First civilian to hold post e-mails fellow Mounties with plea for unity
William Elliott has taken over the RCMP with a plea to disgruntled Mounties for unity and a pledge to criss-cross the country to get a taste of front-line police work.
On his first official day as RCMP commissioner, Elliott, a 53-year-old lawyer and career bureaucrat, e-mailed all members of the force seeking support and trying to dampen concerns about his lack of policing background.
“Much has been made of what distinguishes me from my predecessors and from the other men and women who serve as regular members of the RCMP,” Elliott wrote.
“More important is what unites us: a commitment to protecting and serving Canadians.”
Elliott told the Mounties he’s keen to hear their concerns and promised to live up to “the highest standards and the proud history and traditions of the RCMP.”
“I recognize the importance of gaining a better understanding of the important work you do. I want to hear your concerns and answer your questions. I’ll have questions for you as well, and I look forward to our discussions,” he wrote.
Elliott added he plans to visit RCMP detachments and offices across Canada “as often as possible” — at least twice a month, beginning immediately.
Taking over from former commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli, he faces a big challenge in restoring lustre to a RCMP badge badly tarnished by internal scandal and public humiliation.
Following a morning swearing-in ceremony yesterday, he now has one of those badges in his pocket bearing regimental number O.2438.
With Mr. Justice Stephen Brown, a long-time friend and Ontario court judge presiding, Elliott was sworn in as the 22nd Commissioner of the
Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the first-ever civilian to head the force. Elliott’s wife, Carolyn, also attended the private ceremony.
His appointment earlier this month by Prime Minister Stephen Harper caused considerable upset among rank-and-file members who wanted a senior Mountie to fill the post.
But in a nod to his lack of policing experience, Elliott immediately named Deputy Commissioner Bill Sweeney to serve as his senior adviser in Ottawa on “operational matters.” Based in Edmonton, Sweeney had been rumoured as a contender for commissioner.
While officers remain “disappointed and upset” by the appointment of an outsider, Elliott’s promise to travel and meet RCMP officers as well his decision to bring Sweeney into his office got a welcome response from the front lines.
“We see that as a positive step,” said Staff Sgt. Ken Legge, of the national executive of the Staff Relations Representatives.