RCMP’s ‘bias-free’ training and policies fall short, watchdog says

The RCMP has introduced training and policies to rid its ranks of racism and other forms of bias — but until it starts tracking allegations it won’t know whether the plan is actually working, says a new report from the national police force’s civilian watchdog.

The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) conducted a review of what the RCMP calls its “bias-free policing model,” a training model meant to ensure equitable delivery of services.

“The RCMP’s national bias-free policing policy is inadequate, insufficient and unclear,” reads the report released Wednesday.

“When police actions are viewed as unfair or biased, the legitimacy of law enforcement suffers.”

RCMP policy states that employees are not to engage in racial profiling. That’s a “laudable” goal but it’s “too narrow,” the CRCC said.

“Profiling based on religion, ethnic origin, or other prohibited grounds is equally as harmful and to be avoided,” the CRCC wrote. “This should be clearly stated.”

The RCMP says it allows officers to rely on “relevant information” as part of a criminal investigation. That phrase should be explained and expanded on in RCMP policy to rule out bias, the CRCC wrote.

The RCMP’s public complaint system and its internal code of conduct both lack a category to cover allegations of bias. Allegations of discrimination, for example, could be lumped together under categories covering “act[ing] with integrity, fairness and impartially” or “discreditable conduct.”

The commission said that without proper accounting, it’s unable to determine if any Mounties face allegations of bias.

“The lack of systematic tracking challenges the RCMP’s ability to fully understand the depth and breadth of the issue,” said the report.

In recent years, the RCMP has been forced to confront allegations of systemic racism within the institution. 

The CRCC made 13 recommendations in all. Among other things, it’s calling on the RCMP to change the language in the policy and offer bias-free policing training on a recurring basis.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said she agreed with all of the CRCC’s findings and plans to implement all of its recommendations.

“The RCMP is dedicated to addressing systemic discrimination, biased policing and inequities on all fronts,” she wrote in her response to the watchdog’s report.

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