City council opposes changes to the RCMP auxiliary program

Campbell River’s mayor will be rallying other municipal councils to take a stand against changes to the RCMP auxiliary program that will result in cutbacks to their duties.

Council, at its March 21 regular meeting, directed Mayor Andy Adams to take the issue to the BC Mayors’ Caucus in September – a meeting of mayors from across the province.

Adams offered to try and get other mayors on board after Coun. Larry Samson suggested the city bring the issue to this September’s Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention. The UBCM makes recommendations to and lobbies the province on issues affecting local government.

In this case, city council is concerned about changes expected to come to the RCMP’s auxiliary program that include putting an end to ride-alongs and firearms familiarization training.

RCMP auxiliaries are unarmed, unpaid RCMP who assist RCMP regular members with some of their general duties. Under the supervision of a regular member, auxiliary constables participate in RCMP community events and programs, crime prevention programs in schools, traffic control, ground patrols, search and rescue, parades and other ceremonial events.

But Cpl. Janelle Shoihet, media relations officer with the RCMP’s E Division, said changes are being proposed as a result of a review of auxiliary constables following the Oct. 22, 2014 shooting of unarmed Canadian Forces member Cpl. Nathan Cirillo in front of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa and the fatal shooting of Const. David Wynn in St.Albert, Alta. in 2015 while investigating a disturbance outside of a casino. Auxiliary Const. Derek Bond was also shot in the casino incident but survived.

Samson said while “our hearts go out to the family and the RCMP,” he’s bothered by a lack of consultation.

“They bring in this change and they don’t talk to the communities and the people that are directly affected by these changes,” Samson said.

Mayor Adams asked City Manager Deborah Sargent what kind of impact the changes would have on Campbell River and whether it may affect auxiliary recruitment. Sargent said the changes will create definite challenges for auxiliary forces all across the country.

“I don’t have the details of the impacts but certainly the changes in terms of ride-alongs and firearms familiarization training being discontinued is going to have an impact,” Sargent said. “Because policy is still in process we don’t know what the final impacts will be here in Campbell River but we will be in close touch with our RCMP and our auxiliaries.”

Cpl. Shoihet told the Mirror recently that the changes will only bring auxiliaries more in line with the role they were meant to fulfil.

“Auxiliaries were never intended to supplement the work of regular members, rather the duties they perform are meant to be complimentary work such as community engagement,” she said.

“In communities such as Campbell River, auxiliary constables will continue to perform the duties where they have the greatest impact, that is in community policing, crime prevention and community engagement.”

She added that going forward, auxiliaries will need to be either accompanied by a regular member with all intervention tools or not be in operational uniform.

The RCMP is further considering ordering all auxiliaries to wear a uniform to distinguish them from regular RCMP members.

“There are considerations being made to changing the current uniform, as we recognize that when auxiliary constables are on duty in uniform they are identified as police officers, which puts them at greater risk for harm,” Shoihet said.

The RCMP auxiliary program has been in effect since 1963 to enhance community policing and crime prevention initiatives. The program is used in all provinces and territories except for Ontario, Quebec and Nunavut.