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The Mounties March on America

(Soundbite of song "Blame Canada")

Ms. MARY KAY BERGMAN (Actress): (As Sheila Broflovski) (Singing) Blame Canada.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Blame Canada.

Ms. BERGMAN: (Singing) It seems that everything's gone wrong since Canada came along.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Blame Canada, blame Canada.

Unidentified Man: (Singing) They're not even a real country, anyway.


Oh, that's a low blow. Oh, Canada, how we love - sometimes not necessarily to love you, all 33 million of you up there. But we're working on it. And so are you. Here in New York City, there are some fine Canadian ambassadors on hand and on horse to offer goodwill and answer any questions. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have been stationed right across the street from our studios in BRYANT PARK. And today, well, we talked them into coming up to our studio, sans steeds.

Joining us now, officers Terry Russel and Gary Bartless, two members of the Royal Canadian Mounties. Gentlemen, thank you for coming in.

Officer GARY BARTLESS (Officer, Royal Canadian Mounted Police): Good morning. Thank you.

STEWART: Your outfits are tremendous.

Officer BARTLESS: You like them?

STEWART: I - what did you feel like the first time you put on the red jacket and the hat?

Officer BARTLESS: It's pretty incredible. It's a six-month process, and you graduate from the academy in Regina and you finally get to wear this. And it's a long process, and it's really an honor to be…

Officer TERRY RUSSEL (Officer, Royal Canadian Mounted Police): Yeah. A sense of pride, and being proud to be a Canadian, for sure.

STEWART: And when you first put it on, did you - honestly, did you kind of look at yourself in the mirror for a while, Officer Bartless?

Officer BARTLESS: Absolutely.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: How about you, Officer Russel? Did you think, I look pretty good in this?

Officer RUSSEL: You know what? Best compliment I ever got when I was on tour with the horses in Musical Ride. And a father walked up to me and said, you know, my son just graduated from West Point and I am so very proud of him. But your uniforms are nicer than those.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: So tell me just briefly, I remember seeing - I was - saw this cruising around online, and I saw that there were going to be Mounties in Bryant Park and I - why are you guys hanging out with in this gorgeous park on the last day of year?

Officer RUSSEL: It's to promote Canadian tourism. They have this what they call Mounty Mondays, and we're there during the day, couple of sessions, I think, just to take photos with the tourists.

STEWART: What if the tourists come up and ask you - what's the oddest thing that someone has come up and said, officer…

Mr. RUSSEL: You know what? People want to come up to Canada in the summer time and see snow.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Officer RUSSEL: And everybody thinks it's cold. And you know what? It's a great place to visit, and we encourage everybody to come up and visit. It's exciting and it's fun.

STEWART: Officer Bartless, what's the nuttiest question you've gotten from an American so far? Or even, you know, we have such an international city of tourism…

Officer BARTLESS: I think we end up getting all kinds of questions. I mean, obviously, the most common one is where is your horse?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Officer BARTLESS: But, you know, we leave them back home.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Now, just so people understand, are you sheriffs? Are you police officers? What's your jurisdiction when you're back home?

Officer RUSSEL: We're federal police officers. In Ontario, we have a mandate similar to the FBI. We enforce federal laws. Other parts of Canada, we enforce all laws, from city police to federal police. We do it all. So it's a bit different in Ontario. We're mainly the federal police of jurisdiction.

STEWART: Officer Bartless, what made you want to be part of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police?

Officer BARTLESS: I think from a young age, I've always wanted to be a police officer. And it just happened that at the time, and the RCP was hiring quite a bit. And it was a perfect opportunity for me to put in my name for training and - which I did.

STEWART: When you're walking around Bryant Park, do people recognize you right away?

Officer RUSSEL: Oh, absolutely.

STEWART: Do they understand what's going?

Officer RUSSEL: You know, absolutely. I've heard stats that this uniform - with the Stetson, the red serge, our red jacket. We wear the boots - riding boots, the breeches, the spurs. They say it's like the second most recognizable logo in the world next to Coke.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Officer RUSSEL: You know, Coca-cola. And everybody comes up to us and they know who we are and they know where we're from. And they're really excited, because they always hear about this myth of the uniform of the Mounty, and then see one of us, you know? And sometimes if - and I do ride. In Canada, I was on the Musical Ride. So if I'm on horseback, tourists are just blown away. They love it.

STEWART: Now, you guys, you don't have your horses down there? You're just walking around?

Officer BARTLESS: That's correct, yeah.

STEWART: But normally, can you tell me a little bit of the history of the Mounted police and the horse's involvement?

Officer BARTLESS: Actually, you know, we were formed in 1873. And because Canada is a large country, we originally policed on horseback and rode all the away out west from Ontario to Alberta to enforce laws that were enacted, and that's where the horses came into play. They were a mode of transportation. And…

STEWART: It's quite simple. Just a practical thing.

Officer BARTLESS: Absolutely. And now, they use that for a historical public relations perspective, and the people love it. It's a great icebreaker. Kids'll come up to a 1,200-pound horse and want to pet the horse and meet the Mounty, and it still works today.

STEWART: I'm curious about tying to be a law enforcement officer. I see horse cops all the time in New York City, especially for crowd control. Believe it or not, they use them outside night clubs in Manhattan because they just pour out into the streets. Is it difficult to maneuver a horse when you're in a situation where you have to really enforce the law?

Officer BARTLESS: You know it's the easiest thing to do…

STEWART: Really?

Officer BARTLESS: …when the horse is trained and you're a trained rider to use your leg aides to move a horse around in the crowd, and we do it in Toronto. Toronto Police Service uses horses for the exact same thing, as soon as bars clear out in the entertainment district.

STEWART: Mm-hmm.

Officer BARTLESS: And they say the stats on night is one officer on horseback is worth 20 officers on foot…

STEWART: Oh, that's really…

Officer BARTLESS: …for clearing people out at the end of the night.

STEWART: Well, you know, a lot of Americans, for better or for worse, know you from "Dudley Do-Right." It's probably the Mounty they're most familiar with. We have that wonderful…

(Soundbite of TV show, "Dudley Do-Right")

Unidentified Man #1: I can't believe it, but it's in the paper. It must be true. Snidley Whiplash found to be Dudley Do-Right's younger brother.

Mr. PAUL FREES (Voice Actor): (As Inspector Fenwick) Dudley Do-Right, get in here.

Mr. BILL SCOTT (Voice Actor): (As Dudley Do-Right) Oh, yes, sir, inspector. And have I got news. Wait till you hear this, inspector…

(Soundbite of banging sound)

STEWART: Is that remotely funny to you at all, officers?

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Officer Bartless, (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of laughter)

Officer BARTLESS: You know, we all watched that cartoon when we were little, you know. I just not really associated that to what I do for a living, but we all saw that one when we were little and growing up, and it's still fun today.

Officer RUSSEL: Sure. Yeah.

STEWART: It made you laugh.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Officer RUSSEL: We're still looking for a Snidley Whiplash.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: I've heard he's from the East Village. Just one little tip for you.

Officer RUSSEL: Okay.

STEWART: I think I saw him. Tell us a little bit about how the role of the Mounty has changed over the course of the years.

Officer BARTLESS: I mean, obviously, since 1873, things have changed and, you know, we - the mode of transportation has changed, obviously, with the horseback to what we have now. We went from small area of out west to the complete country, and now we go beyond that. We go to other countries, and we're liaison officers for our own country to, you know, to do our investigations and enforce the law.

Officer RUSSEL: And back in, you know, back - as recent as 2000, I think we were enforcing foreign laws that - and American - U.S. police have had the same challenges, and we're enforcing things that everybody knows, like drugs.

STEWART: Mm-hmm.

Officer RUSSEL: Things like that. And now, we're enforcing things like major organized crime. We're enforcing terrorism issues. And we're having to put a lot of resources and bodies that - investigations like that that we never had to in the past. So a lot more challenges, larger budgets, more police officers. We are hiring like never before. We're trying to hire 2,500 RCMP officers per year and having a really hard time filling our quota, hiring like never before because we know the challenges are getting even bigger in the future.

STEWART: Well, Officer Terry Russel and Gary Bartless, thank you so much for coming up to the studio. Thanks for hanging out in Bryant Park and saying hello and encouraging everybody to love Canada.

Officer BARTLESS: Hey, come up and see us. We'd love to have you up there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: I'm coming down for a picture later.

Officer BARTLESS: That's fine.

STEWART: Nice to meet you. Happy New Year, by the way.

Officer RUSSEL: Happy New Year to everybody in New York.

Officer BARTLESS: (unintelligible)

Officer RUSSEL: Thanks for treating us so well.

STEWART: All right. Thanks for coming by. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.