Increasingly, RCMP officers in British Columbia are finding themselves called beyond their usual line of duty.
As just one example, by Sept. 1, more than 1,500 wildfires have torn through 865,291 hectares of B.C., prompting evacuations, road closures and emergency response. In this fire season alone, more than 650 RCMP officers were deployed for wildfire response.
While the firefighters take care of the blazes, the RCMP is helping people evacuate, checking on the ones that refuse to leave their homes, closing and securing roads, and patrolling evacuated communities to deter theft and looting.
During the chaos of an evacuation, there are times when families get separated because they have mere minutes to leave their home. When one partner is at work, one is at home and the kids are at school, the stress is unimaginable. The RCMP also helps reunite families in evacuation.
Additionally, it is often the RCMP who looks after wildlife affected by the blaze, and to care for residents’ livestock before the SPCA or others have access to the area. Yes, your local RCMP officer may be out there feeding and watering horses to protect the wellbeing of everyone in the community.
It is important to remember that when the RCMP is deployed for wildfire response, those members have been taken away from routine duties across the province.
“Our members have shared responsibility over emergency response and management. Having 650 members deployed in emergency response means you are rotating 650 members from across B.C. and deploying them to the emergency areas,” says Brian Sauvé, president of the National Police Federation. “That creates pressure on the municipalities they’ve left behind.”
This situation plays into resource management and allocation, which the NPF keeps top of mind for its about 20,000 members across Canada and the communities these members serve. The NPF is the national bargaining agent for RCMP members below the rank of inspector, and reservists.
“Unfortunately, RCMP funding has been flat for the last few years, and we are seeing how increasing demand is negatively affecting our members,” says Sauvé. “In addition to the wildfire crisis, protests, and crime and gangs enforcement, we have seen an increase in resources needed for mental health and social services. These are timely and necessary conversations to have with government from a societal perspective, but those conversations should also include the demands, pressures, and mental health impacts on our members. When officers are deployed to assist in emergency management, not only are they facing extreme and potentially life-threatening situations, those who remain in the home detachment must pick up the workload and operate with reduced resources.”
But that’s not all.
COVID-19 has created an unprecedented situation in B.C. that puts even more pressure on the local RCMP.
“The premier of B.C. announced that the province would introduce a vaccine passport for non-essential places and services,” Sauvé continues. “Now imagine if you are the hostess at a restaurant—what do you do if someone gets violent or belligerent because they don’t have, or won’t present, a vaccine passport? The premier was asked about that, and he said, ‘Call the police.’ This is yet another example of the province putting more pressure on the police without providing any additional resources to address the situation.”
Sauvé says this situation is not just felt in B.C., but across Canada as each community grapples with unique needs from rural crime to the opioid crisis to COVID enforcement to increasing social justice protests and more—in addition to usual policing duties. More federal and provincial resources are needed for new equipment, training, recruitment, soft and hard body armour and the other resources necessary to protect citizens as they deserve.
Despite the concerns, the province’s RCMP members are committed to serving their communities with pride and professionalism. The latest Canadians’ Views of RCMP Policing Services public opinion survey reveals that 64% of Canadians (by representative sample) agree with the statement “I feel safer because of the RCMP,” and 69% agree that “The RCMP is an organization with integrity.”
The survey is done annually to discover areas where improvements can be made; the RCMP is committed to making the changes necessary just as the NPF is dedicated to each member having the physical and mental health resources needed for the job.
No matter the conditions across the province, be it wildfire emergency response, handling a cultural or social issue with diplomacy, or general duty patrol, RCMP officers are here for you, maximizing the resources they have and continually learning and adapting to a rapidly changing environment.
To learn more about how the NPF supports your detachment and how you can help the NPF advocate for needed resources for the RCMP in your community, visit election.npf-fpn.com.
This article is written by or on behalf of the sponsoring client and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.