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Corruption 'can fester' in Mountie ranks unless addressed, says RCMP study

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The RCMP headquarters building is pictured in Ottawa, October, 5 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

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The RCMP headquarters building is pictured in Ottawa, October, 5 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

OTTAWA - An internal RCMP study found 322 incidents of corruption within the national police force over an 11-year period — including a dozen examples involving organized crime.

Improperly giving out police information was the most common type of corrupt behaviour, followed by fraud, misuse of police officer status, theft and interference with the judicial process.

The RCMP undertook the study, dubbed Project Sanction, to help identify trends with a view to developing an anti-corruption strategy.

"It was apparent that many of the incidents identified in this study were a result of poor guidance, lack of adequate supervision, or a combination of life pressures that culminated in a desperate decision," the report says.

The study — covering documented cases from Jan. 1, 1995 through Dec. 31, 2005 — was completed in 2007 but only recently released to The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

The RCMP says it has since adopted many of the report's recommendations, adding there is no evidence that corruption is a significant issue within its ranks.

A total of 204 regular members were involved in the 322 incidents of corruption, with the study characterizing the "nature and gravity" of the episodes as "relatively moderate."

Many cases of improperly sharing police information involved misuse of confidential details in police databanks, sometimes to family, friends or known criminals.

Fraud cases often included doctored expense claims or abuse of government credit cards.

Examples of interference were ticket fixing, perjury, falsifying evidence or protection of illegal activities.

Twelve incidents involved organized crime and another 20 included officer dealings with known criminals.

"The RCMP can and should be doing more in terms of a risk reduction strategy," the report concluded.

"Left unaddressed, corruption can fester and affect the vast majority of honest employees, in that there is more potential for less public co-operation on an operational level."

In addition, employees may see a lack of action as a sign that management doesn't take the corrupt behaviour seriously, the report added. "It is clear that the risk of not making proactive changes to address the incidence of corruption can have grave consequences."

The study made recommendations on recruiting new members, ethics training, employee evaluation, security clearances and identifying officers at risk of corrupt behaviour.

Since the report, the RCMP has taken a number of actions to support and encourage ethical behaviour of its members, said Cpl. David Falls, an RCMP spokesman.

The recruitment process is "much more exhaustive" than it was in 2007, Falls said, citing a list of exam, interview and testing procedures that "have been extremely effective at screening out a high proportion of applicants who do not reflect the core values of the RCMP."

The RCMP also points to measures including:

— a more rigorous promotion process.

— regular employee evaluations and security briefings.

— more ethics training and a conflict of interest directive.

— a proposed new code of conduct.

— a plan to formally recognize professionalism and integrity.

Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

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