RCMP: Difficult Entry, Difficult Exits

I’ve been educating students, many of whom aspire to join the RCMP, for the past 23 years. I’m often updated by former students about their rigorous application procedure, and why young women and men have been denied entry into the Mounties.

It turns out that if your spouse has been convicted of a summary conviction offence which did not involve moral turpitude, or if you smoked cannabis at a party when you were 15, or shoplifted a sweater at 16, or have had 6 penalty points on your driver’s license, then you’re not of the moral calibre expected of our national police force which, as journalist Alan Fotheringham pointed has out, is neither Royal nor Mounted.

In speaking to our criminology students, police representatives have boasted that of every 100 applicants, only three are chosen to begin the recruitment cycle of interviewing, background checks, physical fitness assessments, and a polygraph. Regrettably, that screening process does not filter out people like Staff Sergeant Don Ray who violated the RCMP oath at least seven times while he was responsible for the polygraph unit at Edmonton Divisional Headquarters.

Ray is not the most egregious case in recent years. The blue ribbon for police misconduct is claimed by Constable Benjamin “Monty” Robinson, the misfit-in-a-uniform who lead the fatal clusterfuck against an unarmed Polish immigrant who was causing a harmless commotion at the Vancouver Airport  in October, 2007.

The continuing sad story is that Robinson subsequently killed a motorcyclist while off duty in 2008, bolted from the scene of the crash (but left his driver’s license to avoid a conviction for “fleeing the scene of an accident”) and went home to drink enough vodka to “explain” his high blood alcohol content to investigators.

After three years of proceedings while Robinson was off-duty and collected full pay, he was convicted of obstruction of justice. This criminal record now leaves Robinson eligible to be fired from the RCMP.

Not only has the reputation of the RCMP been sullied by obviously poor recruitment methods, but they have little ability to get rid of men who have no qualms about using their peace officer status for selfish, immoral or illegal ends. The public is fed up, and recent opinion polls show it. Further yet, we now see websites like RCMP Watch: Who is Keeping Them Accountable? Good question.

When I started this job, young men (and occasionally women) came to me and said things like, “I’m thinking of applying to the RCMP… what do you think?”

My reply to them covered yes it’s a noble profession, there’s varied and interesting work in policing, make sure you complete your baccalaureate otherwise you’ll be writing speeding tickets for the rest of your life in Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan; don’t forget it’s a paramilitary organization and are you cut out for that?

Today I have reservations about recommending the RCMP as a career destination for young people, at least until the force purges its misogynistic culture, focuses their training on service delivery and not so much on “hard policing” (because the former is that’s what their job mostly entails), and rewards occupational behaviour which supports “healthy communities”, rather than its romanticized negative, “crime prevention through enforcement”.

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