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Bureaucrats in Uniform: The Politicization and Decline of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Type: Research Studies
Date Published: April 12, 2006
Research Topics:
Governance, Crime & Drug Policy
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police advertises itself as Canada's national police service, an organization of excellence, and a world leader in integrated policing. By and large, general surveys of public opinion indicate that the RCMP is widely respected by Canadians. In contrast, there have been several studies, as well as occasional public complaints, showing that the RCMP is in crisis and is drastically underfunded. Accounts vary as to the nature of that crisis, the extent to which the organization is underfunded, and the reason that it is underfunded.

Among the most serious reasons advanced for the current problems in the Force is that it has become politicized in the sense that it responds directly to political instructions. This is especially serious because the RCMP is above all a "guardian" institution, like the Canadian Forces and the courts of law. Once the police take political direction, the rule of law is subverted. And the rule of law, it hardly needs be mentioned, is a pillar, perhaps the very foundation, of constitutional democracy.

In this Fraser Institute Digital Publication, we examine the evidence provided by judicial inquiries and reports and by other scholarly and journalistic investigations of the RCMP. The sources include testimony before the Gomery Commission, the first Report of the Gomery Commission, several reports of the Auditor General, the Report of the Hughes Commission, and several other analyses of the federal police. Whatever the impact of underfunding, it seems clear that politicization is a greater problem, not only for reasons noted above but because it has meant a decline in the core competencies of the Force, namely the enforcement of federal laws. That is, the RCMP as an institution appears to be less capable today than it was in the past as well as less capable than it proclaims itself to be. It is this last problem, the disconnect between image and reality that is at the heart of the federal police.

Political and administrative institutions can fail but they can also be restored. The first step in restoration, however, is acknowledging that there is a problem and what the problem is. Most of this publication provides documentation of the problem. We conclude by indicating several administrative steps that can be taken to restore the RCMP to its proper purpose. One way or another, however, it is our contention that de-politicization is the key to halting the decline of the RCMP.
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