It’s become fashionable among some media and elected officials to trash-talk police and, in particular, the RCMP. Like most fast-fashion, though, this trend is bad for our society as a whole.
Much of what is said isn’t true or is based on opinion; it degrades Canadians’ confidence in public and community safety; it demoralizes Members of the RCMP and other police, and it discourages those considering the noble and otherwise highly rewarding career of policing. In the past, these spews have gone unanswered and uncorrected but since the National Police Federation was stood-up almost five years ago we’ve made it our mandate to hold media and others accountable for their damaging misinformation and to visibly stand-up for Members.
The Globe & Mail’s anonymous “Editorial Board” has published two such opinion pieces in the last week, and so we took them to task with our own Letter to the Editor. Since our letter was critical of senior Globe & Mail staff and others, the odds are not in our favour that it will be published, so we’re sharing it below. Facts matter and the vast majority of Canadians support the RCMP Members who serve them, day in and day out. They deserve our thanks and respect over clickbait.
RCMP Members Accountably and Effectively Serving Their Communities
Let’s be clear: the RCMP provides uniform policing to about 1 in 4 Canadians and over 73% of Canada’s land mass; when someone calls 9-1-1 in a community served by the RCMP, our Members show up. They show up every single day, each year, in communities across Canada. Survey after survey, year over year, shows a 75 to over 80 percent satisfaction rate in RCMP-served communities across the country. Canadians do not doubt the RCMP and know we will be there when they need us.
Apparently, the anonymous “Globe and Mail Editorial Board” disagrees. Their latest hit job is based on incomplete, misleading reporting that omits and misrepresents numerous facts. It is frustrating and disrespectful for our almost 20,000 Members to see these half-baked opinions with such one-sided commentary.
As one glaring example, the “160 vacancies” in Surrey were the result of the RCMP creating vacant positions specifically so that the Surrey Police Service could staff them, as mutually agreed. The Surrey RCMP have always maintained at least their minimum headcount.
Further, Members in local detachments across Canada are accountable to their local communities. Every province or municipality that enters into a contract to have the RCMP be their police service of choice signs a Municipal or Provincial Police Service Agreement which explicitly outlines the responsibility and authority of the municipality or province to direct the priorities of their RCMP Members. Many communities also have their own local policing plan and priorities agreed between elected representatives and the RCMP.
Put most plainly, it is the province, city, town, hamlet, village, or municipal district that directs the number of boots on the ground, and the priorities they respond to. If a community in northern B.C. is experiencing an increase in Break and Enters, local leaders have the ability – and frankly the responsibility – to prioritize responses with their local RCMP Detachment Commander. This holds true for southern Alberta, rural Saskatchewan, coastal and inland Nova Scotia, or any community served by the RCMP across the country. Our Members are nimble and adjust these plans throughout the year based on feedback from their local Mayors, Councilors, or Chiefs.
Beyond annual planning, many communities also have specialized Crime Reduction Units, whose sole purpose is to investigate and tackle emerging crime trends revealed through crime statistics and data, or brought forward directly by the municipal council, mayor, or Chief.
Police recruiting, which was challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing politicization of policing, is recovering with full trainee troops for the remainder of 2023 and into 2024. Statistics in the OpEd regarding vacancies are outdated as far back as last year. Interest in joining the RCMP is strong among experienced and new police officers with thousands of interested Canadians applying, and hundreds of experienced police officers patching over to the RCMP in 2023 alone.
Ultimately, the harsh truth about Member vacancies is that many governments have chronically underfunded their police services. As an example, multiple B.C. governments chose to underfund RCMP positions in an attempt to save money. This has meant that for over a decade the B.C. RCMP vacancy rate increased at the hands of the provincial government. Last year, the province opted to begin re-funding these vacancies, starting with 277 positions over three years in mostly rural areas. However, this still leaves about 240 unfunded positions that need to be filled to reach the 2012 authorized strength level. Actions like this by governments lead to strained staffing levels and present a significant challenge for Members who are continuously doing more with less.
Members of the RCMP are some of the best cops out there. Their expertise in delivering federal, provincial, and municipal policing services is unlike any other police service in the world. This brings a host of benefits including consistent, expert training; access to 150+ specialized services to ensure Members are prepared to respond to any type of incident; and the ability to pull Members from across the country and bring resources to any community, anywhere in Canada in times of crisis.
Police officers are not political pawns, and they should not be the subject of politicized and inaccurate reporting. They are proudly accountable to their communities – small towns, remote areas, and Indigenous communities alike – and they strive to make their communities and world a better place for all every single day.
We encourage the Globe and Mail Editorial Board to detach from their desks and join one of our Members or Detachment Commanders, in person, to get a first-hand look at the service they deliver, and how close their community connections are. Perhaps then their stories about public safety, policing, and the RCMP would hold some water.