Black eyes all around

As if it didn't have enough troubles, now there's a coup shaping up in the RCMP. And, when the dust settles, nobody is going to look good.

As if it didn’t have enough troubles, now there’s a coup shaping up in the RCMP.

And, when the dust settles, nobody is going to look good.

Seven senior officers are challenging the leadership of William (Billy) Elliott, the civilian chief of the nation’s police force.

At least seven senior officers have complained to the Conservative government that Elliott, who was appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2007, is “verbally abusive,”“closed minded, arrogant and insulting,” according to national reports on CBC Radio One and in the Globe and Mail.

Many consider the strife unprecedented, and it comes on the heels of several national scandals involving the force.

Of course, there’s much about Elliott that is unprecedented.

Elliott is the first civilian to become commissioner of the 90-year-old force.

That can’t be an easy job in an organization as tightknit and hidebound as the RCMP.

And Elliott was put there to revamp the force – again, an unprecedented approach.

Imagine, for a minute, we’re talking about a guy who has never worn a uniform, issuing orders to those who do in an attempt to change the culture of what is, essentially, a paramilitary force.

Is it any wonder that several senior officers, some close to retirement, are in open revolt?

Is it surprising that Elliott is pigheaded and arrogant - you’d have to be as a civilian trying to survive in an environment such as the RCMP?

And is it surprising that Elliott has been pitching fits and calling senior officers to task given the performance of the organization in the last couple of years?

The officers aren’t happy to have been dressed down. So they’re openly complaining to the politicians. At least that’s how it looks from the sidelines.

Normally, RCMP respect rank and title. But in this case, Elliott was parachuted into the organization from outside – he holds the title, but it was awarded without having been earned.

He lacks the trust and the respect of his team. He’s damaged goods.

Hired to change things, it’s highly unlikely he’ll be able to finish the mission. He’ll either be forced out, or will quietly quit without having achieved his retooling of the force.

The RCMP is also damaged goods. Following several well-publicized scandals, it has seemed contemptuous of all attempts to be held to account.

Now its senior officers have undermined the civilian appointed to change the culture.

It’s hard to know who’s right. Maybe Elliott was an unreasonable hothead with no clue about police work who threatened to undermine policing in the country.

Maybe the force just despises being bridled by civilians.

At this point, it doesn’t really matter.

Nobody will emerge from this coup looking good.

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