The Canadian Review of Policing Research (2005)

ISSN: 1710 6915


John Edward Deukmedjian

The article on which this summary is based was published in Policing and Society, vol. 13 no. 4, December, 2003, pp. 331-348. Professor John Edward Deukmedjian can be contacted at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Windsor, Room 260, South Chrysler Hall, 401 Sunset Avenue, Windsor, Ontario, Canada N9J 3E4; by telephone (519) 253-3000 extension 3985; by e-mail at


During the 1990s, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) developed alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms for addressing internal grievances, discipline and, later, public complaints to realign the subjectivities of its members and managers with community policing principles. The management of organizational conflict is a significant aspect of police management.1 Moreover, since public conflict management is a significant aspect of public policing, rationalities of public policing such as community policing2 directly influence how the police conceptualize3 and thus manage organiza­tional conflicts.

Since the publication of Foucault’s “On Governmentality”4, a great deal of academic literature has explored the growth of neo-liberal governance. Scholars have explored how neo-liberal programs of government aim to create the conditions for realigning welfare-state subjectivities or mindsets5 consistent with the broader dictates of neo-liberalism. What seems to have escaped examination and theorization, however, is the development of newly-aligned technologies and practices for governing conflicts which, in their turn, attempt to form new mindsets or subjectivities. The purpose of this study is therefore to show how the RCMP implemented ADR to create the organizational conditions necessary for realign­ing member and managerial subjectivities in ways consistent with community policing. In doing so, the article summarized here contributes to our theoretical understanding of neo-liberal subjectivity reformation.


The methodological approach of this study aligns closely with what Foucault refers to as “genealogy” or “history of the present”.6 From this vantage point, the focus is on texts, on the historical conditions that made their production possible, and on their political and governmental effects. Given that government and management are inherently problem-solving enterprises, an analysis of texts unravels the articulation of new governmental problems as well as their solutions over time and place.

The principal research data utilized in this study are therefore managerial and governmental texts. These specifically include texts produced by RCMP management, texts produced by the Canadian government relating to the manage­ment of the RCMP, and texts produced by non-RCMP or non-governmental sources relating to, or used by, RCMP management. All of these texts address some aspect of ADR development or the governance of organizational conflict. A number of interviews were also conducted to obtain information not readily available in written form. Interview questions were unique to each interviewee so they were focused rather than structured. All interviewees held positions of managerial authority within the RCMP, thereby establishing consistency with the written texts.


The 1990 introduction of community policing in the RCMP led to senior managers and the Canadian government considering the application of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) for resolving both organizational conflicts among members and managers, and conflicts between the RCMP and the public. While the Canadian government and the RCMP recognized that ADR aligned with community policing during the early 1990s, the conditions for its implementation did not exist until mid-1994.

1. Contingency and Impetus for the RCMP ADR Project

Wage freezes first introduced in 1992 and again in 1994 led to a significant decline in morale in the RCMP.7 As a result, membership grievances nearly doubled from 885 in 1990 to 1,757 in 1994, and cost more than $5 million to process.8 A solution to the dilemma presented itself in January 1995 when the acting Chairperson of the External Review Commission and the RCMP Commissioner agreed to pursue the implementation of organizational alternative dispute resolution. In the months that followed, an ADR national steering committee was formed and the RCMP ADR project was born. In addition to simply addressing the problem of increasing grievances however, the National Steering Committee sought to create the conditions for realigning organizational subjectivi­ties with community policing. The National Steering Committee recognized that the proposed ADR project embodied a problem-solving approach that aligned with the consultative nature of community policing.

2. The Implementation of the RCMP ADR project

Generating organizational support for the project was strategic. The project team began by training key RCMP leaders as mediators in an effort to minimize potential resistance against ADR from those who could likely offer it. They also applied ADR to cases that offered the greatest possibilities for successful mediation. By demonstrating a high success rate early on, the project team sought to convince the broader membership and management of the virtues of the project.

Eventually, the Project Team rigorously marketed the success of ADR through virtually every major communications artery of the organization including e-mail broadcasts, faxes, inserts in salary cheque envelopes, promotional videos, handbooks, brochures, posters, and lapel pins. By these means, the team hoped that the RCMP would undergo a transformation into an “ADR culture”, that is: one where the resolution of conflicts was consistent with the problem-solving aspects of community policing.

After two years, in October 1997, the National Steering Committee created the office of the National ADR Advisor, which assumed the national management of ADR from the project team. The National ADR Advisor advised the commissioner on policies and managerial practices that provided the under­pinning for resolving conflicts between members and managers. This approach to conflict governance aligned with community policing principles. The office of National ADR Advisor fulfilled a five-year mandate, and closed in 2002.

3. RCMP and Community ADR

The RCMP went on to utilize ADR in responding to public complaints, using the experience of the member-manager conflict resolution system management as a model for the complaint aspect of RCMP community relations. The RCMP has since used ADR to mediate disputes among its community partners. The RCMP has thus begun to accomplish its desired alignment between internal and external conflict management and policing more broadly.

4. Resistance and the Limits of Subjectivity Realignment

In the years since its implementation, the negotiation of serious cases of discipline has resulted in substantial financial payments to members in return for their agreement to retire or resign. While this “business case” application of ADR has made sense from a financial standpoint, given the higher costs associated with adjudication, many members and managers have criticized the practice as inequitable. Ironically, the use of ADR has itself become a potential catalyst for organizational conflict between the broader membership and management.

Conclusions and Implications

A number of intersecting contingencies made the ADR project possible. By identifying and examining these contingencies, the study challenged the tendency within the “governmentality” literature to treat governmental efforts at reordering welfare-state subjectivities as hegemonic and monolithic. In addition, the study found that it is not too useful to conceptualize the ADR project as merely a managerial program to effect subjectivity realignment. Rather, it is a technology that enabled members and managers to realign their own subjectivities through practices of negotiation and mediation. This is consistent with both Foucault’s9 and Pavlich’s10 characterization of governmental subjectivity formation as contingent upon practices of the self. Moreover, despite managerial efforts to the contrary, the process does not take place without resistance.

The study also showed that rather than replacing existing legalistic-professional technologies and practices for resolving organizational conflicts (i.e. the grievance procedures), the alternative dispute resolution project formed a symbiotic interrelationship with them. The ADR project discursively realigned existing quasi-judicial technolo­gies in order for them to create incentives and opportunities for ADR practices. These quasi-judicial mechanisms now regulate ADR practices to guard against possible misuse and to encourage disputants to monitor and justify progress. Thus, the evolution and realignment of conflict governance under community policing did not just entail the innovation of ADR mechanisms, it also entailed the realignment of existing technologies and practices to support and encourage the use of ADR.

The article also offered a preliminary theorization of subjectivity realignment itself. First, it postulated that subjectivity alignment is seldom hegemonic because it depends on both the active architecture of conditions of possibility and the exploitation of contingencies in order to achieve self-reformation and alignment. Second, it pointed out that subjectivity realignment does not simply entail replacing existing institutions, technologies, and practices with new ones. Instead, it requires the active reshaping of existing assemblages to support and create the conditions of possibility for new assemblages to take hold and function.


Axon, L. (1996). “A Diagnosis of RCMP Dispute Resolution Procedures.” Ottawa: Robert Hann & Associates Ltd.

Canada (1994). House of Commons Debates (Hansard) , vol. 133, no.034, p. 2117, March 10, 1994, “The Budget”, Ottawa: Speaker of the House of Commons.

Cruikshank, B. (1996). “Revolutions Within: Self-Government and Self-Esteem,” in: A. Barry, T. Osborne, and N. Rose (eds.), Foucault and Political Reason: Liberalism, Neo-liberalism and Rationalities of Government. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 231–251.

Deetz, S. (1998). “Discursive Formations, Strategized Subordination and Self-Surveillance,” in A. McKinlay, and K. Starkey (eds.), Foucault, Management and Organizational Theory. London: Sage.

Foucault, M. (1991). “On Governmentality,” in G. Burchell, C. Gordon, and P. Miller (eds.), The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

-------- (1994). “The Ethic of Care for the Self as a Practice of Freedom,” in J. Bernauer and D. Rasmussen, (eds.), The Final Foucault. Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press.

-------- (1995). Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (trans. by A. Sheridan). New York: Vintage Books.

Pavlich, G. (1996). Justice Fragmented, London and New York: Routledge.

Trojanowicz, R. (1990). “Community Policing is not Police Community Relations,” in FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 59 (10).

Walters, W. (1996). “The Demise of Unemployment?” in Politics and Society, 24(3), 197–219.

Wilson , O.W. (1977). Police Administration. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Wood, J. (2000). Reinventing Governance: A Study of Transformations in the Ontario Provincial Police. PhD dissertation. Toronto: University of Toronto.

Zehr, H. (1990). Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and Justice. Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press

End Notes

1. O. W. Wilson, Police Administration. McGraw-Hill: New York, 1997.

2. R. Trojanowicz, R, “Community Policing is not Police Community Relations”, in FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin 59 (10), 1990, pp. 6–11.

3. See H. Zehr, Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and Justice. Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press, 1990.

4. M. Foucault, (1991) “On Governmentality”, in G.Burchell, C. Gordon, and P. Miller, (eds.), The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality, Chicago: 1991, University of Chicago Press, pp. 87–104.

5. See for example B. Cruikshank, “Revolutions Within: Self-Government and Self-Esteem”, in A. Barry, T. Osborne, and N. Rose, (eds.), Foucault and Political Reason: Liberalism, Neo-liberalism and Rationalities of Government, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996, pp. 231–251; S. Deetz, “Discursive Formations, Strategized Subordination and Self-Surveillance,” in A. McKinlay and K. Starkey, (eds.), Foucault, Management and Organizational Theory. London: 1998, Sage, pp. 151–172; and W. Walters, “The demise of unemployment?” in Politics and Society 24 (3), 1996, pp.197–219.

6. M. Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (trans. by A. Sheridan), New York: Vintage Books, 1995.

7. Canada, House of Commons Debates (Hansard) , vol. 133, no.034, p. 2117, March 10, 1994, “The Budget”, Ottawa: Speaker of the House of Commons.

8. L. Axon, “A Diagnosis of RCMP Dispute Resolution Procedures,” Robert Hann & Associates Ltd., Ottawa: 1996.

9. M. Foucault, M. (1994) “The Ethic of Care for the Self as a Practice of Freedom”, in J. Bernauer and D. Rasmussen (eds.), The Final Foucault , Cambridge, MA: 1994, MIT Press, pp. 1–20.

10. G. Pavlich, Justice Fragmented, London/ New York: 1996, Routledge.