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RCMP dealing with management 'issues': memo

RCMP Commissioner William Elliott gestures during an interview in his office in Ottawa in Senior RCMP officers, including Commissioner William Elliott, say they are working through their issues, following complaints about Elliott's management style, according to an internal memo. November 2009. (Pawel Dwulit/Canadian Press)

CBC News : July 28, 2010 : Senior RCMP officers, including Commissioner William Elliott, say they are working through their issues, following complaints about Elliott's management style, according to an internal memo.

The memo, obtained by CBC News, is signed by Elliott and other top RCMP officers, including deputy commissioners Tim Killam and Raf Souccar. Killam and Souccar were among those who complained to the public safety minister and to the Prime Minister's Office about Elliott's conduct.

The memo, sent to the force, states that the senior brass is "working through the issues underlying the complaints."

In it, Elliott and the others say they welcome the workplace assessment of the force that Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has ordered to be done by an independent adviser and that they will co-operate "fully and with candor."

"We are part of the RCMP family. As with any family, there are occasions where we have difficulties," the memo says.

CBC News first reported this week that some officers have accused Elliott of being verbally abusive, closed-minded, arrogant and insulting. One complaint described an enraged Elliott throwing papers at an officer.

The Opposition Liberals weighed in on the issue on Wednesday, saying Prime Minister Stephen Harper triggered the current "chaos" by naming a civilian to head the force.

Liberal MP Scott Brison said the prime minister is "in hiding" at a critical time when leadership is needed to fix the force.

"Mr. Harper appointed a civilian to head up the RCMP and should be accountable for the chaos caused by that appointment," Brison told reporters in Ottawa on Wednesday.

"It ought to have been obvious to the Harper government that appointing a civilian to head up the RCMP was a recipe for disaster."

Toews seeks 'quick resolution'

Toews called all the people involved "very competent individuals" and noted the force has been going through "some pretty dramatic changes."

The RCMP has faced strong criticism following the damning conclusions from separate public inquiries into the death of Robert Dziekanski and the 1985 Air India bombing.

"I know both the commissioner and I know the others involved who have brought forward the complaints," Toews said. "I respect all of them, and I think what I want to see is a quick resolution of this issue in a mature manner."

But Brison said Toews must have been aware there was a problem among the ranks of the Mounties but didn't act until the complaints became public.

Elliott a 'man of extremes': former deputy

Former senior deputy RCMP commissioner Bill Sweeney defended the officers who spoke out, saying many felt the commissioner's behaviour was "inconsistent" with the courteous, respectful conduct front-line officers are expected to maintain.

Sweeney said members of the force were criticized in 2006 for not speaking out after reports emerged about former commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli's management style.

"Today we find a cadre of senior officers who are acting, I believe, with the most honourable intentions, saying, 'We're in a situation that we find intolerable and we feel compelled to raise it and to deal with this head on and not to ignore it and quietly go about our business,'" the recently retired Sweeney told the CBC's Alison Crawford in an interview on Wednesday.

While he called Elliott a "strong advocate" for many issues facing the force, Sweeney also spoke of the commissioner's "rather unique" management style and refused to comment on their working relationship.

"He's a man of extremes," Sweeney said of Elliott. "He's extremely dedicated. He's extremely intelligent and committed to the task at hand, but sometimes he pays less attention to the conduct that others find offensive and have complained about."

Last year, Elliott attended a $44,000 course in Arizona that dealt with behavioural barriers to success.

He subsequently acknowledged to employees in a memo that he learned his actions "can and did have unintended, sometimes negative impacts."

Elliott, the first civilian to lead the Mounties, was appointed by the prime minister in July 2007 after Zaccardelli resigned over his conflicting testimony at the Maher Arar inquiry.

At the time, then-Liberal public safety critic Sue Barnes decried the appointment, labelling Elliott a "Conservative political insider" who was "intimately involved" with Zaccardelli's testimony.

But Elliott, who previously served as national security adviser to Prime Minister Paul Martin, also received high praise from a former Liberal cabinet minister, David Collenette.

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