The Canadian Review of Policing Research (2004)

ISSN: 1710 6915


Cal Corley

Cal Corley is a Chief Superintendent in the Strategic Policy and Planning Branch of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He has extensive operational, administrative and executive experience within the RCMP and a deep interest in police culture, leadership and organizational change. He brought these three fields together in the present research paper, completed as a final step in his recently completed Master of Business Administration degree program. For more information on this study, Chief Superintendent Corley can be reached at or at (613) 993-3597.

What will be the future of policing and public security at the national and global levels? The organizations likely to thrive, not merely cope, in the dynamic global policing context will be those that can adapt, respond to change, and work in partnership with other organizations at an international level. A crucial element in achieving international capability will be a cosmopolitan perspective on policing or, in other words, a global mindset and international leadership talent1 . The study summarized here focused on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and how its International Liaison Program might be leveraged to improve the depth of leadership that will be required to guide the organization both nationally and internationally.

An Evolving Landscape

In recent times, the number of serious threats to society has increased, many of a multinational nature. Examples include cyber crime, corporate fraud, human smuggling and many other organized criminal and terrorist activities. Many of these endeavours are highly sophisticated, making detection and prosecution of those behind the threats difficult undertakings. Collectively, such activities represent significant threats to national security and the well-being of Canadians.

Most police organizations, including the RCMP, have been organized primarily on a para-military model to respond to domestic criminal activity and public disorder. Such police organizations, structured to deal with local community issues, are often not well prepared with respect to multi-jurisdictional matters. In this complex environment, the disruption and eradication of terrorism and organized crime will require greater sophistication and integration of police and public security organizations internationally. More than ever, senior police leaders and decision-makers will have to act locally while taking into account a multitude of circumstances existing at the national and international levels. The important question is whether police leadership is adequately prepared for functioning at the international level to address multi-jurisdictional matters.

The RCMP and Its International Liaison Program (Ilp)

The RCMP provides a federal policing service to all Canadians, and a full range of policing and public security services through contractual agreements with eight provinces, three territories, 199 municipalities and 192 First Nations communities. It is mandated to prevent and investigate crime, maintain order and enforce laws. It is involved in matters as diverse as health and the protection of government revenues, to the contribution to national security and the safety of state officials, visiting dignitaries and foreign missions. The RCMP also provides operational support services to other Canadian and foreign police and law enforcement agencies. Finite resources require the RCMP to work collaboratively, both domestically and internationally, with other law enforcement and public security organizations towards achieving shared objectives. This is what integrated policing is all about. And integrated policing is rapidly becoming the defining operating philosophy of the RCMP.

The RCMP has 36 liaison officers posted at 21 Canadian missions in other countries. These are the members of the International Liaison Program (ILP). They are mandated to “seek out, foster and enhance international law enforcement relationships and partnerships with foreign law enforcement agencies and legal authorities with the intent of using a multi-disciplined, integrated, long-term approach – one that leverages intelligence, investigation and enforcement for mutual benefit”.

Enhancing International Policing Effectiveness

There are three main obstacles to effective international police cooperation:

  1. Structural differences among the criminal justice systems of different countries;
  2. Systemic differences occasioned by differing rules of criminal procedure;
  3. Cultural differences that influence policy, enforcement or prevention priorities.

For the RCMP to be effective internationally, it will require greater knowledge and understanding in these three areas. Above all, it will require a more cosmopolitan orientation, where a critical mass within the RCMP leadership cadre as well as within the federal policing domain can excel and be at ease operating and negotiating in multiple cultures and language settings.

Organizations such as the RCMP that are being drawn into the business of international policing would do well to adopt a more strategic approach to their internationalization. The return for this effort can be significant. For example:

  1. The influence of the organizations would be substantially enhanced in the police and public security sector;
  2. Over time, the strategic repatriation of people and knowledge would improve the cosmopolitanization of key areas within the organizations.

With respect to the latter point, cosmopolitanization could have many subsidiary benefits, including the creation of organizations able to attract those from other cultural and linguistic groups seeking careers that encourage the continued development of their existing international talents.

The hallmark of the best-in-class organizations operating globally is the dual character they give to expatriate assignments. Even while concentrating on the substantive purpose of their businesses, they pay attention to internationalizing their workforces either by recruiting those possessing the requisite cultural and linguistic backgrounds, or by the use of expatriate assignments. Properly deployed and supported, expatriates can develop an international mindset and a broad set of leadership talents that cannot be acquired domestically. This includes the ability to lead and take action in multicultural settings, to deal with highly abstract questions, and to operate effectively in ambiguous and complex circumstances.

The ILP presents a unique opportunity for regular members of the RCMP to develop this broader international mindset and knowledge. A clearer focus for the program could contribute to improving the overall quality and depth of dialogue, problem-solving and decision-making within the RCMP. It could also enhance the ability of the organization to forecast, respond and adapt to an external environment that is in constant flux.

It is critical, however, that senior leaders understand the power of organizational culture when considering such broad-based changes. In police agencies such as the RCMP, organizational cultures steeped in tradition can often impede the abilities of the organizations to adapt and respond to new trends and dynamics. In stable environments, such a culture is a strength but, in more unstable times and situations, the same culture can become a liability.

On average it costs the RCMP between $350,000 and $375,000 annually to keep each of its 36 liaison officers (LOs) abroad. While their numbers may be small, the international experience, knowledge and leadership capabilities developed by the LOs are significant. Such capabilities contribute to organizational goals, but are not mined and leveraged to the maximum of strategic advantage. There could be a higher yield on investment.


The study provided an analysis of how well the ILP, by the deployment of its LOs abroad, contributes to the development and leveraging of international leadership capacity and knowledge in the RCMP. An assessment was conducted to determine which aspects of the dominant culture of the RCMP could be considered enablers or inhibitors for international operations and for the development of international leadership talent.

Interviews were held with 14 current and former LOs, and a number of other internal stakeholders and ILP staff. These provided insights into the evolution of the ILP over the past 15 years. Six organizations, two Canadian, two American, one British and one Australian, operating internationally in the law enforcement and public security sector were selected for benchmarking purposes. A comprehensive review of the literature and insights from the comparator group provided benchmarks against which the RCMP experience was compared.

Quantitative data acquired from the RCMP Human Resource Management Information System (HRMIS) provided the basis for an analysis of:

  1. RCMP foreign language capabilities;
  2. RCMP members who had indicated an interest in serving in the ILP and their characteristics;
  3. Characteristics of current and former LOs such as their service experience and language capabilities.

These results formed the context for an analysis of the processes used to deploy, support and repatriate LOs. Each of these processes was discussed in detail and recommendations provided.


Those interviewed recognized the need for a more international mindset and culture to support the international and national aspects of the federal business line. One senior officer spoke of the need for high degrees of tolerance for ambiguity and “fluidity of thought” on the part of police leaders and practitioners. Many emerging investigative methods in the international milieu require a different approach from those generally accepted in the police culture. For example, the most effective outcome in many international cases may be disruption rather than prosecution.

A greater focus on internationalizing the police culture has other derivative benefits such as better understanding our own organizations, and how they could be made more attractive to those from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Said one senior interviewee, “The intense cross-cultural experience many of our liaison officers acquire may also help untangle and understand our own organizational culture. We live in a new reality and environment here. They have also seen the organization from the outside and that may help us gain perspective that will help in achieving the organization we need to be”.

Police organizations seeking to develop international leadership skills must embrace developmental opportunities available through such means as the ILP and the International Peacekeeping Program. These avenues provide the opportunity to develop the requisite knowledge, skills and talent. One important challenge is how to recruit, select, support and repatriate expatriates, and otherwise meet their developmental needs while balancing operational imperatives.

An effective international integration of policing will require:

  • The recruitment and integration of culturally diverse individuals into management and leadership roles,
  • Disposition of national police culture to support higher performance internationally,
  • Police leaders equipped with strategic international perspectives and experience,
  • Relationships of trust among international partner agencies,
  • A respect and ability to work with each other’s values, perspectives, and capacities to contribute.

The ILP can be a significant contributor in the internationalization of the RCMP, particularly its federal programs and overall management. Developing international leadership talent and knowledge is a by-product of the foreign experience and should not be the primary focus of the LO function. However, the LO functions can be tailored to better develop such desirable by-products.


In light of events over the past few years, it is reasonable to assume that police leaders and decision-makers in the future will face issues that cannot be imagined today. The organizations best able to respond and adapt in this era of uncertainty are those that have developed a problem-solving mindset and leadership capacity well in advance of this trend. These individuals will thrive at improving integration among police and public security agencies operating across multiple jurisdictions.

Today, international policing is a subsidiary activity for most national police organizations. However, a medium-term view suggests that in many instances a national service possessing sturdy international working relationships will not only provide access to much needed information, but to other resources of significant value.

A robust, strategic International Liaison Program is pivotal to the RCMP realizing its strategic goals. It has many of the ingredients necessary to elevate the standard by which policing is conducted internationally.

Enhancing cultural awareness and developing an international mindset are by-products of foreign work and life experience and should not be the primary focus of the role of the LO. Nevertheless, LO work functions can be tailored better to develop these desirable by-products. To achieve this end, the processes by which the RCMP selects, deploys and repatriates LOs require greater rigour than they have had in the past. The RCMP must ensure that its largest single investment is optimized and repatriated for success.


1. A global mindset has been described as “a way of being rather than a set of skills”. It is the ability to scan the world from a broad perspective; to develop and see goals, priorities and objectives against a much larger backdrop and time frames. A global mindset also provides meaning for events, and positions various behaviours and responses. (Srinivas, 1995; Kedia et al, 1999).

International leadership talent is defined as the ability to lead and take action on the basis of the knowledge acquired through the experience of working with and in other cultures and societies. Such leadership brings life to the global mindset. This talent enables the individual to work effectively cross-culturally, deal with highly conceptual issues, operate effectively in highly complex environments and be perceptive to subtleties, and to develop and maintain networks of relationships at an international level (Kedia et al, 1999)