The Oath with Chuck Rosenberg
Bob Paulson: The Mountie
Chuck Rosenberg: Welcome to The Oath. I’m Chuck Rosenberg, and I am honored to be your host for another thoughtful conversation with a fascinating guest. Bob Paulson, our very first international guest on the Oath, served as the twenty third commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The iconic Mounties are the Federal Police Force of Canada, but they have a broad mandate also to enforce municipal and provincial law in Canada. After a stint as an officer and a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force, where he learned hard and humbling lessons about leadership. Bob worked his way up through the RCMP, starting as a constable in a small British Columbia town where he fell in love with policing. A thoughtful, progressive and inspirational leader with a keen sense of humor, Bob Paulson explains the history of the Mounties, his own successes and failures as he rose through its ranks to lead the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and lessons learned during an extraordinary career in law enforcement. Bob Paulson, welcome to The Oath.
Bob Paulson: Well, thank you. Thanks for having me, Chuck.
Rosenberg: You know, you are our first international guest. We are here in Ottawa, your nation’s capital, beautiful city, and it’s awfully nice of you to sit down with us.
Paulson: Well, I’m honored that you asked.
Rosenberg: Many of our listeners are from Canada and other countries around the world. But most of our listeners are American. And so, they may not know much about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or that you were its former commissioner. And I was going to ask you a bunch of questions about it and about you.
Paulson: Sure. Yeah.
Rosenberg: So, tell us about you.
Paulson: Me? Well, I’m retired two years from the RCMP, but I was a career RCMP officer. I started out as a constable at the lowest rank in British Columbia in 1986.
Rosenberg: Is that where you grew up?
Paulson: No, actually, I grew up in a place called Lachute, which is near Montreal, so in Quebec.
Rosenberg: Long before you joined the RCMP as a constable, you served in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Paulson: Yeah, I was a pilot. I went through 1977. I entered through the officer Canada training plan and got my wings and stayed in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, which is in the center of the country as an instructor pilot and I was fairly young
Rosenberg: Did you like flying?
Paulson: I loved flying. I hadn’t flown before I joined as a pilot. In fact, my first flight was on the airline to basic training.
Rosenberg: The first time you’d ever been a passenger?
Paulson: Yeah. Yeah.
Rosenberg: So, how did you know you wanted to be a pilot, or did you know?
Paulson: Well, it seemed exciting. My brother had joined–my older brother–had joined the military and was a naval officer. When I considered it, I thought being a jet pilot would be cool. And it was, it was very, very exciting. And the flying was great, but that’s where I started getting exposed at that real, sort of, meaningful level to responsibility, professionalism, and leadership. And I had a bad goal in the military.
Rosenberg: You told me that you grew up a lot as a result of serving in the Air Force.
Paulson: My, my time in the Air Force was a significant failure. And it was both a professional failure and a personal failure.
Rosenberg: And it in what way, Bob?
Paulson: So, I got my wings and I qualified as a jet pilot and I was also a jet pilot instructor and I was very young. And I had some responsibility to look after, to bring three or four student pilots along every day, doing their missions, doing their flights with them, critiquing them, helping them learn. But, I also had a responsibility as an officer and in the Canadian Forces. And so, while my pilot skills were very good, my, my officer development skills were lacking. And I didn’t–I didn’t service that part of the arrangement. Consequently, my first assessment that I got in the military from my flight commander, I remember it like it was yesterday, it was a kind of a punch in the face. I remember him looking me in the eye and saying and having written in my assessment, “Lieutenant Paulson displays significant downward flowing loyalty.”
Rosenberg: What did that mean?
Paulson: Well, I wasn’t sure. I knew it wasn’t good. But, I think the lesson that it was, and I came to understand what it was, is that I wasn’t servicing the organizational interest. I wasn’t participating in the mission of the organization. I was consumed with being popular. And consequently, I was hanging out with my students. You know, I was going for cocktails with them and being a friend as opposed to being their supervisor, being their officer. And it was a failure. I got in trouble. Well, an illustration of it is how I ended up getting charged and basically grounded in my flying career. I took a student out to the West Coast on near the end of his training.
Rosenberg: This is a separate matter,
Paulson: A separate matter, but illustrative, I think, of the failure that I’m not focusing on.
Rosenberg: We’re gonna focus on some successes later.
Paulson: Hopefully I have a couple that we can talk about. But, you know, as we talked about earlier, Chuck, I think failure, adversity is a key component to success, ultimately, and without a good understanding of the risks and the stakes, I don’t think you can succeed. In fact, in my case, I’m completely persuaded that had I not failed at such a level in the military, I wouldn’t have succeeded to the level that I did, if we can define my career as a success, ultimately.
Rosenberg: So, back to your story about the student pilot out West.
Paulson: Yeah. So, he had a brother who worked in a control tower and we were taking students out and exposing them to high density flight areas.
Rosenberg: What does that mean?
Paulson: So, a student pilot has to learn how to how to navigate an airplane into a high-density area, into a major metropolitan airport like Vancouver, Vancouver International, very busy airport, one of the busiest in Canada. So, that’s where we had gone. And in and around Vancouver, as in many cities, there’s a number of airports that are around there. This place was called: Pitt Meadows, and the student persuaded me that–I shouldn’t say persuaded me–I mean, the idea was, let’s take the airplane and go do a little impromptu air show over at this airport where my brother is in the control tower.
Rosenberg: Just for fun.
Paulson: Just for fun. Just for ego and just for a zoom, zoom jollies. And it was rife with bad judgment on my part, right. Not only was I the pilot in command of the aircraft, but I had, sort of, a responsibility for this young, want to be officer. So, we go to the airport, we close off the inter runway. We didn’t have radio communications because in those days the military airplanes had UHF radios and civilian aviation VHF radios. So, we beat up the airport, that was the vernacular, we beat it. We zoom bass, forward, and did all sorts of high speed passes. But at the end, I pulled up vertical. I did a series of vertical rolls. And that day, there was about a 6000-foot overcast ceiling. And I rolled off the top as I went vertical. And then, I pulled down towards the ground and I entered cloud at the top of my arm. And then I came around, went off to our mission, and we landed safely, ultimately on Vancouver Island, which is on the on the west coast of Canada. I didn’t know this, but there was a ministry of transport instructor doing check rides for private pilots that day. And, you know, he got the benefit of this impromptu air show by this irresponsible pilot from the Canadian Armed Forces. And he made notes, and he said ultimately, he wouldn’t have been so outraged had I not entered cloud at the top of the arc because I hadn’t considered, I ought to have known, but the pit metal localizer, which is one of the beams that guides aircraft down for landing, is used as a standard terminal arrival rooting for all of the commercial aircraft that would come into Vancouver International.
Rosenberg: And you’re flying acrobatics in there—
Paulson: In cloud–
Rosenberg: In a cloud, on their approach.
Paulson: Yeah, so pretty hard to blame the inspector. And ultimately, he complained to the military. They did a bit of an inquiry. Wasn’t particularly difficult given that he got the tail number of the airplane. And I was charged. I was charged under the National Defense Act.
Rosenberg: What does that mean?
Paulson: Well, the National Defense Act has a Queen’s Regulations and Orders, which is like a code of justice for the military. It’s equivalent to a criminal consequence. So, I was charged with performing aerobatics in a controlled zone. I was charged with failing to maintain the prescribed distance from cloud. And I was charged with the catch all, which is: conduct prejudice to the good order and discipline of the Canadian Armed Forces. And I had a bit of a summary trial. I didn’t defend myself. And as they say in the military, march they guilty son of a gun in. And I did. I marched in and took my lumps. But that was effectively the end of my career in the military. I was grounded, ultimately, and then transferred to a ground position in North Bay on the east side of the country. And so there already a fair bit of shame and embarrassment and shock that I had fallen so significantly, but not so much that I was prepared to leave the military. I thought I could salvage it.
Rosenberg: You still enjoyed it?
Paulson: I enjoyed the flying, but I wasn’t doing any flying. And I found myself being a production officer in an engineering section, which wasn’t what I was qualified to do, or what signed up for. But, ultimately, I met the commander of the squadron there in North Bay and he took pity on me and I started flying T-33s again. T-33s were the first-generation axial flow jet engines that we used as targets for real pilots. But, but I was able to fly a few missions and, and, so I thought I was getting back on track. But this, sort of, adolescent judgement of mine reared its head again, and I had some disagreements with some navigators that were flying with me. You know, one time, I’m flying out of Calgary, we’re going from eastern Canada to the West Coast, we have to stop to get gas because these little jet airplanes don’t go very far. So, I took off out of Calgary, and I got an overheat light, which is significant, a warning in a small airplane. So, I reduced power, and was going to–I declared a bit of an emergency, and came around. I was going to land.
Rosenberg: Back at Calgary?
Paulson: Back in Calgary. Calgary has got one of the longest airports in Canada –it’s got, what, 10,500-foot runway. That’s relevant because the checklist for an overheat required that I burn fuel down to reduce the weight so I could land, and put the brakes on, but I didn’t do that for some reason. I didn’t want to go fly out, and spend a lot of time flying over the mountains waiting for the fuel. And so, I landed and I took it just about every inch of that runway to land
Rosenberg: Because you’re heavy.
Paulson: And the brakes were red hot and the fire people came out and the navigator who couldn’t fly in the back was a little upset. And then, we had this, sort of, diagnose what was wrong. And I talked to the techs back at our home base, and they say: “you know what, maybe a blow by condition, which was this, the seeding of the exhaust pipe,” and didn’t have afterburners, that T-33. But because it gets so hot, it has to expand. And when it expands, its seats, sometimes its tailpipe is loose. So, I went out and I checked that, said: “yeah, yeah, it’s a little looser than normal, so let’s go.” I said to the navigator, “let’s go. We’re gonna go, and we’re gonna fly over the Rockies on reduced power.” He said: “no, no, no, that’s a bad idea. It’s not like we’re in war over here. What’s the urgency?” Get a tech to come up and fix it.
Rosenberg: Take your time, get it right, and then we’ll go.
Paulson: That’s right. I said: “no, no. I’m the pilot in command. Yeah, rank me by rank. But I’m the decision maker for the airplane because I’m the pilot.” So, he strapped in and strapped in and we took off at a reduced power setting, we made it out, but he wasn’t very happy because if the–my reckoning wasn’t correct, you know, he was out to get out and walk, and he didn’t want to do that. So, when we landed, he complained. And of course, he was right. I mean, it was very poor judgment, and it was characteristic of my approach to my responsibilities in those days. I was a, I was an adolescent and a young man’s body. And I was making decisions that had consequences for people’s lives. And I wasn’t executing on that responsibility. And ultimately, the military agreed. And I agreed at the end of my obligatory service. “Maybe you should go out and find something else to do. Mr. Paulson.” “Roger,” I resigned from the military honorably. It was all good. It was just a bad experience.
Rosenberg: But it must have stung.
Paulson: Oh, it stung. Yeah, stung my ego, it, it was embarrassing, it was shocking, personally. Yeah, and as we talked about, you know, there’s a greater consequence to a social harm, right. Plus, the ego that was, you know, I, I was a jet pilot in a military, and now, I’m not. So, I left.
Rosenberg: After leaving the military, and studying in college, you decided to join the RCMP?
Paulson: Yeah. So, I mean, when I was going to university, I was working in a bar a night. I got married when I left the military. And my wife was still in the military out west. So, I was traveling back and forth to Vancouver. And I was working in this bar, which was kind of a ne’er-do-well bar and a bit of a rough and tumble place. And one day, I saw this guy really clean cut, fit, looking, sharp guy, talking to the bartender, who was a female, by the name of Linda, I said: “who is that guy?” “Oh,” she said, “he’s a narc.” I said “a narc?” “Yeah, yeah, a RCMP officer,” and I said, “what do you want?” “He’s just talking to me. He thinks I’m his informant, but he likes to come in and know who’s who and you want to know who you are.” And so, I got thinking about that because I grew up in eastern Canada. So in Canada, there’s ten provinces, three territories. The RCMP polices at every level of policing in all but two provinces. So, in central Canada, Ontario and Quebec, we don’t have a, sort of, uniformed presence there. The RCMP didn’t do local policing and they didn’t do provincial policing. They just simply did federal policing akin to the FBI.
Rosenberg: Right. And so, for our U.S. listeners, that part of the RCMP is mandate, is like what they know of the FBI.
Rosenberg: You are the federal police for Canada. That’s right. Similar to the Australian Federal Police or to the New Zealand police.
Paulson: Exactly. Yeah. But in those eight other provinces where the provincial police–and in about two seventy municipalities where the municipal police, and in the territories where the territorial police.
Rosenberg: And that model is very different than the FBI.
Paulson: In fact, it’s unique in the world. And if, if and when, and we do get it right from time to time, there is tremendous value in having that ability to draw and police from, from a perspective where you have all levels of communities and provinces and the country in your jurisdiction, right. It’s an incredible intelligence and strategic opportunity. So, I had grown up in an area where I didn’t see RCMP. I knew of them. I knew that they were the FBI. But it got me thinking about what this guy was doing. And so, next time he was in, I talked to him, and he was a street crime guy. So, he was kind of dressed casually, but he’d go around, and he’d try to understand who’s who. And that’s obviously one of the places you’d want to inform yourself of, is the ne’er-do-well bar, and who’s showing up, and what’s going on. So, it was interesting and it caused me to go down the local detachment and apply.
Rosenberg: You tell an interesting story about your application process and your interview process. Do you mind sharing that with us?
Paulson: In Canada, we have two official languages: French and English. And fortunately for me, my mother spoke French to me and I can speak French. So, starting off the story, I go to the detachment, I say, “well, I’d like to join.” She said, “Well, we’re only taking—“this is a female officer comes to the counter and says: “we’re only taking bilingual candidates.” I said: “well, I’m bilingual.” And then she says, “oh, I’m sorry, I’m not, so I’ll have to find someone who can call you.” So, I wait by the phone, a French officer calls me, and we have a nice conversation. And before you know it, I’m going through the process. And I get to the interview stage, which is the final stage. I’ve been tested, I’ve been examined, medically, psychologically, all of the tests that go into the process. And it’s looking pretty good. And Ken Pearson is his name, and I’ll remember him ‘till I die. He says to me: “so you’re a military pilot?” “Yeah.” “And you didn’t wash out?” “No, no I was an instructor and I got about 1,500 dollars.” “You mind telling me why you’re not a pilot anymore?” And so, I had perfected in my sort of dealing with my failure syndrome, I had perfected the art of telling a story about why I’m not a military pilot. You know, featured some of the trouble I got in, but not all the trouble.
Rosenberg: So, you had you had a version, but not a full version.
Paulson: Yeah, that’s right. And said: “Well, jeez, Mr. Paulson, I don’t see a problem here. I think we can get you on a troop right away. Are you free to go in January?” This was September. And I said, “yes, I am. That would be exciting. That’s great.” So, we stood up, and shook hands, and he slapped me on the back and out I went. I went home all excited that I was going to have another shot at redemption.
Rosenberg: You’re feeling pretty good.
Paulson: Feeling very good. Told my wife, as she then was, and she was a little skeptical. She said, “well, don’t get your hopes up.” And about a week and a half later, I got a call on my answering machine. And it was Ken Pearson, who was no longer Bob’s buddy. And it sounded more like the cop that he actually was. And he said, “yeah, look, we, we need to have another talk.” And so, I went down to Vancouver and he said, “I’m a little disappointed.” I said: “why?” “Well, did you not think we’d check into your previous employment?” I said: “Well, I thought you would.” He said: “we have no need of liars in the Mounted Police, Mr. Paulson.” I said, “I’m not a liar.” “Well, you didn’t tell me the whole story.” I said: “well, you know, there’s, there’s versions to that.”
Rosenberg: What did you leave out, Bob?
Paulson: I left out, sort of, the, the real reason why I left the military. I left–I had placed it more, as a sort of, I wasn’t compatible with the military, didn’t, sort of, jive with the leadership thing, and the actual specific failures. And there’s probably three or four of them that I can articulate that gave rise to this administrative burden that I placed on the armed forces. I left those out. And of course, those are all recorded, right.
Rosenberg: And they would matter a lot in this application process.
Paulson: Well, they’re looking for people who are going to go and have considerable sway over people’s lives. And it turns on truthfulness and the honor that a person can bring to their duties. I thought I was done for it. So, I gave him the whole story. And then he started shuffling, got a little nervous. He started shuffling his papers and holding his head in his hands and shaking his head. And then he looked me in the eye and he said, “look, Paulson, I don’t know why, but I got to take a chance on you. And if you let me down, I’m gonna come and find you.” You know, every time I tell that story, I get emotional because it was a break. It was the first real break I had in my sort of adult life. And I, you know, to this day, I say, I don’t know that I deserved a break, but he gave me one. And what that said about the organization, to me at the time, was this this is a place where I can where I can be honest with people, right. It was very, very significant.
Rosenberg: It was a real second chance.
Paulson: It was a real chance.
Rosenberg: You know, it’s interesting to me, Bob, on this show, we’ve talked with two retired four-star Navy admirals from the states: Jim Stavridis and Bill McRaven, and both describe in their own careers, and their own lives as junior officers, bad mistakes that they made. And second chances that they received, and how that played out for them when they became more senior officers.
Rosenberg: And that they extended to others the same second chances that they had received when they were younger.
Paulson: Yeah. Yeah. And I’m struck by the relationship between adversity and leaders and how leaders deal with adversity. And failure is, is key to their success, right. Because you can’t go through any enterprise without having some stumbles. They’re not necessarily personal stumbles, but they’re stumbles in all manner of speaking. And, and how you deal with those, and how you help other people deal with those is the key to, to a successful leader.
Rosenberg: Ken Pearson let you in.
Paulson: Ken Pearson, let me. In fact, when I did the change of command ceremony and handed off to Brenda Lucki, who’s now the commissioner of the RCMP.
Rosenberg: She’s succeeded you as the 24th commissioner of the RCMP. You were the twenty third.
Paulson: Indeed. Yeah, that’s right. I talked about Ken–I don’t know if he’s still around—I, I should go and look him up and buy him a beer, but I owe him a lot.
Rosenberg: How did you like being a cop?
Paulson: Love being a cop. Fit me like a glove, and I couldn’t get enough of it.
Rosenberg: Now, before we go down this path, we should also explain something unusual about the RCMP, that there’s both, sort of, an enlisted rank and an officer rank.
Paulson: Yeah, so in the RCMP, of course, has a lot of history, a rich history, from you know, it was formed in 1873 when Canadian government and the Canadian country was just simply in the east of Canada, and the west were territories. And in fact, the RCMP was formed to go out and deal with the darn American whiskey traders who were polluting our indigenous folks and Western territories. And so, our primary mission was–and we call it the March West–when the force was formed, a couple of hundred officers, mostly taking from the military, and hence are a rich military tradition. And they marched west into this territory and brought law and order to the west.
Rosenberg: And it wasn’t the Royal Canadian Mounted Police at the time. It was–it had a different name.
Paulson: It was called the Northwest Mounted Police, because in the territories, in the northwest. Of course, in modern terms, people question the means by which the whose issues were settled. But I mean, it was a different environment. And certainly, modern notions of justice were foreign to the world back then, and certainly in that territory. And then there was an issue as to whether or not they would be disbanded, or not because they were entering into contractual arrangements with provinces that were being formed in the west, Saskatchewan being one of them. And they were gonna disband them because there was a federal police force called the Dominion Police. But, then they merged them together and made the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. And that’s the origins of the force.
Rosenberg: And the organization you ultimately joined,
Paulson: Ultimately joined, and ultimately led.
Rosenberg: So, explain how there’s both an enlisted rank and an officer rank within the RCMP.
Paulson: Right. So, because of the military traditions, they kept the rank structures and so on the rank structures of the modern RCMP, and they’ve changed little over time. You started out as a constable and you become a corporal and then you become a sergeant and then you become a staff sergeant and you may become the sergeant major. And those are all noncommissioned ranks. The officer, the executive level of the force, starts at the inspector level, and goes like, inspector superintendent, Chief Superintendent, Assistant Commissioner, Deputy commissioner, Commissioner. And so, you seek a commission at the sergeant rank, basically sergeant or staff sergeant, if you’re advanced. It used to be very, very restricted. And now, it’s more, sort of, developmental as we identify people who are good leaders and can be good executives.
Rosenberg: But you started out as a constable?
Paulson: Everyone does. In the RCMP, we insist that all officers come from our enlisted ranks. And so, I started as a constable, and I was particularly interested in the crime solving element of it. I used to read all–you know, off duty, I would go in and read files of murder files or complex robbery files or serial offender files. It just fascinated me because I’d never sort of understood that kind of bad people that were out there. But, you get, as a cop, you begin to sort of get exposed to, holy smokes, I didn’t realize this kind of stuff was going on out there.
Rosenberg: In your own community.
Paulson: In your own community.
Rosenberg: You don’t see it.
Rosenberg: That’s right.
Rosenberg: As a civilian.
Paulson: Yeah, particularly in great countries like we’re blessed to live in, right. We’re by and large, mostly safe.
Rosenberg: We are.
Paulson: My eldest daughter, who’s now a federal prosecutor in Vancouver, probably won’t like me telling this story, but on my days off, we would work shifts. So, four on, four off, right? Twelve hour shifts. On my days off, I get her, my dog would go into my jeep.
Rosenberg: Your dog, Sam.
Paulson: My dog Sam. It was a big black lab. And we’d drive around town and look for people that I had warrants for. And they got, you know, 18-month-old baby in the back in the car seat.
Rosenberg: And a big old, lab
Paulson: Big lab and we’re putting the arm on these guys. And I loved it, and I talked to them all, and I try to understand what drove them and what motivated them.
Rosenberg: And you’re good at talking to people.
Paulson: I am good at talking to people, yeah.
Rosenberg: Do you like that?
Paulson: Yeah, I do. I do like it. I like, I like reaching inside because I–and it goes back to my failure before–like, life’s, life’s challenging. Life can be hard. And everybody faces some sort of adversity. And when you can tap into people’s challenges and, you know, offer a hand, it’s very rewarding.
Rosenberg: I imagine as a constable on the streets of
Rosenberg: You run into lots of addiction problems, mental health problems, people who are down and out for various reasons.
Paulson: But, there’s another, there’s another, sort of, awakening in me, is understanding what was driving criminality, because I took–in in Bob’s simple world, you have people who, sort of, are driven by consequence to crime. You know, they have no money, they have drug addictions, they have alcohol problems, they have familial difficulties. And they have to do something in order to live. And then, you’ve got the, sort of, I want to be a bad guy, class of person, and we can talk about them later. But my early my early exposure to that was that mostly, for example, burglaries. We started big problem burglaries. So, if you had a clearance rate of, a clearance rate being how many of the burglaries that you solve of 20 percent, you were doing really, really good, right.
Rosenberg: So, largely, an unsolved crime.
Paulson: Yeah, but if you stop and think who’s doing who’s doing burglaries in a town, who does that right. It’s people that need the instant access to cash, to get drugs, to get booze. Kids who want toys that they don’t have, kids who want stereos. It’s not hard to figure out.
Rosenberg: So, the distinction you would make there, is people forced to crime as opposed to attracted to crime.
Paulson: Exactly. Exactly. Or interested in crime, right. Early on in my career, I was putting that together. I was very lucky in the kind of people I got to be with as I came up in the job. Very, very lucky. And my trainer used to insist that on every burglary, you go and do a series of inquiries in the neighborhood, and find out who’s who. Every neighborhood has its own character. And it’s not, it’s not exceedingly difficult to figure out who’s doing the burglaries. And so, I would do that, and I’d talk to all the neighbors. If you’ve seen anything he had any trouble, any? Oh, yeah, we’ve seen this Pinto That’s been–you remember the Ford Pinto? Very distinctive looking car. And it was, I think, a pink or a red one. So, I was writing it all up and I was giving it to the detectives and I was on the hunt for this Pinto. I go home from a night shift, first night shift, the burglary street crew guys. They find this Pinto. They find a woman who’s driving it, and they find some, some property that they can attribute to a crime. And so, they arrest her. And when I get to work that night, she’s in cells in a strait-jacket. And so, I talked to the burglar guys and I said, “so what she’s got?” They said, “now she won’t talk. She will not talk. She’s gone nuts. She’s DTA. She’s throwing herself against the bar. ”She’s sort of coming down off of drugs, off of heroin. She was a heroin addict. And so, they were only going to be able to charge her with possession of stolen property, which was what was in the car. And the link to possession, you know, easy to say, hard to prove. You got to show that she had knowledge that those things were in the car. So, long story, long story short, it wasn’t looking good. Was probably going to get released. So, I went inside her in the cell and she was in a strait-jacket, I started talking to her and got down the floor with her, and she asked for a cigarette. And I smoked in those days. I gave a cigarette and we started talking about her addiction and her problems and her arrest. I said, “you want to go? You want to go in a room and get coffee or something?” “Yeah.” So, I take this jacket off. We go in the room. We’re talking about her. We’re talking about her problems. We’re talking about, you know, how she became addicted. And then she offered up. I’ve have been doing all these burglaries, I’ve been doing all these break ins, is the vernacular.
Rosenberg: Breaking and entering.
Paulson: Yeah, I said: “really? And I thought you were because I saw this Pinto everywhere” I went, I said: “how many have you done?” She said: “Jeez, I don’t know. Hundreds.” “Hundreds? Well, we’ve got to put this together.” Can we put this together and she offered: well, why don’t we do this, officer? Why don’t we get in your car? Because I know the neighbors don’t know the names of the streets. You drive around and I’ll tell you which house it is and. So, I went back and told my boss and he said, “wow, really, I’m going to put Jenkins with you there so she doesn’t run off.” And we went and drove all over town, I cleared 52 burglaries that night just by talking to her, just by being sort of human to her. And that was the, another insight into, into policing, is that it’s a very, very important job, but you can’t just do it on the back of authority.
Rosenberg: I found, as a federal prosecutor, Bob, that really you could talk to just about anyone if you had a degree of empathy, you were willing to listen, put judgment aside, and treat people with civility.
Paulson: Indeed. Indeed. Yeah, and so, that embarked–led me down a path of serious crime work because I was brought into a plainclothes section within the year. Like I’d been on the road for a year now, I’m in plainclothes.
Rosenberg: Canada generally is a low crime, low homicide, low shooting country. It’s a very safe country. Is that a fair characterization?
Paulson: Well, I think if, you know, if the comparison is the United States, I think it is.
Rosenberg: But nevertheless.
Paulson: Yeah. No, it is a relatively safe country. And that’s why I think that when we have violent crimes, or we have serial offenders, or we have those types of really community-shocking crimes, that we, we mobilize, you know, heaven and earth to make sure that we get in front of it. But it’s a growing trend. We have an excess of excessive gun violence in Canada now.
Rosenberg: So, you’re promoted through the ranks of the RCMP. You’re still enlisted, right? You’re not yet a commissioned officer. What do you make that jump?
Paulson: So, I go from Chilliwack. My wife is in the military, so I have to move to another, fairly remote, part of British Columbia, which is on the west side of the country and the West Coast. And, back in uniform again. And then, they start the promotion exercise, they changed the promotion system, such that it’s a knowledge based exam. And so, I aced that, I got the highest mark in the country. So, I’m promoted to corporal in Prince Rupert, which is a very remote area of Canada, it’s on the north west coast of British Columbia. And that was some fascinating policing because I got to do some very interesting work with indigenous folks. And, you know, the RCMP has a long tradition from its origin of dealing with Aboriginal people. Well, we also have a very shameful history of having participated in some of the most notorious incidents with indigenous people in Canada.
Rosenberg: Would you describe some of that?
Paulson: Yeah. So, when I go up to Prince Rupert, there is a massive public outcry, over the recognition that residential schools where indigenous folks, young people were ripped from their families, and put in these, sort of, regional areas for schooling in accordance with the European notions of education. And were just taken from there. And who are the people that we’re doing the use of force element of that enforcement? It was the RCMP, but we did an investigation to try and reconcile that because many of the students in the residential schools were abused, some horribly, some, some killed. And it was, it was just a black mark on the country and particularly on the force who participated in that. And so, we’re trying to put some justice to it. And we did a national investigation to find these people. But I’ll tell you a quick story that was really–I used it when I apologized on behalf of the RCMP, to the Aboriginal people of Canada.
Rosenberg: This is when you were a commissioner.
Paulson: When I was commissioner, I offer this apology. But when I was a corporal, I was tasked with investigating all these people, these list of students, go find these students and find out what happened to them. And so, I’m traveling all over the northwest of British Columbia looking for these. One guy left on the list, I couldn’t find, and he was in a community called Terrace, British Columbia, which is a little bit more north than on the coast as well. Turns out, what I could find about him was that he had succumbed to drugs and alcohol and it was a street person. And, you know, good luck finding a street person if they didn’t want to be found. But, I had the local detachment look out for him. And if ever they found him, get him into a tank, and sober him up. And I wherever I was, I’d be there. And so, I got–we found him. So, I show up, and he’s in bad, bad shape. So, we give him rest. We clean him up and get him to an interview room and the man’s a victim. So, we think we shouldn’t be treating him like he’s a crook. And he wants to know what this is all about. And I tell him a little bit about it. We go through his history, and he’s telling me the history of his experience with residential school, and how he was abused there by one of the priests at this particular school. And he was old enough that he knew they didn’t want to have that happen to him. And so, he ran away from the school. And so, what would happen when they ran away from the school? He went home and his parents were trying to hide him. But guess who showed up to take him away?
Rosenberg: The RCMP.
Paulson: The RCMP, and forced them back in there and he says: “and then it happened again.” And then he went through this, what I referred to, as a moment of clarity that we had between us as we both broke into tears, and we realized his whole life had been wasted and destroyed because of what had happened,
Rosenberg: Had been stolen from him.
Paulson: Yeah. Yeah. It’s a very profound moment.
Rosenberg: What happened to him, Bob?
Paulson: Well, he was, you know, ultimately compensated, as all the victims were. But there’s no giving a person back their life, right. But it was an education for me to understand the consequences of these sort of decisions that institutions make, or other governments make, and institutions implement and how, you know, there needs to be some consideration put into those things. And it was–it stayed with me all my life.
Rosenberg: But credit to the RCMP for helping to fix a horrific problem that they had contributed to.
Rosenberg: Earlier in their history.
Paulson: One of the things with the RCMP that’s interesting, is that the history the RCMP is very iconic in Canada.
Rosenberg: It’s iconic in the United States, too. I mean, we all have an image of that RCMP Mountie.
Paulson: Right. And, you know, the idea that, that the history and the image and the, sort of, weight of the identity of the force, and that’s how we refer to it, the force, as though it’s in a Star Wars, that somehow that is relevant to decisions that leaders make in the execution of their duties as law enforcement officers, whether it be federally, provincially, or municipally. It was a characteristic that I think hurt the RCMP, right. Because we both wanted to stay in history and retain that iconic, classic, sort of, image, and not modernize, not let go of some of those things. So the idea that decisions, modern decisions being made on the back of history and not on their merits, not on the current reality, not on principle and values, was something that that I came to try to fix in the RCMP. And it was difficult.
Rosenberg: When did you become an officer, Bob?
Paulson: So, I was commissioned to the rank of inspector in late 2001, and I was put into a position called the Major Case Manager for Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs in British Columbia. And I was put there, by and large, well, entirely, by one of my most influential mentors, who was a guy called Gary Bass, who was then, the criminal operations officer for the province of British Columbia. So, he was like the number two police officer. But he was in charge of operations. He says, “congratulations, Bob, you’re an inspector.” I said, “yes. So, I’m going to need, you know, meet, need some people. I need some money.” And he says, “well, you’re not to go figure that out.” But he wanted me to attack the Hell’s Angels, who had been there, too, for untouched. In terms of criminal investigations, they’re very resilient. And depending on where they are, in which chapters, like the B.C. chapters of the Hell’s Angels are the most successful.
Rosenberg: The British Columbia chapter.
Paulson: British Columbia. Yes, British Columbia chapter most successful, richest ,and influential
Rosenberg: And violent.
Paulson: And violent in the world.
Rosenberg: And how did the Hells Angels sort of infiltrate British Columbia? This wonderful, beautiful, pastoral part of your country?
Paulson: Well, it’s interesting. The history is the mafia in Montreal where, in partnership with the Hells Angels in Montreal. And they sent out people to, sort of, build the grassroots of the Hells Angels out there.
Rosenberg: So, very much by design.
Paulson: Oh, entirely by design. They’re a very strategic organization. And if we could be a strategic in some of the things that we did as they were in the things that they did, we’d be much–in fact, that, you know, I lecture often about leadership and so on. And one of the things that you have to put on those characteristics of effective leaders is morality, because some of the most effective leaders I’ve seen have been criminals. If you measure it simply by, you know, the outcome and, and their, you know, desired outcome.
Rosenberg: And by leadership, you’re not talking about values based leadership. You’re just talking about the ability to lead.
Paulson: To marshal resources and people towards an outcome.
Rosenberg: OK. So, a brand-new Inspector Paulson, go solve this Hells Angels problem in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Paulson: That’s right.
Rosenberg: What did you do?
Paulson: Well, I went around to everybody who had money and resources and people, and persuaded them to give me some of them. So, because I was able to draw a picture of many of the murders that were happening and many of the recent unprosecuted drug seizures that we had, I was able to identify a target group. And I was able to persuade people that we are going to be successful if we are able to infiltrate them, if we’re able to use people from within to betray them, effectively. And if you’ve got experience with organized crime groups, and particularly successful organized crime groups, that’s one of the only ways–like they’re impervious to wiretaps, simply. The Hells Angels in British Columbia would have their lawyers hold seminars on crime solving techniques, such that when they would go for their walk and talks–walk and talks are a cop vernacular for a sneaky conversation that you can’t hear–they’d always sort of throw their arms around each other and talk in their ears, whispering in their ears. Ultimately, when I got an agent, I had my wife, so a microphone into his collar to pick up those conversations. And, but they’re strategic, right. They know what they want to do.
Rosenberg: Very careful. Good operational security.
Paulson: Right. And well instructed, right, well-prepared.
Rosenberg: And so how do you infiltrate a group like that?
Paulson: You target someone within their organization, and you use intelligence to recruit them, right. Either through circumstance that brings it to their advantage. In other words, you know, they’re in a jackpot and they need to get out of the jackpot. And they meet the, sort of, characteristics of a cooperative informant. And you can work them.
Rosenberg: Because unlike in the movies or in television, embedding an undercover in an organization like that is extraordinarily difficult.
Paulson: Very difficult, very difficult and impossible in the Hell’s Angels, because they have a very hierarchical sort of progressive development of these individuals. And they need–they do a history check on who you are and people vote for them and they do neighborhood inquiries like cops ought to do. They have puppet clubs, these clubs, puppet clubs are, are sort of, secondary, not full Hell’s Angels. They have other foolish names like, you know, The Reckoners or the Skull Daggers or whatever.
Rosenberg: But they’re affiliated.
Paulson: They’re affiliated. And they’re–you know, the Hells Angels use nominees to do most of their hands-on crime. And one of them, when I got into a fight with his wife and she burned down his house and he was in Prince George, which is in the north of the province. And I got wind of that, got in my car and drove up, had him brought in, and all his money was in the wall of this house, and was all burnt. And he didn’t have any more money. And he was the president of this club in Prince George.
Rosenberg: He was unhappy.
Paulson: He was vulnerable to recruitment. And so, speaking of Gary Bass again, so I talked to him and we talked about how we could maybe help his life out a little bit. And he said, you know, “50-grand. We could talk.” I didn’t have 50-grand. Drove all the way back to Vancouver from Kamloops about a two-and-a half hour drive. Got the approval. I got 50 grand, big wad of cash, stuffed it in my pants, drove back to the hotel room and then I’m 50 grand. I said, we have a deal. We got a deal. I stood up, shook my hands, took money from my belt, to his belt, and off we went.
Rosenberg: And you were in?
Paulson: We were in.
Rosenberg: And he abided by the deal.
Paulson: He did.
Rosenberg: What did what did he do for you?
Paulson: First of all, he informed us as to the realities of criminality within the relationship between his club and the Vancouver chapter of the Hells Angels. And then he was dealing and he was wearing a wire and he was putting a video where we needed it because we needed we need persuasive evidence. All right. Just even calling him a person of dubious character. Like he’s not going to be your star witness unless he’s corroborated excessively and completely by video, by audio. And so, what we wanted to do, is to have him develop and get up in the organization, you know, reach those successive layers.
Rosenberg: And that’s going to require some patience.
Paulson: It’s going to require patience. But it’s also going to require this because it’s gonna get a little legal. I’ll try to keep it simple, but because of the nature of the crime that they are doing, which is all nominee crime. Right. In other words, they would have their, their “mopes,” as we’d call them, go do the hands-on stuff. So, a full-patch Hell’s Angels would have a series of hang arounds that they would be very careful in giving instructions often would have instructions tiered down to those people.
Rosenberg: Giving the leadership of the Hells Angels some plausible deniability if things went bad
Paulson: Right. Insulation from the actual oil that you might get on your hands when you’re holding a wrench. So, in order to get to them, this guy had to get access to them, in order to get access to them, he had to be successful at doing what he was being told to do by lower level people. And so that required what we referred to as: allowing drugs to remain in circulation. So, there was one of these guys that was overseeing a series of meth production labs.
Rosenberg: And so, our listeners know, that it is a very difficult thing for law enforcement to do. In fact, in the United States, we have an obligation to take those drugs off the street.
Paulson: That’s right. That’s exactly right. Our policy in the day, the RCMP policy, was not to allow drugs to remain in circulation.
Rosenberg: People get hurt.
Paulson: People get hurt and then you’ve got your hands on it, right? And in fact, that I testified for weeks at this, ultimately, this trial on this very issue, because I was being accused, unsuccessfully, I might add, of adding to the risk that associates to these serious, serious drugs. But, for instance, he would be–our, our agent would be tasked to go to person A pickup, three kilos of meth, take them to person B, C and D, hand them off. Take the money. Bring it back. Put it into place and then come back and report.
Rosenberg: And in part, it’s because there’s an interest in letting the criminal enterprise run, gathering more intelligence, and having your informant sort of, ascend the ranks.
Rosenberg: The tradeoff, of course, is that drugs are remaining in circulation.
Paulson: Indeed. And that was it. And so, we had to, we had to, sort of, devise a method that on principle that could be palatable not just to the RCMP, but to the courts, and ultimately, the Canadian public.
Rosenberg: To the society that you serve.
Paulson: Exactly. And weighing the proportional sort of harm that comes from allowing three kilos of meth to remain in circulation, but getting the guys that’s going to drive about five or six more labs.
Rosenberg: And this is not a class from hypothetical. This is something you have to wrestle with in real time. But the consequences, the morality of the legality.
Paulson: Exactly. It’s very difficult. And so, what we came up with because of the law allowed for it.
Rosenberg: In Canada.
Paulson: The law allows for it. Yeah, both controlled drugs and substances act as it then once and the criminal code contemplates police, or those working for the police, to engage in activity which would otherwise be criminal. And we’ve done in other areas where we wouldn’t have undercover officers. You know, for credibility, go slash tires of a car or something, or break a window, or break into a place or represent some sort of criminality. The means to do that was very elaborate and required authorities, and documented proportionality assessments, and wings that was quite elaborate and very sophisticated. Yet in our controlled Drugs and Substances Act, it wasn’t quite as elaborate. You were just simply under the guidance in a real investigation, you were allowed to embark on activities which would otherwise contravene the act. Anyway, so the law allowed for it, policy didn’t. I had to persuade people in Ottawa that, you know, Bob had a system that would be successful. And we documented every transaction and we did that proportionality weight in advance of the decision to allow things to go on. And sometimes, we would invest tremendous money at continuing surveillance for days until it was clear, or at least in our judgment, it was clear, that our agent would not be put at risk by the seizure. Right, and so, we would do everything to take the drugs out. And so that went on for a couple of years. It burned our agent out, but we were very successful and ultimately brought charges against a bunch of those bad guys. It didn’t stop the Hell’s Angels, but it just demonstrated that they were vulnerable. And there’s been a success of, sort of, series of successful prosecutions against them. But, you know, you had to up your game. You couldn’t just go, you know, follow the motorcycles around and hope that they were going to fall into some sort of handcuff.
Rosenberg: Now, you have to be proactive and creative and be willing to take a risk.
Paulson: Yeah, that’s right. And be able to defend the risk in a sort of principled way.
Rosenberg: Bob, there is a downside to doing such good work in British Columbia. I assume that the bosses back in Ottawa notice you in your work.
Paulson: They did. In fact, I had to go to Ottawa frequently for authorities, for some of the, kind of, bleeding edge stuff I was doing. And so, yeah, I got noticed. And I was I was offered a promotion to Ottawa, which I turned down.
Rosenberg: And why do you turn it down?
Paulson: Well, my family then, was grounded in the lower mainland.
Rosenberg: For us Americans.
Paulson: British Columbia. And they were very happy. They didn’t want to move. My wife didn’t want to move. And frankly, I was I was pretty happy. I wasn’t I was ambitious, but not ambitious in the get to the top of the force thing, I wanted to get sufficient authority to do the things I wanted to do.
Rosenberg: You wanted to resolve cases?
Paulson: Exactly. Exactly. And the higher up you get, the less sort of influence you have on individual cases, and the more responsibility you have for the systems and processes that guide those individual systems or those individual investigations. So, I didn’t want to move and I turned it down, and there was a bit of a consequence, although I was promoted, thanks to Gary Bass to superintendent in British Columbia.
Rosenberg: That’s a big job.
Paulson: It is a big job. And I was completed a mile and many put me in charge of community and aboriginal policing. And that–so I wasn’t doing investigations anymore. And then Ottawa came calling again and said they’d like me to go to Ottawa at a sort of entry level into the senior executive ranks.
Rosenberg: As a practical matter, can you say no again?
Paulson: I could have said no, but that had been the end of Bob again, right. That had been the end of Bob, the influential police officer. So, I persuaded my family to come along and we, we moved to Ottawa in 2006.
Rosenberg: Were you missing British Columbia?
Paulson: I was, yeah. I was missing, I was missing the work. But, I ended up being in charge of criminal intelligence. And then, I became the operations officer national security and ultimately promoted to the assistant commissioner in charge of national security at the time when the national security file was hopping. And that was a very exciting time, you know, coming from the major crime world, and having developed what, many have called this major case management, which is this sort of doctrine for how to support major cases to prosecution, I was able to bring some of that to to the world of national security and it was a great, great time. But there was a deputy commissioner who didn’t like me. So, Paulson wasn’t a good guy.
Rosenberg: How could that be?
Paulson: I know. Look at me. Listen to me. And I don’t know why he was he was very self-interested. And he did, unabashedly, have his eyes set on the commissioner’s chair
Rosenberg: And the commissioner and the RCMP, traditionally, at least came from within the ranks of the RCMP. Right.
Paulson: Yeah, exactly.
Rosenberg: Which is a little bit different, by the way, than the FBI director, who traditionally has never served as a special agent, for instance.
Paulson: Well, that’s right. And then, so this deputy commissioner was serving under the first civilian commissioner from the outside that we’d ever had.
Rosenberg: First, and only.
Paulson: First, and only, Bill Elliott, who I came to serve under at that point, I was off in contract policing.
Rosenberg: What does that mean, Bob?
Paulson: So, contract policing is the role where we create policies and oversight for our contractual arrangements with the provinces and municipalities. And so, t
Rosenberg: His is in the RCMP, his role as other than the federal police
Paulson: As the response to call people the provincial police force, the municipal police force. And from there, I was promoted to Deputy Commissioner in charge of federal policing, which is effectively the number two position. People in the contracts don’t like to hear this. It’s our core business. That’s why the organization exists, to do federal policing, national security, federal statutes, international obligations, protective policing. It is, in and of itself, a significant mandate. Many of the agencies, the United States, are created to do those specific things. In Canada, we have the one agency doing it. Then, the civilian commissioner retired after four years. And then, there was a competition. I went in the competition, and Prime Minister Harper called me to his office one day and said, “look, I’m considering appointing you to the commissioner, but I think I should probably talk to you first.” It was very process oriented, straightforward guy.
Rosenberg: You liked him?
Paulson: I liked the man and I liked his style. I liked how principled he was. But the fact that there was a political push to have someone else appointed commissioner, he didn’t know me from Adam.
Rosenberg: So, how did you come to his attention then, Bob?
Paulson: Through this process, you know, he says we need a commissioner, the RCMP. Do I want to appoint someone who’s sort of lined up to the conservatives, or do we want to run a process and try and select the most capable candidate for this? And the process ran. I went along. There was psychometric testing. There was a series of interviews.
Rosenberg: Must have been a bit of a head spinner. At one point, you’re on the floor of a jail cell sharing a cigarette with a woman in a straitjacket, who’s committed, you know, 52 burglaries, and now you’re in the office of the prime minister of Canada being interviewed to be the next commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Paulson: Absolute head spinner. You know, until I was the deputy commissioner and I was acting often for this civilian commissioner because he was–as he was leaving–I thought to myself, you know, I could probably do this job and I could probably fix some of these things I’ve been bellyaching about for years. When I threw my name in the hat, when the headhunter came and saw me and said, would you participate in this process? I said, “yes, I will.” And then I wanted it. And it was the first time I wanted it.
Rosenberg: And what about the moment you got it?
Paulson: Yeah. Then, it was like the dog chasing the car that catches it, right.
Rosenberg: What do I do now? When were you appointed the twenty third commissioner of the RCMP?
Paulson: In December 2011.
Rosenberg: And what did you want to do?
Paulson: I wanted to fix the place. I wanted to restore the trust that had been–it was it was being shaken as I was being appointed. There was a series of slow, terrible disclosures by female officers who had suffered harassment and sexual harassment and sexual violence, even at the hands of some of their supervisors. It was just shaking the place. I remember standing in the lobby of the House Commons next to the Minister, who was the minister of public safety, then announcing my appointment. And there was a series of reporters, a horseshoe of reporters and lights and cameras. And they weren’t all smiling. All right. They weren’t all sharing the moment with Bob.
Rosenberg: They weren’t as happy as you.
Paulson: Wanted to rip me limb from limb and say, what? What are you going to do about this? Right. And I remember thinking all I could talk about was I was going to bring leadership and accountability to the organization in ways that it hadn’t seen before. And it was going to be difficult, require time, require patience. That’s all I could say.
Rosenberg: With respect to the sexual harassment issues that you found in the RCMP, sounded like it had gone unaddressed. What did you do?
Paulson: I brought process to it. We needed to have a process by which they could be properly investigated. The criticism of that response is: just believe me, I’m here in the media. I’m telling my story. What else do you want? Like, where are these people being arrested? And are our processes and systems for dealing with complaints of harassment were not engendering the trust and the faith of the membership, so that they would have some sort of opportunity to have these complaints resolved in the near term.
Rosenberg: But they may have genuinely felt they didn’t have an avenue within the organization. They had to go outside.
Paulson: They absolutely felt that. They absolutely felt that. And, and lawsuits started mounting up, such that, we needed, you know, a separate office of our legal department to manage them all. And so, ultimately, we needed to get to a place where we could settle the lawsuits, but we couldn’t settle the lawsuits until we had some process by which we could respond, and have the institution recognized as being ready to respond to complaints of harassment, whether they be sexual, or not.
Rosenberg: That’s only a part of the problem. You have to respond to the complaints and have a process to resolve them, but you also have to fix the underlying culture.
Paulson: Right, it just wasn’t modern. And so, it required a number of changes on a number of fronts that recognize that these were not failures of individuals. For example, a young woman in a remote post, maybe there’s three or four officers there, and she wants to have a family, the enormous pressure and judgments and criticisms that she faces by getting pregnant, right, is that you’re, you’re letting the team down. And we’re building a team from the moment we’re bringing people into depot.
Rosenberg: By depot, you mean the RCMP training facility in Saskatchewan?
Paulson: Yeah, we bring 32 people together, and we forge those into a unit so that they understand what the team is. But then when you’re letting the team down because you want to go and have a life, you’re facing judgment. People felt that was their fault. And I said, “no, that’s not their fault. It’s our fault, because we can’t organize ourselves to support that, because the law says that we should support it—“
Rosenberg: –well, and then also it’s also the right thing to do.
Paulson: Right. Right. But it’s not an individual failure. It’s a management failure. We’re failing our people by not providing strategies and systems to support them, to have their lives, while they risk their lives for Canadians. You know, one of the features of an effective leader, in my estimation, one of the characteristics, is an action-oriented implementer, right. Someone who’s prepared to do things. Yes, I know that you’re the deputy commissioner of federal policing, that’s a very nice position you have there, Bob. What do you do when you hang your coat up, and what happens next? Then what do you do?
Rosenberg: What’s the plan?
Paulson: Yeah. Yeah. And so, I started out by–and you may get a kick out of this because our history is talking about the American constitution, which I’m a tremendous fan of.
Rosenberg: I know you read quite a bit about it.
Paulson: We studied it, actually on this course that I was blessed to have, and yeah, I’m a big fan. So, I tried to build a constitution for the RCMP. We have the RCMP Act, in which, you know, and that’s, that’s it, I mean, that’s the law. But I tried to get a document that would sort of frame up interests within the organization, and would frame up how things should roll, where authority lies, and what it means to have authority, and all the things, that was quite a beautiful document that I attached to our administrative manual. But, it had no sort of. You didn’t have any constitutional weight. It couldn’t be slapped over the head of anybody.
Rosenberg: Was that met with resistance, acceptance? How did folks feel about you trying to sort of create a constitution for the RCMP?
Paulson: It was met mostly with an open mouth stare.
Rosenberg: Meaning folks didn’t understand what you were trying to do.
Paulson: Right. You know, shame on me. But that, sort of, informed me a little bit about this sort of magnitude of the task that I was facing, in terms of modernizing.
Rosenberg: You know, it’s interesting. When I ran the DEA, we didn’t have a core values program, and I thought it was important just to articulate what our core values are. And there was a bit of an open mouth reaction. You know, why are we doing this? What do we need it for? How does it help us do our jobs? And the answer is: it may not help today or even tomorrow, but by articulating a set of core values for an organization, you’re framing your work for hopefully generations to come. But it’s a hard thing to explain in just a couple of sentences.
Paulson: Absolutely. And key to changing an organization, let alone, a culture, is having a vision that people can, sort of, attach to and say, “oh, I see what he’s talking about.: But here’s the thing I used to say a lot–I started out when I was a deputy commissioner–I said, you know, everybody’s pulling for the RCMP. Canadians love the RCMP. They want the RCMP to succeed.
Rosenberg: So, do Americans.
Paulson: Yeah. The work we do is important. And that gives us the status that we all sort of roll around in that we’re happy with. The work is important. But let me tell you how we do it. That’s more important. I made a point of lecturing to every commissioned officer class. I would talk about an interest-based leadership model. And according to Bob, the interest-based leadership model places a hierarchy over three, sort of, main interests. The public interest is at the top, organizational interest is at the second place, and employee interest is third place. And then I’d say, what do you think of that? It was like I’d sworn in front of everyone. It’s like I said something really, really bad because the idea of leadership is that you’re looking after people, like you can’t be a leader without people, you gotta look after your people, but you’ve got to be able to do it with a mission in mind, the organization’s mission, and you’ve gotta, sort of, be guided by the public interest. And there are people that are making decisions out of personal interest for promotions, for whatever, people that are making decisions that aren’t weighing on the organizational impact, which is not the image of the force, but the organizational interest is not being respected in the discharge of your duties. Back to Lieutenant Paulson getting his first assessment, you know, on the flight line, being told, hey, pal, you’re not. You know, you might think you have a couple of ranks up on your shoulder,
Rosenberg: But you’re not cutting it.
Paulson: You’re not cutting it and you’re not doing–you’re not honoring the contract that put those stars on your shoulder. You’re not doing that. So, you better start doing it. That was how I approach some of those things. And it was a–it was fascinating discussion with those young officers because they’d done decisions. And often in police work, decisions can be contained within the facts that you’re facing. But as you get up in rank, and you begin to take more responsibility, you’ve got to cover those things with some other interests besides, you know, your own y
Rosenberg: Our best leaders should have the broadest view.
Rosenberg: And should understand why without having to be prompted. Public interest is more important than personal interest, or even, as you say, organizational interests.
Rosenberg: Hard to find those people aren’t.
Paulson: And it’s hard even as I sit here today, as we militarize more and more, we’re bringing ourselves farther and farther away from the people that we are policing. And if policing means guard over the flock with the best, deadliest weapons, then OK, but that’s not what it is. And it’s a difficult conversation, particularly with the profession, because there’s some very strong emotions that form part of this deliberation.
Rosenberg: You know, we wrestle, too, in the United States, with this notion of police militarization. And I’ve always said: “it’s not the stuff. It’s how we use this stuff.” So, it’s one thing for a police department in a big city to have an armored personnel carrier. There might be a time that they need it, but they have to be very careful about rolling it out for an ordinary protest.
Paulson: Exactly. You need the equipment. But so, my position was, yeah, have the equipment. I remember I got into a shouting match with a subordinate officer in front of a senior officer when I was in contract. Please. So, I’m an assistant commissioner. We’re having a meeting in front of the deputy commissioner, and the chief superintendent, who is one rank below me, we’re talking about water cannons because we had the G-8 or G. 20 going on in Toronto. And he says, “yes, I got a water cannon, and we’re driving it down to Toronto.” I said: “what you mean you got to water cannon?” Well, we got one again. Where’d you get that? We bought it. “So, who’s who’s, who’s working it?” “I don’t know.
We’ll get there when we get there, their guys, the emergency response guys, they’ll work it.” “Under what conditions?” Well, like things get out of hand. Understood as what? So, but I felt when I was asking those questions, like I was outside of the police value system. Paulson, do you not get this? No, I get it. But you get what’s gonna happen when we deploy this water cannon and kill little Jimmy, who is just out there for his first protest. And we have two years of inquiry to live through. Like who do I referred them to, you know, like use your head so you can have the equipment we need the equipment in. And it’s like when I was saying earlier about, about how important the RCMP is to Canadians and what we do. Yeah, yeah. How do we do it, though? That’s really important. And people aren’t putting their minds to how we’re doing what is so important. It’s like you just occupy the uniform and put on the high browns and the Stetson, and people clap. There’s more to the job than just occupying the position. And that’s the cultural change I was after.
Rosenberg: I’d be remiss, Bob, if I didn’t ask you about your oath of office.
Rosenberg: The oath that a young man or woman would take to become a Mountie.
Paulson: Yeah. And I’d sent you the oath from the Northwest Mounted Police. And the first oath is to the queen or the king.
Rosenberg: The head of state.
Paulson: The head of state. The other one, which is very interesting and is one that I always reminded people of, was this one, the oath of office, and it talks about, for example, Mr. Evans here, solemnly swore that he would faithfully, diligently and impartially execute and perform the duties required of him as a member of the Northwest Mounted Police, and will well and truly obey and perform all lawful orders and instructions which I shall receive as such, without fear, favour or affection of, or towards any person or party whomsoever. So, help him God. And my favorite part of that is the without fear, favour, or affection. And what that speaks to in terms of values and the qualities of effective leadership–I often maintain that one of the under-recognized or perhaps, mis-understood qualities is one of courage that leaders have to have and courage, not in the traditional sense of facing the lion, or wrestling bad guys, or getting into fights, but having the courage to live and think and be in a way that respects the values in the organization, and takes courage. And until you’re placed in those situations where you have to execute on that, I don’t think people understand how much courage it takes to make the right decision in the face of consequences
Rosenberg: And uncertainty.
Rosenberg: So, this is an oath of allegiance taken by a gentleman named Warren Wells Evans. And I can’t quite read the date, but it’s April of 1890-something.
Paulson: Yeah. Yeah.
Rosenberg: Is it the same oath today?
Paulson: It’s a little different today.
Rosenberg: Does it still contain the fear, favour, or affection language?
Paulson: No, it doesn’t. They took it out which is which is sad and just diligently and honestly.
Rosenberg: But again, your obligation is not to a particular person or party, it’s to the law.
Paulson: Absolutely. To the rule of law. For police officers, you’ll always be faced with that. You’ll always have to choose. And for the most part, we all make the right decisions.
Rosenberg: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Bob, is, as we discussed, iconic, legendary. We know it in the United States. And we deeply respect it. As you said, it’s always had a very good relationship with the citizens of Canada. Do you miss it?
Paulson: Yeah, I miss–I miss the people. I miss doing the police work.
Rosenberg: Have you been able to get back into police work, Bob?
Paulson: Well, I wanted to, and one of the things that I did prior to leaving as commissioner, was I upped the reserve program because we we’re short of police officers.
Rosenberg: And so, after about six months of having left office, I rode over to the reserve office, and I sent them an application. Former Commissioner Bob Paulson as a reserve officer Paulson.
Paulson: Yeah. I didn’t tell anybody. I didn’t tell my wife. And so, I got a call from the deputy commissioner: “what’s going on?” I go: “what I. I just wanted to take a crack at it.” I understand. I’m probably not going to. Probably not gonna go there. But I do miss it. I do miss the work.
Rosenberg: Well, Bob, I’m really grateful for a couple of things for your remarkable service to the people of Canada as an officer, as a constable, and as a commissioner of the RCMP, but also for taking some time to sit down with us today and tell us about it. It’s a truly inspirational story.
Paulson: Well, thank you very much, Chuck. Thanks for the opportunity.
Rosenberg: It’s certainly our pleasure. Thank you for your time, Bob.
Thanks to Bob Paulson for joining us today on The Oath. It was an honor to sit down with Bob in his beautiful home city of Ottawa, thanks to the good folks at Bartmart audio in Ottawa for their technical support of our program. If you like this episode, please let us know by leaving us a five-star rating on whatever app you use to listen. And if you have any thoughtful criticism, feedback, or questions about this episode or others, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org one word. email@example.com And though I cannot personally respond to every email, please know that I read each one of them, and I definitely appreciate it. The Oath is a production of NBC News and of MSNBC. This podcast was produced by FannieCo, with Fannie Cohen, Nic Bannon and Rob Hebert. They’re a wonderful team. Lauren Chadwick and Laurel Hyneman provided production support. Our senior producer is Barbara Raab and Steve Lickteig is our executive producer. This is The Oath with Chuck Rosenberg, thank you so very much for listening.