VPD Vet: Real Policemen

RCMP Under Close Examination






Bob Cooper (retired VPD member) regularly contributes articles to the Prime Time Crime column and frequently provides a perspective of the RCMP.

He has given us permission to publish his article entitled “Real Policemen.”  This article appeared in the Prime Time Crime column on May 30, 2011 and the details of the article are as follows:

The treatment of members of the Vancouver Police Ceremonial Marching Unit by 2 senior NCOs in the RCMP prior to the final hockey game between the Vancouver Canucks and the San Jose Sharks went through the VPD like a prairie fire.   For readers outside law enforcement, up to this point at each of the Vancouver games an Honour Guard of RCMP members in red serge were on the ice at the opening ceremonies.  When members of the VPD CMU showed up in their dress uniforms to take part in the ceremony, the two RCMP NCOs objected to their presence and protested to the Canucks, Rogers Place security and anyone else who would listen and threatened to pull out of the ceremony if the VPD members were included. 

I’m told that this took the form of a temper tantrum which included offensive references to the VPD as well as some very bad language in the presence of civilians.  Certainly a performance far beneath what’s expected of an NCO. To say that it created some bad feelings would be a bit of an understatement and not surprisingly it made the news because you can’t keep a genie like that in the bottle. 

If only a quarter of the details I’ve been privy to are true, the news story was quite restrained but what it brought to the surface is an attitude of superiority by some members of the RCMP.  While I emphasize the word ‘some’, ‘the attitude’ has long been an irritant in the relationship between the RCMP and city police departments.

My message here is directed mainly at younger members, both city and RCMP.  I worked almost a third of my career in Joint Forces squads and while most of it was very positive, I’ve been subjected to ‘the attitude’ from time to time.  It was a lot more subtle than what happened at Rogers Place, but here are some things to keep in mind.

Firstly, this involved a couple of bosses who should have been showing leadership and diplomacy and setting an example.  While their behaviour disgraced themselves and the RCMP, this sort of thing reflects badly on all of us.

Secondly, every department has a few people like this and if you haven’t met them yet, you will.  They’re usually ‘carpet cops’ and in most cases they’re as popular within their own agency as they are among others.

Thirdly, Canada isn’t the only place this goes on.  Over the years I’ve had excellent relationships with the FBI but my advice to anyone working a case with a local agency in the U.S., particularly South of the Mason-Dixon line, is that if you have friends in the Bureau you might want to keep it to yourself.   Since Hoover’s day they were taught to believe that that they were God’s gift to law enforcement and local and state agencies were to be exploited but never trusted.  One of the lessons of 911 was that the FBI needed to do some serious fence-mending and that wouldn’t occur until ‘the attitude’ changed.

Most importantly, take other cops as you find them and don’t judge an entire group by the actions of a few.  Doing so simply lowers you to their level. 

The other night I got together with a bunch of old friends at the RCMP Mess and I was the only ‘muni’ there.  They were mostly Street Crew veterans and undercover operators that I’d gotten to know in the 70s and 80s.  Over the years I learned a lot from them and I also came to know quite a bit about each one of them and what they’ve done in their careers. 

You wouldn’t know it but these were the type of guys they write books about.  The sacrifices they made and the danger they put themselves in on job after job would take your breath away and if ever there was a group entitled to feel ‘superior’ it was them but they never did. 

The key is that what I knew about them came mostly from others because they were humble men who, like all genuine heroes, would tell you what the guy sitting next to them had done but seldom talked about themselves.  They were ‘real’ policemen who never cared what badge you had in your pocket as long as you could hold up your end of the log.

To me, those guys are the RCMP and I’ll always feel privileged to be in their company.

Photograph of RCMP Members heading downtown Vancouver to support the Vancouver Police in a riot

Photograph of RCMP Members heading downtown Vancouver to assist the Vancouver Police in a riot (Source – Ric Hall)