Since last week’s opinion piece was published where I discussed the staffing shortages in the RCMP and how it was relative to crime concerns of folks who live in rural parts of the country, I have received a number of messages from people providing anecdotal snippets about service issues they are having or have had with the RCMP.
This raises the question about public safety and the government’s role in that.
But not all of the concerns expressed came from folks living in areas serviced by rural RCMP detachments. Indeed, a couple came from the largest RCMP detachment in the country, Surrey, B.C.
I heard stories about a lack of police patrols in communities in the south Okanagan, in northern Saskatchewan, to RCMP refusing to investigate criminal events when reported in Surrey.
But none of this is new, it just seems the RCMP has been remarkably unsuccessful in solving problems that have been identified for several years.
In years past, RCMP members complained that they were forced to attend any little thing a citizen called in about. They had an expression, “No call too small, no snivel too little.”
But all of that has changed it would seem.
One of the stories shared with me was of a Vancouver Police officer who had just bought a new car. His wife took it to her place of work in Surrey. While parked it sustained thousands of dollars damage in a hit and run incident. The incident was captured on security cameras and a suspect vehicle with identifiable licence plate was recorded.
The RCMP were called and the complainant was told the police would not investigate as it was “an ICBC” matter. The last time I checked Failure to Stop at the Scene of an Accident was still an offence in the Criminal Code of Canada and it is certainly the responsibility of the RCMP under the terms of their contract with the Province of British Columbia to investigate crimes reported to them.
My guess in this is it is the result of Regional and Detachment commanders having to get creative to deal with their manpower shortages affecting all areas of the RCMP.
In February of 2018, the President of the RCMP Veteran’s Association, Al Rivard, wrote a letter to the Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale about the problem. In it, using 2017 numbers, he said that of the 20,214 funded positions in the RCMP, there were 1,339 vacancies or a vacancy rate of 6.6%. When he factored in sick leave and parental, leave the number reached a shocking 12.1%.
But it isn’t just the uniform service where the problem manifests itself.
In his letter, Rivard says, “These staff shortages are being felt across the country by the citizens in communities policed by the RCMP, but by the other agencies collaborating with the RCMP in national security and public safety investigations.”
But in some rural detachments, the number is as high as 50%. Hence the issue with residents in those areas who get charged criminally for using a firearm to try and protect themselves, their families and their property.
The Liberal government has just passed Bill C71 to further limit legal gun owners’ ability to get firearms. It does nothing to stem the rise of illegal gun gang violence which is the real problem in our cities. Nor has the government done anything to address the staffing shortages of the national police force.
The government’s primary responsibility is the protection of its citizens. Using any measure, this Liberal government is failing and failing miserably.