A task force reviewing the RCMP released a report Friday calling for fundamental changes to the way the police force is managed.

The report, released by Toronto lawyer David Brown, said the Mounties have become mired in bureaucracy and must have more authority over their own staff and budget.

"The RCMP is not just another federal department -- nor should it be," Brown said at a press conference Friday.

"Members of the RCMP have the authority to make life-and-death decisions every day -- they fight organized crime and infiltrate terrorist cells -- but they don't have the authority to make simple expenditures or hire a new person without hours of paperwork and process.''

The report outlines 40 suggestions and makes three major recommendations:

  • The RCMP become a separate entity, removed from the affairs of the government
  • The creation of a civilian board to oversee the organization and administration of the RCMP
  • The creation of a more powerful complaints watchdog with the authority to impose its decision on the police force

The findings came after five months of research, including conversations with more than 2,000 Mounties and consultations with academics and management experts.

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day launched the task force after a report Brown released in June criticized Mountie pension and insurance plans, and also made allegations of abuse of authority and internal harassment.

Brown said the task force came to see a picture of a revered Canadian institution with members struggling to do their best under an inefficient and poorly structured organization.

"With remarkable, but disturbing consistency, we heard of chronic shortages of people and equipment, of overwork and fatigue, of issues of wellness, health and even safety,'' Brown said.

According to the recommendations, the management board will report to the Public Safety minister and be responsible for financial affairs and personnel procurement.

A Commission for Complaints and Oversight of the RCMP would replace several existing bodies that Brown says lack the authority to compel change.

Brown said a council should ensure the board of management and independent commission are in operation no later than the end of 2009.

Commissioner William Elliott said he agreed with the report's finding that the RCMP needs better oversight and review, but would not comment on specific recommendations.

"There is simply no other option, the RCMP must change. And we must change in significant, relevant and meaningful ways to address the problems described in the task force's report," Elliott said.

"I have read enough to know that it's an important document that will serve as one of the key drivers of change as we go forward."

Elliott said that major changes are already underway, including the restructuring of the highest levels of management.

Changes in Taser use

In a surprise move, the RCMP announced Friday that it would be changing its policies on the use of Tasers.

The Mounties issued a news release saying they will be asking officers to limit the use of Tasers "to situations where a subject is displaying combative behaviors or is being actively resistant."

They added that a bulletin outlining the new policy has now been sent to all members and the changes will be incorporated in all future training for Tasers, also known as a conducted energy weapons (CEW).

The changes don't go as far as recommendations made earlier this week by a public complaints commission.

The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP recommended in a 53-page report that the Mounties restrict the use of Tasers to situations when an individual is being "combative" or posing a risk of "death or grievous bodily harm" to the officer, themselves or the general public.

The Commission also wanted Tasers to be re-classified as an "impact weapon" instead of its current status of "intermediate" device, the same category as pepper spray.

Friday's RCMP release made no mention of re-classification.

But it did agree to a commission recommendation for stricter reporting of Taser incidents. The Mounties said they would enhance their Taser database to include more reporting and analysis of all "use of force" incidents, including those involving Tasers.

The Commission made 10 recommendations Wednesday following the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski last October.

Dziekanski died after being Tasered by police during a confrontation at the Vancouver International Airport. He was the 18th person in Canada to die after being hit by a Taser in recent years and his death sparked international criticism of the use of Tasers.

With a report from CTV's Graham Richardson