RCMP Commissioner Mike Duheme's career has taken him from general duty policing in Nova Scotia and P.E.I. to the Emergency Response Team and VIP protection in Ottawa. He has worked in Special I, national security, and the Parliamentary Protective Service before being named the commanding officer in National Division. Prior to his appointment as Commissioner in March 2023, he served as deputy commissioner of Federal Policing. Commr. Duheme sat with Gazette editor Katherine Aldred to talk about his priorities for the organization, and what he wants Canadians to know about the RCMP.
- You've had a lot of variety in your RCMP career so far. But if you had a do-over, what would you do differently in your career?
My only regret is not having worked in the North. I guess I'll have to come back as a reservist. I had an opportunity once, but it just didn't line up with my personal life. However, I have visited the North as Commissioner and just loved it. I appreciate the challenges that our folks face up there, but they're also very solution-oriented, which I admire.
- You've been Commissioner for a short while now. What's the biggest challenge so far?
I would say the biggest challenge is how do you effectively communicate with 30,000 people so that you're able to mobilize everyone to head in one direction. We do have challenges but the first thing that came to mind, other than recruiting, is how do you effectively engage everyone from the East Coast to the West Coast to the North to the South.
- One thing you've recently shared with employees is that RCMP has renewed its core values: act with integrity, show respect, demonstrate compassion, take responsibility, and serve with excellence. Why was this renewal important?
I think it's healthy for any organization to review what's been in place for several years, and we thought it was time under Commissioner Lucki to renew these values. We changed them so that it's not just a word, it's an action, and we should be holding each other accountable to these values. If we don't, they're just words.
- You've answered my next question, which is that you pledged to put action behind these words. So, you're saying that each employee should live the values?
And that's at the highest level. It starts with me. I have a Senior Executive Committee that's made up of deputy level or equivalent and, as commanding officers, we should hold everybody accountable for what they do and, if it's not going well, report it and work with it. Going into work should be a healthy environment. You could have days that are so-so, but on the norm, every day should be positive.
In an interview with Gazette magazine, Commissioner Mike Duheme speaks about his top priorities and how he intends to make the RCMP an employer of choice.
- You identified some key priorities in your first speech, including recruiting and supporting operations. How do you see these advancing under your leadership?
We still don't have the secret recipe for recruitment. It's a very competitive field and there are fewer and fewer people interested in law enforcement. But the RCMP has a lot to offer when in comes to career opportunities. Like I said, we're 30,000 people strong. You can serve on the East Coast for the first five years, then transfer to the West Coast. You can go North. We have international deployments and are heavily involved in peacekeeping missions. And then there are so many things that someone can do within their career, like specialty roles. So, we really have to hone in on how we make the RCMP an employer of choice. There are other organizations that seem to have a more streamlined approach when it comes to recruiting. We have to explore and review our recruiting process, including the conditions of recruiting. Mobility was a big one because people are less and less mobile.
A group of our commanding officers recently tabled a document to see how the RCMP divisions can provide better support to the overall recruitment strategy. Basically, we want to streamline the process, get people in the door and out the door as fast as we can without compromising any of the requirements. We want to get them out on the street supporting our folks in the detachments.
On the operational side, it's just getting stuff out to the frontlines as soon as we can. We are known to have pilot project after pilot project that takes forever, and I think there's a different way to make sure our people have the right equipment [such as body worn cameras and an improved uniform] to do the job. Again, we can streamline some of the processes. If we're looking for a piece of equipment that another law enforcement agency already has, and there's been a study on that piece of equipment, why can't we piggyback on what's been done? Maybe we modify it a bit if we have to, to meet our needs in the North, but I don't think we should reinvent the wheel.
- So, there are challenges to overcome. What do you think the RCMP has to offer that is unmatched anywhere else?
I'm going to go back to what the organization has to give. You can go and spend three years in a limited duration post, you can go on an international deployment, you can do close protection, you can join the emergency response team, you can be part of investigations in some of the divisions, I think we have such a wide variety of jobs to offer.
I just came back from Saskatchewan and they have a unit for cattle theft, livestock investigators, which I didn't know was still prominent. When you talk to the people there, there's a need for that. There's so much variety in this organization.
- You've referenced the challenges of mobilizing 30,000 employees. What's your approach to communicating with them about important issues and listening to their concerns?
I've had a chance to go to Nova Scotia, I've spent some time in Alberta, I've spent time in Saskatchewan, and one of the highlights for me was meeting with people in the detachments and having those heart-to-heart conversations. I don't pretend to have all the solutions. We're not going to fix everything tomorrow morning. But it's important for me to sit down and know what's going on and hear the concerns.
In Saskatchewan, I visited a couple of detachments where our members are actually living in very challenging conditions. So, some of them are stuck in the housing process and we've got to be quicker because it's going to hinder us. You're going to have a hard time promoting people in some locations because they hear about those things. We need to start looking at how we can reduce that.
But I really like sitting down with folks and having conversations about the key issues that they're encountering so I can follow up with the senior executive committee. Again, when I was in Saskatchewan, we were comparing the tuques that they use in the winter time. The one that we have versus the one we should have. I would say it's something minor, but it still becomes an irritant because people don't have the right equipment to do what they're supposed to do.
I'm a true believer in communications. I'm working on getting out those messages that are relevant to folks, and getting straight to the point so that they understand.
- You've been very busy since you were sworn in. What are some of the wellness practices that you follow to manage the demands of your work?
That's an interesting question. My strongest supporter is my spouse Nathalie. On the weekends, I take the time just to unwind and there's rarely an evening that goes by that I don't sit down and discuss with her some of the things that are going on, some of the challenges that we're facing, because she works for the RCMP as well. I think I have a pretty good handle on managing my stress because I've grown up through the organization. Of course, we're all different. Some people might go for a jog, or do something else, but a good discussion with Nat helps me a lot. There are stressful days for sure. Knowing how you react in certain situations, and then getting the right tools to address it, is key.
- What is the one thing you would like to highlight to Canadians about the RCMP that they might not know?
That we're 30,000 strong and there's no doubt in my mind that every employee who comes to work does 100% of what they can to ensure the safety of Canadians. Visiting these few divisions so far, meeting regular members, public servants, and civilian members, it's quite remarkable what goes on day in day out in these small and large detachments. The work that's being done in the divisions, considering some of the resourcing challenges, is excellent. People are very, very passionate. And I find myself pretty fortunate to be in charge of this organization.
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