VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – A shift in RCMP policy means cities won’t be able to use auxiliary officers as freely or easily when it comes to supervising festivals, parades, and other large events you might attend.
Effective immediately, the unarmed volunteers now need to be directly supervised by a full-time, paid officer.
Still absorbing the news, Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart says it adds responsibility for paid officers who are already stretched thin.
“This kind of unilateral change has the potential to reduce safety in our community because the auxiliaries perform a valuable service both in engagement and outreach on all kinds of crime-prevention issues but also do bike and foot patrols. They assist with community crime-awareness programs and they do crime-reduction patrols in hot spots.”
He tells us making up that difference with full-time members isn’t feasible.
“In recent years, we’ve had 10,000 [volunteer auxiliary] hours… That’s the equivalent of five or six full-time police members. Ten thousand hours is irreplaceable. It would extremely expensive,” says Stewart.
“It would be in the order of a one per cent tax increase in order to replace that with full members. We want the RCMP to actually sit down with affected communities before they make unilateral decisions. They’re our service provider and it doesn’t make any sense for them to be making decisions unilaterally and then informing of us them.”
He and the rest of the city’s council are also frustrated over a lack of communication and consultation.
“There were all sorts of promises of greater collaboration, cooperation, and consultation. That didn’t happen. This is a unilateral edict and no reasons why,” says Councillor Terry O’Neill.
The RCMP says the move comes down to safety when having a large number of uniformed yet unarmed officers together.
“This isn’t about money,” says Chief Superintendent Dan Malo. “This is about making sure our heroic volunteers — people that come out free of charge and support the community — go home safe at night after they’ve worn a uniform without a gun.”
He admits the policy change was, at least in part, in response to the Ottawa shooting, adding he tells his commanders to “assess it based on the risk of the day. And make sure our auxiliaries — who I see as heroes — go home at night and make sure they’re safe. And if that costs a couple extra dollars, then so be it.”