April 01, 2016 - 10:30 AM
VANCOUVER - The nature of law enforcement makes it ripe for unprofessional behaviour, Canada's top Mountie says.
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson told members of the Vancouver Board of Trade on Thursday that harassment and bullying in the workplace is unacceptable.
But he says some of the qualities of working in law enforcement are partly to blame for unprofessional conduct among police officers and management.
"Let's face it, in law enforcement, because of the stress, because of the nature of the work, because of the hours, because of the collegial sort of nature of it, it's a ripe area for behaviours that are less than professional," Paulson said.
The RCMP have been plagued in recent years by allegations of bullying, intimidation and sexual harassment within its ranks.
A news report that surfaced earlier this year of unwanted sexual touching and wanton nudity at the Canadian Police College in Ottawa is the most recent complaint.
"It’s no secret across this country that the RCMP (have) been challenged very publicly in the past years around some of the cultural characteristics of the organization," said Paulson.
The national police force is making progress, he said, highlighting a new harassment-management policy that has streamlined the process for addressing conflict.
The new law gives supervisors more power to deal with disputes promptly but has raised concerns among critics that changes have opened the door to abuses.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale expressed dismay after allegations were made of sexual harassment at the training centre and he demanded a plan to end "toxic workplace behaviour."
Paulson said things had been going well until the police college allegations and changes to the force's policies have been dealing well with the situation.
"As outrageous and as shocking as (those behaviours) were, the new system that we developed had a mechanism to go back and check to see if that was right, and that was in the process of being deployed."
The RCMP is also facing two lawsuits that are pending class-action approval in which current and former female members of the police force and civilian employees allege decades of harassment, bullying and gender discrimination.
One of the cases has brought on more than 350 women.
There are about 30,000 people employed by the RCMP.
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News from © The Canadian Press, 2016