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Monday, June 29, 2009

RCMP Corruption

I was given permission to post this letter here. The "original" is posted on the Canadian Civil Rights Movement website.

June 25, 2009

Dear Mr. Riddle,

In my letter to Zofia Cisowski, I promised her that I would continue to shine a critical light on those that I believe are ultimately responsible for her son’s death. Moreover, I closed my letter by stating that I thought someone needed to stand up and assert that “the emperor wears no clothes”. It is in that spirit and in light of recent events that I pick up my pen once more.

As you are well aware on June 19, 2009, a federal lawyer (representing the RCMP) produced an e-mail that suggests the four RCMP members committed perjury while senior executives stood by and said nothing. This revelation has placed in the spotlight a group of RCMP executives (that reach across the country) who seem to believe that they can not only make the rules but break them. Tragically, Robert Dziekanski’s role in this national tragedy has been to expose the corruption that exists in the upper echelon of the RCMP.

There are very few corrupt police organizations, however most of them have members who commit corrupt acts from time to time. This may sound shocking to the average person who until recently likely never thought much about the internal workings of law enforcement agencies. The term “police corruption” has been used to describe many activities including: bribery; violence and brutality; racism, favouritism or nepotism; and the fabrication and destruction of evidence. Any definition of police corruption must address both “financial” and “process” corruption. When we hear of police corruption most of us think of a policeman perhaps receiving a “kickback” (for referral services) or being part of a “shakedown” (receiving a bribe for not following through on a criminal act). These are examples of financial corruption. We don’t often think of “the fix” (the undermining of a criminal investigation or some other proceeding) as being an example of police corruption; however, it is and RCMP executives appear to be guilty of it.

It is generally accepted that police corruption necessarily involves an abuse of position or authority. What is really corrupted then is the “special trust” that is invested in the occupation. Am I surprised that, it appears as if, the RCMP executive attempted to interfere with the outcome of a public process? No I am not, as they do it to their own on a frequent basis.

It is a fact that approximately half of the RCMP’s frontline employees do not trust their employer. They are afraid for their safety and well being. Where do you suppose this mistrust originates? The RCMP executive routinely breaks the “special trust” it should have with its’ own employees.

After more than 30 years working as a clinician for the RCMP I could relate dozens of horror stories illustrating management’s corrupt treatment of its’ own employees. I won’t though, as I must honour the confidentiality of my patients. However, you can get a taste of what I’m talking about by re-visiting the Gatehouse and Gillis article in the November 14, 2007 MacLeans magazine. In each of the cases cited, by the authors, there is either evidence of, or strong suggestion of, corrupt activity on the part of RCMP management including; racism; favouritism or nepotism; harassment; misuse of resources; unwarranted or frivolous investigations; interference; and, the fabrication or destruction of evidence. Am I surprised that four RCMP members may have perjured themselves with executive approval? Not at all.

How could this apparent descent into corruption possibly occur within such a once revered institution? One explanation is often termed “The Dirty Harry Problem” (or just cause corruption). At the heart of this problem is the question of whether “a morally good end” ever justifies the use of ethically, politically, or legally dangerous means to its’ achievement. Once inside the RCMP it doesn’t take long before one learns that in the culture of the RCMP nothing is more important than the image of the organization. Culpable (corrupt) behaviour actually becomes honourable when carried out under a moral justification to preserve the image of the Force.

The answer to the above posed “ends-means” question is that “dirty means” must always be regarded and punished as dirty – even though their use can be justified under the extreme circumstance of saving the reputation of a Canadian icon. We must always be cognizant of the “slippery slope”. This phenomenon has two facets: the logical and the psychological. The logical version suggests that although the gap between major and minor transgressions may be significant, there are many other transgressions in the gap which makes the setting of some logical boundary impossible. Have they gone as far as interfering in criminal investigations?

The psychological facet points to the process of self labeling that occurs as an individual (or organization) moves from minor to major forms of corruption. There is a continuum of steps, at each of which a moral decision is required. Each step involves a gradual redefining of self as someone who can execute ever more serious forms of corruption. The journey is long but the steps are small between minor and major transgressions – so small it becomes progressively easier to justify the next one based upon the acceptance of the last one. So what transgressions will we find along the RCMP’s apparent journey into corruption?

I am sending this letter to you for a couple of reasons. First, because someone needs to use the word….corruption. We seem to be hesitant to use it in relation to our once beloved national police service. In this regard, don’t forget there are very few entirely corrupt police organizations, but we should not be surprised that there may be corrupt elements with the RCMP.

Secondly, the surfacing of this e-mail should serve to both catalyze and galvanize the Canadian public. If what we now suspect is true, this will constitute an oppression of our civil liberty; it is the public’s right to know. We must get behind a complete re-invention of the RCMP or it will only get sicker and sicker. The causes of police corruption include: factors that are intrinsic to the job; the nature of police organizations; the nature of “police culture”; the opportunities that exist for corruption inherent in the “political” and “task” environments; and the nature and extent of the effort put into controlling corruption.

Some may be discouraged by the challenge and say “but we have no forum” for such a transformational change. I would say the people of Iran have no forum to address the corrupt activities of their government either – but look at them.


Dr. Mike Webster
Police Psychologist

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