia.

He led several high-profile murder and organized crime investigations and is widely regarded as an excellent major crimes investigator and biker gang expert.

Paulson, 52, rounded out his career after his move to Ottawa in 2005. He was promoted to the rank of assistant commissioner and oversaw national security criminal investigations, as well as contract and aboriginal policing. In November 2010, Paulson benefited from disharmony in the upper echelons of the RCMP when Commissioner William Elliott turfed Raf Souccar as deputy commissioner overseeing federal policing and hand-picked Paulson to take his place.

Popular with frontline officers who see him as someone who respects and rewards hard work, Paulson is also considered to be someone who gets things done without getting mired in internal or external politics.

That quality was seen five years ago when Paulson, then a chief superintendent, investigated how former deputy commissioner Barbara George handled allegations about the RCMP's pension and insurance funds.

Paulson also has experience with the partisan atmosphere on Parliament Hill. He has testified before several parliamentary committees, including one in 2008 that was investigating then-foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier's careless handling of sensitive documents.

Those who know Paulson say he's self-confident and a somewhat gruff straight shooter who pulls no punches.

Sources say the government chose Paulson because he has a reputation for enhancing performance, shaking up units, doing more with less and motivating change.

Unlike other recent prime ministerial appointments that have drawn criticism for the chosen person's inability to speak French, Paulson is fully bilingual.

The process to select a new commissioner has been long and drawn out. Nine months have passed since Commissioner William Elliott announced his intention to step down and try something new.

As the first civilian to lead the force, Elliott was a controversial appointment from the outset. But it was his hot temper and confrontational management style that caused a group of senior Mounties to file complaints.

Initially, Elliott said he would move on by the summer. However the selection panel, which included former commissioner Bev Busson and retired senator and former Conservative solicitor general James Kelleher, did not start interviewing candidates until early October. Elliott begins a new job with Interpol at the United Nations on Monday.

Paulson will have his work cut out for him. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says one of the first things he plans to bring up with the new commissioner are concerns about how the Mounties handle sexual harassment complaints.

Paulson will also have to oversee a growing rift over the possible unionization of the force, deal with calls for a more transparent and accountable internal disciplinary system, continue work on recruiting more women, aboriginal people and visible minorities to the RCMP and work on improving the Mounties' public image, especially in British Columbia, where there have been a number of high-profile cases of officer misconduct.

Several observers also hope Paulson will continue what Elliott started in terms of applying public pressure on the government to set up a board of management or civilian oversight of the RCMP.


Alison Crawford is a senior reporter in CBC's parliamentary bureau, covering justice, public safety, the Supreme Court and Liberal Party of Canada.