Dzeikanski gores the elephant in the room

By Wallace G. Craig
North Shore News
May 13, 2009

There is an elephant in the cabinet room of the provincial government. .The Queen’s premier and ministers cannot control the elephant, and they are afraid to  ask him to leave. The elephant is E Division of the RCMP, our leased provincial police force. It started in 1950, a scrawny and inexperienced little pachyderm weighing in at only 525 members. Today it is a thick-skinned old bull of nearly 6000 members – one third of the RCMP – awaiting renewal of its contract. Over the next two years the old elephant division will use its version of conventional wisdom: that leased federal policing is superior to municipal policing; that Mounties are reliable and cost less; and that the majority of mayors and municipal councillors are well-satisfied with their red-serge detachments. They will wrap themselves in the maxim: If it isn’t broken, then don’t fix it.264 Conventional wisdom was coined by economist John Kenneth Galbraith in his 1958 book The Affluent Society. Galbraith said “We associate truth with  convenience … with what most closely accords with self-interest … or promises best to avoid awkward effort or unwelcome dislocation of life.”In Freakonomics – A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, published in 2005, authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner concluded that Galbraith’s maxim meant that although conventional wisdom is simple, convenient and comforting – it may not necessarily be true and ought to be questioned. Folks, the truth is that the RCMP is not only broken, it stands humiliated under the notional control of Commissioner William Elliott, a lawyer/bureaucrat. In a most bizarre arrangement Elliott must fix the RCMP, including E Division, using the existing management/command structure that was identified as an ongoing failure by the federally appointed Task Force on Governance and Cultural Change in the RCMP in its Dec.14, 2007 report.

You can bet your boots that by now Elliott is a figurative captive of the most senior officers – a la the Stockholm Syndrome – and is feeling a sense of trust and affection for them. Initiation into their inner sanctum might have occurred when Elliott submitted to a publicity stunt in which he was tasered on his back with no ill effects. Here’s a few tidbits from the Task Force’s report under “Immediate attention” that will show you some of the challenges standing in Elliott’s way. ? “The RCMP’s operating model is not sustainable … increasingly unable to satisfy its obligations …? “The force meets its commitment only because its members are prepared to work too long and too hard to compensate for the lack of resources. ? “Workplace issues (caused by) management. ? “Heard repeatedly that the RCMP does not have the capacity to satisfy its obligations.” ? “Recommendation # 6, Commitment to New Services: …Should not commit without assurance that officers are available. …”   And looming beyond these tribulations is the elephant in the cabinet room: E Division; awaiting orders to shuffle on for another 20 years in British Columbia.  But the red serge blanket that once draped over the old bull is so badly torn by the Dziekanski affair that it cannot be mended. By conducting its own investigation into the death of Robert Dziekanski, the RCMP  has revealed that it is without conscience and remorse. Delay and deny tactics before the Braidwood Inquiry deepen public mistrust. Elliott is burdened with a step by step, frame by frame filming of circumstances that warrant a charge of  manslaughter. However, the brutal ending of the life of an innocent man is a shocking matter; and the least Elliott must do is to appear before the Braidwood Inquiry and state that the RCMP accepts full responsibility. It will be Elliott’s Waterloo if he fails to grasp the magnitude of the Dziekanski affair, already a historical watershed event that has permanently disgraced E Division and the RCMP.