Thursday, July 26, 2007

Home Again

Well, I am back (logging on to gloat about Conrad Black doesn't count, pleasurable though it is). And, as usual, I take a certain amount of comfort in seeing that some things around the old homestead never change. Ted Byfield, for example.

Mounties made big miss-take
You cannot have a police force without a code of rules -- most of them unwritten

Now, I confess, when I saw that headline, my first thought was "I don't know what the deal is with 'miss-take', but there is no way that Ted has written a column the RCMP's recent difficulties on the existence of female police officers in its ranks. Not even Ted is that divorced from reality. Link, maybe, but not Ted." Ooh, how wrong I was, as we're about to see:

I was talking last week to a veteran Mountie, retired from the RCMP now for more than 30 years, after a career that was at least that long and took him to the rank, I believe, of inspector, though I'm not sure about that.

Ok, beginning a column with an admission that you don't know who you were talking to. That's some interesting rhetorical technique, there.

"What," I asked "has gone wrong? Why is it that an institution, which for well over a century managed to operate with scarcely a blemish on its record, now encounters problems at every turn.

Discipline problems, training problems, money control problems -- so much so that a civilian has been called in to take them over."

"Scarcely a blemish", hmmmm? Well, I suppose, if you don't count the strike-breaking. Or the other strike-breaking. Or the Regina Riot. Or the getting infiltrated by Soviet spies. Or the barn-burning. Or rather a lot of other things.

Warning: The history of your police force may differ somewhat from the illustration.

"Too long," he said. "I've been far too long away from them to make any worthwhile observations."

I knew he would say this and it may be largely true. But perhaps not entirely.

"Well did you see any changes even in your day that could have led to the problems we have today?"

He was slow to answer me, but I knew he wanted to say something, but was hesitant to do so.

Don't be a tease, Ted.

"Come on, out with it," I said.

That's better.

"Don't misunderstand me," he said at last, "but I think it started with the women. I think when we took women into the force, that began a major change. And that change has led to what we have today.

"You don't mean to say," I said, "that women caused all the problems that the Mounties are now confronted with.?"

"No, no, not at all," he said. "Women make very good officers, much better in some ways than men."

"Then how did they start the problem?

What you've really got to love here is how Ted "gutless little puke" Byfield is setting up this anonymous and potentially imaginary RCMP veteran to take the fall for him. I also enjoyed a good chuckle at Ted's faked astonishment and horror over the officer's pronouncement; this from a man who's made a career out of misogyny. Anyway, onwards...

He then explained that up until women began to appear in the Mountie uniform, the RCMP was very much like a military unit. It had a kind of regimental discipline. A code.

Some of it was spelled out. Some of it was just assumed.

You just knew what you were supposed to do, and if you didn't do it you were out. And there were some things you were not supposed to do, and if you did them you were out even faster.

Union-busting and spying on people who disagreed with the government, for example, were very much in the "to-do" pile.

There were written rules, of course. But these were mostly unwritten rules, and they governed conduct from the lowest ranks to the very top.

It was at the top, he said, where the rules were less specific, but they were there none the less. And it is at the top where the greatest dangers to the force always lie.

I thought the greatest danger to the force was women, Ted. Try to stay focused, here.

It had to do with the relations between the police and the government, a very delicate area. The force was responsible to the government. Canada is a democracy and it had to be. An absolutely independent police force would be an impediment to democracy, and all over the world all through history, police forces and military forces have become so independent they have taken over governments.

But on the other side, they had to be ready to enforce the law, when the government itself, or people in the government broke it.

So there was a fine line which the commissioners of his day, he said, well understood and toed it.

Then what happened?

Anyway, when the women came, everything changed.

Read that line out loud to yourself, and see if you don't fall over laughing. It sounds like the tagline from a 1950s-era B-movie.

A police force of men, and a police force of men and women, are not the same thing.

Well, I gotta admit, that statement is 100% true. * Bangs head on desk *

What you can say, what you can do, how you behave and where, all this must change.

Yup, no more farting in the squad room for you, Mr. 1970s-vintage RCMP Officer!

And these changes quickly meant that the rules must change too.

But change to what, exactly?

"Even in my day," he said, "no one was altogether sure. The effect of the women was to destabilize the rules, and already a kind of basic uncertainty began to become evident among us all."

Then they were pretty fucking stupid rules, weren't they.

He was not saying, he stressed, that there should be no women in the Mounties.

Oh, fuck off. First of all, let's drop the charade about your mysterious informant shall we Ted? This is you, Ted Byfield, putting forth your, Ted Byfield's, opinion. Secondly, quit trying to cover your ass; everybody, including your idiot fellow-travellers, understands that what you are trying to say is precisely that women should not be RCMP officers, because apparently the arrival of women on the force caused the RCMP to mismanage its pension fund 30 years later. Which is ridiculous, a fact that ought to surprise nobody.

But you cannot have a police force without a code of rules, most of them unwritten, and you cannot invent a new code overnight.

It must be the product of experience. It takes years and years to develop a new code. And during this transitional period, all sorts of things will go wrong.

And that, he figures, is what's gone wrong in the Mounties.

And a great many other things in society, you come to think about it.

We need a new set of rules and we don't have them.

Oh, fuck off again. We do have a new set of rules, including the one that says that women can be police officers. You just don't like them.

Anyway, for a much better and funnier look at this particular masterpiece of Ted's, go here.


Matthew The Astrologer said...

So very true. I would have suspected senility, but I've read the stuff he writes for the American market, and it's a lot more coherent. No less vomitous, of course, but containing some sense of internal logic.

Why is Byfield dumping his shittiest work on the domestic market?

Love your blog, by the way...

the rev. said...

If the rules are not written down, then they are not RULES. What they are practices, traditions, superstitions and prejudices. They are the extra-legal exceptions to the rules, the lawyerly circumnavigation of the rules where the end supposedly justifies the means.
And the interviewee is correct, he has been out of the game too long to have anything useful to say about it. Byfield is a nitwit.