column was published in the
April 14, 1999)
Funding cuts erode police effectiveness
By Leo Knight
Mountie budgets were cut in the latter part of this last fiscal
year as a result of a systemic screw-up by senior brass in
Ottawa, the locals were forced to tie up the patrol boats,
ground the choppers and planes and even turn off their cell
phones on days that weren't free.
freeze was put on all "non-emergent" overtime. Concern
about service reduction to the public was inevitably voiced.
erstwhile federal Solicitor General, the hapless Andy Scott, was
put on the grill by opposition MPs for several days. Scott, who
couldn't keep his mouth shut at 20,000 feet and paid for his
resulting lack of memory with his job, said at the time in
response to the criticism, "there is no risk to public
safety. I have every confidence in the RCMP's capacity to give
Canada the same police protection they have for 125 years."
April 1 approached marking the start of the new fiscal year,
there was significant optimism that the new budget would address
the needs of the RCMP and the belt could be let out to more
comfortable levels. Especially in view of the record-setting
budget surplus recorded by the fiscally prudent finance
minister, Paul Martin, said to be the prime minister in waiting.
this now appears not to be the case.
first sign of the frightening new trend shows itself in a March
29 memo emanating from the desk of assistant commissioner
Raymond Mercier in Ottawa.
the memo obtained by the North Shore News, Mercier talks about
making "difficult decisions" in the coming year and
the need to cut 40 operational positions.
there is no new money coming in, cuts must be made within the
existing envelope to support the remaining positions," said
goes on to talk about "minimum impacts" when making
changes involving cuts, but "it will be impossible to
accomplish this without some impact on front-line service
indicates in the memo that final decisions on the cuts have yet
to be made. However, he discusses some of the possibilities
which include a reduction of officers in areas such as
Countersurveillance, VIP Security and the Emergency Response
concerning, perhaps, are the potential cuts, according to the
memo, in Drug Section, Special "O" and Federal
Enforcement -- all sections involved in the fight against
somehow, in a great leap of logic, Mercier follows that up with
the following statement: "These changes will also serve as
an opportunity to better address our fight against organized
crime, starting with the addition of a position in Commercial
Crime to address high tech crime issues."
goes on to trumpet "new specific funding for crimes against
humanity will allow the addition of five positions to our War
sense can we make of this?
leaving aside the potential political correctness of those last
two paragraphs, it should be understood that Mercier is the
commanding officer of "A" Division, which is comprised
of Ottawa, the capital region and the surrounding environs.
in the memo Mercier says, "each of the other sectors ... as
well as "C" (Quebec) and "O" (the rest of
Ontario) Divisions, are all faced with the same
represents approximately 30% of the manpower allocation of the
RCMP. With the budgetary cutbacks referred to by Mercier in
Central Canada which represents approximately another 25%, is
B.C. facing the same measures?
answer to that question proved hard to determine. Locally, the
Mounties are bracing for just such an event. "E"
Division, as B.C. is known within the force, is already over 300
tell me that a plan exists at senior levels to artificially
maintain the manpower shortfall at 500 to control the budget.
Out of a total strength of 4,000 this represents over 12%.
this figure clearly when contemplating how the police force --
our police force -- can maintain the same service levels with
more than 12% fewer people.
detachment, along with North Vancouver, considered one of the
"Big Five" postings, has been developing a program
termed, in a wonderful example of bureaucratese, "revision
of differential call response."
English is my first language. And personally, I have a fairly
good vocabulary. Individually, I understand the meaning of each
of those words. But really, what does "revision of
differential call response" mean?
a few phone calls, the meaning became clear. Surrey is trying to
determine just which calls from the public the police used to
respond to will be treated differently. In other words, the
public can expect reduced service levels from the police.
problem is created because the local Mounties are granted their
budget from the federal Treasury Board. The faceless
bureaucratic bean-counters in Ottawa, who wouldn't know a home
invasion from a gang shooting, determine what resources should
be allocated in British Columbia to fight crime.
order to get fiscal increases, the RCMP management have to
present "business case arguments" to Treasury.
that just give you a warm, fuzzy, safe feeling all over?
Mercier memo dares speak of a reduction in service levels. A
realistic fact the Liberal government refuses to acknowledge
may be speaking about what is happening in Ottawa, but make no
mistake about it, his words ring as true here in your
undoubtedly, the actions and decisions by Mercier are being
forced upon him by the Liberal government.
record surplus reserves, the Libs are holding back on funding to
the RCMP. While this may be arguably laudable in tough economic
times, such as were faced when the Liberals took over from the
cash-strapped Conservatives in 1993, it is unconscionable to
withhold appropriate funding and resources when there is
The protection of the citizenry should be the first priority of the government. Efficient and appropriate management of allocated resources should be the first duty of senior police management. The Mercier memo indicates both are failing.