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Extra to "In The Mind of A Mountie" by T.M. 'Scotty' Gardiner
An Effective Police Presence
An effective police presence is an essential ingredient of any civilized society. That effectiveness will only be achieved when police members, by their everyday enforcement performance, warrant and justify society's respect and support. The crucial point is that every member of a police organization be of unblemished character. They must adhere to a rigidly strict code of discipline and personal integrity. Engagement criteria should stipulate that any transgression or proven unsuitability for police service has severe consequences with immediate dismissal where a serious breach of discipline or a criminal conviction occurs.
Being now a retired member for 27 years, I am without knowledge of the current Orders, Policies and Procedures that govern the R.C.M.P. today. Through media reports and from discussions with fellow retirees and some serving members, I am aware of criticisms, sometimes with indisputable facts, leveled at lower, mid-level and senior ranks. This has tarnished, indeed it has undermined public respect for the Force: it has seriously weakened essential public support. From this I have formed three basic observations.
The first observation is that the public, and here I can only speak in general terms, truly values the traditions, the service, the heroism, the sacrifices and the honour of its national Police Force. There is pride with a strong and sincere desire to perpetuate the support given to the Force, the North West Mounted Police, the Royal North West Mounted Police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police over the last 136 years. My belief is that respect and support can be regained -- but only if change takes place as my second observation explains.
My second observation is that it is essential the actions of each police person be above reproach. Clearly the actions of the vast majority, a very high percentage of personnel meet that standard now -- examples of excellent work are frequently reported. The need is to focus directly upon those who not only do not meet that high standard but in fact voluntarily choose to engage in the same activities they have sworn to oppose and prevent. To regain public acceptance there must be a return to the former, rigid, strict code of integrity and discipline: the code must allow all transgressors (their number is clearly very small) to face severe consequences including where facts warrant or a criminal conviction occurs, immediate dismissal from the Force. Training in all measures of technology are important -- but none more so than emphasizing the need for personal integrity and self-discipline. By its historical existence the Force represents discipline; the public has a right to expect and demand discipline from police members, and those members who steadfastly adhere to a strict code of personal integrity have a right to demand that same level from all colleagues, regardless of rank. If that strict code of discipline existed and was shown to be effective as it formerly did, I believe suggestions for out-of-Force reviews would diminish or disappear.
The third and final observation is that if and where a serious breach of discipline occurs, news releases be given by an officer of Commissioned rank. This involves a point of perception about leadership: leaders are expected to lead, leaders holding responsibility are expected to accept recognition for successful work achieved under their command, and when things go wrong those same leaders hold responsibility to give the explanations that must be given. It is my opinion this is one responsibility that should not be delegated.
Now going beyond the Force. In recognition of the varied situations and dangers faced by police personnel, personnel from all Police Forces not only the RCMP, the rapidity of movement and communication, society's changing values, the opportunity for concealment of criminal activity, the rights and freedoms enshrined to every citizen -- the criminally-inclined included -- society must cloak the police with the tools necessary to do their work. That must recognize the value of crime prevention and the over-riding public good, which with all other measures, would allow for the immediate seizure of evidence as, when and where encountered. The professional scrutiny of police work by Court and Judicial Systems is society's additional safeguard.
Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850) codified his envisioned Nine Principles of Policing. Those principles are as applicable today as the day they were written. A selected quote from Principle No.7 is: "the police are the public and the public are the police." For society's health and benefit that truth should be acknowledged by all.
Copyright 2010, T.M. Gardiner
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