The federal government has launched a review of the RCMP’s role in regional and municipal policing in light of concerns that the demands of its policing contracts in the provinces and territories may be overstraining the force and reducing its effectiveness.
The review comes as the RCMP faces renewed allegations of racism and the use of excessive force in the shooting death of Rodney Levi in northern New Brunswick and the beating of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam in Fort McMurray, Alberta.
The Mounties have also come under fire for their handling of April’s 13-hour shooting rampage in rural Nova Scotia that left 23 people dead including an RCMP officer.
Last month, Jim Bronskill of the Canadian Press reported on the contents of a government memo warning federal cabinet ministers that the RCMP’s provincial, territorial and municipal contract policing obligations were sapping the force’s effectiveness in fighting organized crime and protecting national security.
Bronskill, who obtained the confidential memo through an Access to Information request, reported that the demand for local contract officers “outstrips the RCMP’s capacity to recruit and train them, causing shortages that have led to officer health and wellness concerns.”
The document also warned about “growing dissatisfaction” over the costs of local policing as well as officer vacancies raising concerns about community safety.
“Over 60 per cent of RCMP’s multibillion-dollar budget and over 70 per cent of the force’s officers are assigned to contract policing in 153 municipalities, the three territories, and all provinces but Ontario and Quebec,” Bronskill reports.
RCMP in Sackville
When Sackville Town Council voted unanimously to disband its 100-year-old municipal police force in October 2002 and sign a contract with the RCMP, it was a controversial decision.
The Moncton Times & Transcript reported that the vote was taken “before a crowd of hundreds of community residents who booed the eight councillors.”
The newspaper also reported, however, that town councillors felt the RCMP would be best able to improve and maintain higher policing standards.
It quoted Councillor Virgil Hammock who said the town deserved a professional police force with efficient management.
“Everyone can boo and hiss all they want, but I received one phone call in favour of the (local police),” Hammock said.
Then-mayor Jamie Smith, who did not have a vote, stepped away from his position chairing the meeting “to tell residents he believed taxpayers couldn’t bear the burden of higher policing costs of the RCMP.”
At the time, Sackville was the only town in New Brunswick required to pay 100% of RCMP policing costs. However, when the contract was renewed for 20 years in 2012, the federal government agreed to pay 30% of the RCMP costs, with the town covering the rest.
This year, Sackville plans to spend nearly $1.9 million for police services, the largest, single expenditure in its $11.4 million operating budget, but judging by comments they’ve made in the last four years, councillors seem happy with the RCMP service.
To read a CBC report on CUPE’s unsuccessful attempt to persuade town council to reinstate a local police force in 2006, click here.
For a report on why Amherst Town Council decided to stick with its municipal force in 2018, click here.
And for a report from The Argosy, on a eyebrow-raising visit from the RCMP to the Mt. A. campus last year, click here.