column was published in the
July 7, 1999)
critical manpower short fall
By Leo Knight
RCMP manpower shortages are now becoming critical and even the Vancouver
Sun has noticed.
Sun had a front page story saying the vacancies are
beginning to hamper criminal investigations.
have discussed the problem in this space in the past and it
would now seem that the worst-case scenario has come to pass.
January, I said the RCMP was artificially creating a shortfall
of 500 police officers in order to meet budgetary restrictions
imposed by their masters, the faceless Treasury Board
to RCMP spokesman Grant Learned, only partway through the fiscal
year which began April 1, the number of vacancies is now 430,
give or take a couple. The force should easily reach the 500
target before the month is over.
is what happens when they seriously overshoot that mark, as it
now seems certain to happen.
to Learned, the attrition rate the RCMP is currently coping with
is 20 to 30 experienced police officers leaving every month.
This doesn't include those who go on long-term disability,
maternity leave, suspension or even to be international cops in
Kosovo or Bosnia.
May 25, Commissioner Phillip Murray appeared before the federal
Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. He deftly
ducked, dived and dodged questions from West Vancouver-Sunshine
Coast MP John Reynolds.
tried to soft-pedal the shortages by saying a 2% to 3% vacancy
rate is normal. He went on to describe the current problem as
"around 200 vacancies out of a resource allocation of
something in the neighbourhood of 6,000 is fairly routine."
continued, "So generally speaking, you tend to run a
vacancy pattern of 2% to 3% across the board over time. Where
that 2% to 3% is left, of course, is a decision for the local
division command to determine."
very well if the commissioner was not misleading the MPs. In the
first place, Murray padded the overall strength by over 500
positions. The authorized strength of B.C. Mounties is
approximately 5,500, including what are called federal positions
such as Customs and Excise, Immigration and Passport and Drug
usual vacancy rate of 200 is true. But those are the long-term
sick, maternity leaves, leaves without pay, suspensions and the
additional 230 seems to have been ignored by the commissioner in
explaining the problem to the justice committee. In other words,
add the 200 to the 230 and divide that into the real authorized
strength and the figure is almost 10%. And growing by the month.
quick check of detachments around the Lower Mainland confirmed
that figure. Even in North Vancouver the figure is 9%. So
despite Commissioner Murray's verbal agility, he isn't telling
tried to clarify the problem in a letter written to Murray on
May 26. When he didn't receive a response, he had his staff
contact Murray's office on June 16 to find out why. Murray's
executive assistant said, "The commissioner doesn't care to
respond," according to the staffer who made the call.
Reynolds wrote to Solicitor General Lawrence MacAuley on June
21. Funnily enough, Reynolds received a reply from Murray on
June 29. In it Murray stated, "I read your letter of May 26
when it arrived and have read it again. My interpretation may be
incorrect, but I still do not see where you asked for a
tone of your letter was such that I did not believe you expected
a response. In any event, I will now respond because you have
expressed that expectation."
I didn't like your tone so I was going to ignore you until my
boss told me I had to write back.
if I've got this right, Murray fudged his response to the
justice committee, which is made up of MPs from all parties and
which by law Murray must answer to.
of the members of that committee wrote to Murray citing specific
concerns from members of the public and requesting clarification
of misleading statements apparently made by Murray. And the
commissioner simply chose to ignore the MP until ordered to
guy's so arrogant he could run for Prime Minister. Or Chief
Constable of the Vancouver Police. Apparently there's an
trouble with all this is where the rubber meets the road, so to
speak. The cops on the street at detachment level have to make
do with less.
have to work harder to carry the extra load. The public are no
longer getting the service they were used to from the Mounties
because of the shortages. Practical decisions have to be made to
determine what calls will no longer be attended to by a police
officer, which crimes will no longer be investigated.
Coquitlam, for example, all bicycle patrol officers and
community police station constables have been returned to
uniform in patrol cars. In North Vancouver, the school liaison
officers have been returned to uniform patrol for the summer and
the patrol boat will remain ashore.
Learned responded to this situation saying, "We can't fill the national commitment to community policing and still fulfil front line service requirements." That means your calls to 9-1-1. And, lest you forget, the federal government tabled a budget this year with a $17 billion surplus. Maybe the RCMP should apply for a grant saying they are gay, one-legged, Nigerian stewardesses.