RCMP commissioner targets 'outrageous conduct'

The RCMP's new boss says dealing with harassment allegations within the force involves "changing behaviours," and commanding officers will have the power to suspend personnel accused of "outrageous conduct."

Female officer who raised harassment allegations praises Paulson's first steps

The RCMP's new boss says dealing with sexual harassment allegations within the force involves "changing behaviours."

Bob Paulson says senior leaders in the force have held a two-day meeting about recent allegations and set up a process to track how complaints are being handled.

Paulson, officially sworn in Thursday as the RCMP's 23rd commissioner, said there will be "no presumption of innocence" in disciplinary proceedings involving abuse.

He said commanding officers can suspend officers engaged in "outrageous conduct" immediately, taking their badges and guns away, before a formal disciplinary process is launched.

He also pledged to promote more female officers to the senior ranks of the RCMP.

The measures announced by Paulson drew praise from the female officer who raised the allegations of harassment within the RCMP publically in an interview with CBC News last month.

Catherine Galliford, a former B.C. RCMP spokesperson who is on leave from the force, said she backs Paulson's decision to suspend officers accused of serious misconduct.

"He is sending a message and trying to be very hardline, saying this is no longer appropriate within the RCMP," Galliford told CBC News Network in an interview Thursday.

Paulson's promise to get tough on male officers accused of harassment will ensure those men can't just get transferred to another detachment as in the past, Galliford said.

Galliford also lauded Paulson's vow to ensure more women are promoted to senior positions.

"Female police officers have so much to offer and they've been kind of minimalized," Galliford said.

Galliford said she trusts that Paulson knows he has to tackle the Mounties' "old boys' network."

"Do I think it is going to be very hard for him to make changes? Absolutely, because the RCMP is still very archaic and people within the RCMP are very entrenched in their culture, the way they've been trained, they way they've learned how to do things," Galliford told CBC News Network. "But I think Comissioner Paulson is on the right track."

A ceremony in Ottawa Thursday morning formally marked the change of command to Paulson from William Elliott, the national police force's first civilian commissioner.

Elliott retired last summer and has taken a job at Interpol.

The government selected Paulson from inside the force — he has been with the RCMP since 1986.

Early career in the military

He got his start in the military, first as a young army cadet, and served in the Armed Forces for seven years, flying single-engine jets.

But he had also applied to the RCMP.

"It was always something that interested me, so I came back to it when I had the opportunity," Paulson told The Canadian Press.

Beginning in 1986, Paulson served for 19 years throughout British Columbia, working on unsolved murders, aboriginal and community policing, and organized crime probes.

"When I joined this force, it fit like a glove. And I've been in love with it ever since.

"I like to consider myself a good investigator. I loved that. Because it was tangible, it was clear. And you could interact with people and get evidence."

He came to Ottawa headquarters in 2005, climbing the executive ladder through a series of posts, most recently deputy commissioner for federal policing.

As he takes over, the RCMP faces a number of challenges.

Paulson wants to assure Canadians that he is conscious of the power the national police force wields.

"The path to trust and public confidence in police is squarely on that little line. How we do what we do is vitally important. And so I just want people to know that I get that."

With files from The Canadian Press