VPD Vet: Worth Considering

Photograph of RCMP Shabrack



Retired Vancouver PD member Bob Cooper regularly submits articles to the Police Prime Time Crime website.  He has given us permission to include this article on our website for the information of RCMP Veterans and supporters of the Force.

Bob provides another police perspective on the situations facing the Force.



This weeks’ e-mail exchange between RCMP Staff Sergeant Tim Chad and Commissioner Bob Paulson followed by a letter to the Commissioner from Constable Peter Kennedy brings to mind words like ‘unprecedented’ or ‘astonishing’.  No one who has served in or been associated with the RCMP as I have, could have imagined this.  Most RCMP friends I’ve spoken to, while acknowledging problems of bullying, harassment, and mistrust of management, wish it hadn’t become such a public spectacle because it’s the last thing the Force needs at the moment.  While I can’t argue that, I’d suggest that these issues tend to thrive in an atmosphere of secrecy.

The Commissioner is human and all of us have let our tempers get the better of us at one time or another but I think he may wish he’d counted to ten before hitting the Send key this time.  Had he made any attempt to engage S/Sgt. Chad, acknowledge his concerns, thank him for his forthrightness, or even for his long years of service, he could have turned this into a positive.  The Province published S/Sgt. Chad’s e-mail and Commissioner Paulson’s reply but unfortunately left out S/Sgt. Chad’s response to the reply in which he showed courtesy and respect where none had been offered and reads as follows:

Dear Commissioner,

Thank you for your reply   and your feed back. I disagree with your analysis but I do appreciate the   opportunity to have this dialogue with   you.



All of this made me think that if the RCMP had effective internal mechanisms to resolve these issues it might have kept this unfortunate episode from happening in the first place, let alone winding up on the front page.  The operative word here is ‘effective’ because they do have processes in place but if they are regarded as suspect by the rank and file they will not be work properly inevitably leading to these public expressions of frustration.

Throughout its history the RCMP has staunchly resisted any attempts at unionization and the very mention of it was regarded as subversive.  In the 1970s a group of Lower Mainland Mounties planned to meet in a Burnaby park to discuss unionization.  This got back to management and a guy I know who worked in the Burnaby General Investigation Section was ordered to go there and record licence numbers of all cars in the parking lot.  In 1980 I was working in the Coordinated Law Enforcement Unit when the VPD was awarded a significant pay increase.  I was a First Class Constable at the time but with the stroke of a pen I was making more than the RCMP Sergeant I worked for.  By the time we got back to the office it was on the news and the Sergeant, who was old-school RCMP, began ranting about us ‘communists’ and our labor unions and how there was a time they’d have been investigating us.

I was never a big union guy.  I went to the monthly meetings but like most young cops I was bored stiff by the guys on the Pension Committee talking about ¼% of this or 2% of that, and couldn’t wait to get back on the road because frankly, in those days the job was so much fun we’d have paid the city to let us come in and do it.  Looking back, I’m so thankful to successive Vancouver Police Union Executives for all of their hard work getting us the best wages, benefits, and pensions in the country.  All of us and our families are forever in their debt.

The benefit of a union most germane to this situation is that it protects members’ rights.  Most of my bosses were fabulous people but every now and then you got a bad one.  I preferred to fight my own battles and survived mostly because I had more friends than they did but the one time I did need the union they were there for me.  The current discontent in the RCMP occurs in every agency from time to time but the presence of a union levels the playing field and assures fair treatment which is why you don’t have near the number of city cops going to the press, suing the Department, or spending years on the Sick List.

I’m not saying it’s a panacea but given the fact that nothing else has worked terribly well I’d say it’s worth considering.  The RCMP should be open to any approach to solving its current problems because as all of us in the law enforcement community know, there are more on the way.

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