VANCOUVER — Public confidence in the RCMP’s leadership dropped “significantly” across the country during the past five years, according to a new Ipsos Reid poll. And British Columbians have the most negative view of the force in Canada.
A solid majority (74 per cent) of Canadians believe RCMP officers treat the public fairly and equitably, but they hold a dimmer view of how the force treats its own employees. Only 63 per cent of Canadians said they believe staff are treated fairly and equitably, according to the poll conducted for Postmedia News and Global Television.
The poll comes less than two weeks after an Angus Reid survey showed more than half of Metro Vancouver residents support a single police force to oversee the entire Lower Mainland.
Missing Women Inquiry Commissioner Wally Oppal made that recommendation, along with 62 others, last month after stating the investigation into the women’s disappearances was riddled with “blatant police failures and public indifference.” The missing women’s investigation was conducted by both RCMP and the Vancouver police department.
As in a similar poll conducted in March 2012, British Columbians thought less of the Mounties than Canadians in any other province. Excluding Ontario and Quebec, which have their own provincial police forces, residents of Manitoba and Saskatchewan had the most favourable views of the RCMP, followed by Albertans and Atlantic Canadians.
B.C. Mounties have experienced a string of highly publicized problems in recent years, ranging from civilian deaths to allegations of endemic sexual harassment.
Darryl Plecas, a criminologist at the University of the Fraser Valley, said the RCMP is still trying to change the work culture of a force with “so many bullies.”
“There seems to be this incestuous relationship in different places in the RCMP. You look at certain units and they’re filled with people who have been friends forever,” said Plecas. “People have recognized this; you dare not cross them, otherwise they’re going to come after you.”
Plecas said B.C., with several large detachments, has more RCMP officers than anywhere else in the country, which means a larger sample size and therefore more “bullies.”
According to the poll results, only 46 per cent of Canadians said they believe senior leadership of the force is doing either a “good” or “great” job. That’s down from 61 per cent when a similar poll was done in 2007.
The survey of 1,021 Canadians was conducted between Dec. 7 and 12. The poll is considered accurate to within 3.5 percentage points.
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