Why the Mounties can't get their men
National Post Editorial
Monday, June 27, 2005
The RCMP complained this week that it had too few qualified recruits last year to replace the number of officers who retired. Applications were off by 28% and only 232 new officers joined, rather than the 300 hoped for.
The force attributes the dearth of prospective recruits to competition: There are too many other attractive career choices for young men and women. Its solution? Buy a brightly coloured van and cruise Ontario and Quebec campuses looking for warm bodies; maybe conduct some focus groups to see why young people aren't attracted to RCMP careers.
We can save them the trouble (and taxpayers the expense).
If too few well-qualified applicants are seeking admission to the RCMP's academy in Regina, it is likely because the Mounties have done all they could in the last decade to scare off young white males.
While brass deny it, for a time in the mid-1990s the RCMP had a “no white males” policy. Some recruiters admitted to applicants that the force had a five-year backlog of Caucasian men and wouldn't consider any more until it had reached its gender and racial hiring goals. Just to get an interview, white males needed a score of 115 on the police aptitude test, women needed a 96 and visible minority candidates an 86.
Such quotas are said to permeate promotions, too. For instance, although the RCMP has a comparatively small number of officers in Quebec, bilingualism is a key to selection for command, which has left many serving male, anglophone members embittered — understandably so.
In 1999, too, the RCMP eliminated recruits' pay while they are training in Regina. Now, during the 24-week academy, recruits typically have to come up with $4,600 of their own for expenses. Room and board is provided, but nothing else. (And even that is treated as a taxable benefit by the Canada Revenue Agency.)
In addition, there is the obvious politicization of the Mounted Police. It is no longer perceived by many as an independent force. Rather, it is now seen as a branch of the Solicitor-General's office like any other. The commissioner has the standing of an associate deputy minister. This has enabled Cabinet to ally the RCMP too closely to unpopular programs such as the firearms registry.
Enforcement of Ottawa's gun controls has made the force less popular in places where it was once revered, such as Atlantic Canada and the rural West.
The Mounties also received $3-million in Adscam money, and is widely seen as ineffectual at investigating corruption scandals. The perception is growing that the once proud police organization — often called the best in the world — is in the process of becoming a tool of politicians and social engineers.
If RCMP recruiters want more young officers, they might first look to a gender- and colour-blind application process. The force still receives nearly 9,000 applications a year. Surely there are an additional 68 good prospects in that pool — even if they are all white males.
The Mounties' lustre can also be restored by ensuring the service is fully independent of political interference. The commissioner should become an officer of Parliament rather than a bureaucratic appointee. His or her selection should be made by an all-party committee, rather than by Cabinet.
Before senior Mounties authorize their recruiters to commence their psychedelic bus tour of Central Canada in the search for new trainees, they might want to consider addressing the real causes for the recruitment drop.
National Post 2005
Letter to the editor
The wrong way to tackle discrimination
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Re: Why The Mounties Can't Get Their Men, June 27.
For years, our son applied to join the RCMP. He always scored high on his aptitude tests, yet was turned down time and time again because he is a single Caucasian male. He was told this to his face.
Affirmative action, all too often, leaves disappointment in its wake, not unlike the disappointment that it was supposed to redress. Reverse racism and sexism, and the compromising of a once-incomparable law enforcement agency, will prove to be the RCMP's undoing.
Judy Fowler, Surrey, B.C.