An RCMP PR coup
Canadas top Mountie gets lots of media
for a misleading message that avoids
some embarrassing questions
like why hes keeping a rapist on the payroll
March 22, 2010
RCMP Commissioner William Elliott rolled into Vancouver last week, granting an exclusive interview to the Vancouver Suns Kim Bolan. A day or two earlier he was in Edmonton, where he gave another exclusive interview. Given that both interviews conveyed a surprisingly positive message, its possible that Elliott and his handlers not only chose which media outlet he would talk to, but which reporter too.
At first, Bolan would seem an appropriate choice, even from the publics perspective. Shes probably B.C.s most prominent crime reporter. But a crime reporter doesnt necessarily have time to delve deeply into issues of police accountability. Thats where the RCMP face a crisis and thats most likely the reason for Elliotts interviews. Thats where Elliott most needs to manage the message.
If thats what he and his handlers were doing, it worked. To the uninitiated, Elliott probably sounded sincere when he spoke of a possible arrangement to improve accountability by putting B.C. Mounties under provincial oversight.
But that oversight would likely come from B.C.s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner. The OPCC is at least as bad as the RCMPs apologists, with the added problem that it gets almost no media scrutiny. Few reporters know about OPCC boss Stan Lowe, deputy police complaint commissioner Bruce M. Brown and OPCC analyst Rollie Woods their backgrounds, how they got hired and how they go about their work.
Granted, without corroboration no one can say for sure that the RCMP selected Elliotts interviewers, and that the RCMP did so to manipulate the news. But in both Edmonton and Vancouver, and possibly other locations too, he spoke with one reporter only. He could have granted a number of separate interviews or given a press conference to all media.
And while Bolan is a very experienced crime reporter, there are other Vancouver journalists, at the Sun and elsewhere, who probably know more about police accountability. Even more significantly, Bolan might be reluctant to press a sensitive issue. As someone who prides herself on having the Real Scoop (as she calls her blog), she probably relies on friendly relations with cops.
At any rate, Elliott certainly didnt talk to National Post Vancouver correspondent Brian Hutchinson. Elliott wasnt talking to him last December, either.
Thats when Elliott refused Hutchinsons repeated requests for an interview. Hutchinson had some tough questions.
Hutchinson wanted to know why Elliott wont fire police officers, why he claims that the RCMP Act prevents him from doing so, why he doesnt wrap up disciplinary proceedings that drag on for years, why he keeps Mounties on the payroll even after the most outrageous transgressions and why hes keeping a rapist on the payroll.
No matter, no worries Elliott is open to provincial oversight. All is good.
March 27, 2010 update: William Elliotts misleading Vancouver Sun interview has been reprinted in other media outlets including the National Post, the Nanaimo Daily News, the Kamloops Daily News and Kelowna.com. The interview also drew favourable attention in the North Shore News and might have been mentioned in Polish media as well. RCMP PR flacks have really pulled off a coup.