October 25, 2022
Four police officers have been murdered on duty in Canada in less than a month. That’s four too many.
Political leaders, the public they serve and those of us in policing should be asking ourselves what we can do to protect our protectors.
All four of these line of duty deaths, one Toronto Police Services officer; two South Simcoe officers and most recently a Burnaby RCMP Member, while separate, share a common thread in that each occurred while these police officers were serving and protecting our communities. For each of the police services and associations, the loss has been deep, unforgettable, and gut-wrenching because these incidents were violent, sudden, and provide a stark and grim reminder of the life and death risks that police officers face every time they show up for work.
While the men and women who answer the call to serve their communities do so with the knowledge that police work can be inherently dangerous, they did not sign up for this. No one, and that includes police officers, should be killed at work and particularly not while protecting their community.
In order to fully appreciate what it’s like to be a police officer today, it’s important to step back and acknowledge that, for years, RCMP Members across Canada have faced chronic human and financial resource challenges at the hands of government cuts and freezes, and they continue to be asked to deliver more with less.
We need to protect those who protect us, and here is what the National Police Federation believes must take place.
First, stronger social supports are necessary. Provincial and federal governments must expand stable and long-term funding to evidence-based social programs, with particular emphasis on under-served rural and remote areas, so that our Members can focus on what they’re actually trained to do: enforce the laws and prevent crime.
Second, police should not be the first and only response to mental health and well-being calls. Mental health professionals are desperately needed, and far better suited to this critical work with appropriate safety supports.
We know that mental health and addiction contributes a vicious circle of repeat offences among marginalized and vulnerable citizens.
And third, in the wake of these four deaths and the high number of firearms, violent, serious, and repeat offender crimes across Canada, the federal government must focus on addressing the root causes of crime.
Earlier this month, at a meeting of federal, provincial, and territorial ministers of justice and public safety, participants released a host of recommendations in areas like modernizing the criminal justice system, prioritizing public safety and police work, and the over-representation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system. Of note, they called on the federal government to put needed police resources and monies towards strengthening gun controls; target illegal firearms smuggling and trafficking; limit the supply of firearms to criminals; enhance investigative tools; and implement reforms to the bail system.
The government must also recognize that serious crimes involving firearms and drug trafficking should bear serious penalties given the threat to public safety, and that violent offenders should be kept off our streets to protect the public, while a simultaneous and comprehensive public health response should be adopted to deal with people suffering from substance abuse.
Recruitment has reached a crisis level in policing. How can we ask young people to sign-up to protect and serve their fellow Canadians if we don’t create a legislative environment to support and protect them in that critical endeavour?
Our collective public safety depends on it.
Frankly, I would much prefer to discuss these options than to write one more condolence letter to a colleague, friend, or family member of a fallen police officer.
President, National Police Federation
About the National Police Federation:
The National Police Federation (NPF) was certified to represent ~20,000 RCMP Members serving across Canada and internationally in the summer of 2019. The NPF is the largest police labour relations organization in Canada; the second largest in North America and is the first independent national association to represent RCMP Members.
The NPF is focused on improving public safety in Canada by focusing on increasing resources, equipment, training, and other supports for our Members who have been under-funded for far too long. Better resourcing and supports for the RCMP will enhance community safety and livability in the communities we serve, large and small, across Canada.
For more information: https://npf-fpn.com/
Fabrice de Dongo
Manager, Media Relations