View Royal Mayor David Screech is marshalling support to counteract a RCMP directive from Ottawa that handcuffs the role auxiliary members can perform.
Under this new RCMP directive, released earlier this year, auxiliary constables across Canada will no longer be allowed to accompany regular RCMP officers on ride alongs and will have other activities curtailed, including traffic control and bicycle patrols.
Screech is preparing a motion to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC) to ask the RCMP to reconsider the restrictions. If it is approved by the AVICC, the plan is to forward it for consideration at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities annual convention in September.
“We will ask the province to work with us to allow them (auxiliary constables) to carry out their work as before. What bothers me most is that this was done without any consultation by Ottawa,” Screech said. “It will affect us here on the West Shore and will have an even greater impact on smaller communities. They are an invaluable resource and visible presence in our communities and a great training source for potential officers,” he added.
Auxiliary members, who are all volunteers, assist the West Shore RCMP with events and work that reduces the financial burden on the communities they police. View Royal, Langford and Colwood share the cost of operating the West Shore Detachment.
Screech cited Rock The Shores, an annual outdoor concert in Colwood, as a great example. “They carried a large portion of the load. Having to pay for regular officers could have a major impact on the feasibility of that event.”
Const. Cole Brewer, a former co-ordinator of the West Shore RCMP’s auxiliary constable program, said the review was initiated in the wake of the terrorist attack in Ottawa as well as the death of RCMP Const. David Winn and the wounding of Auxiliary Const. Derek Bond in Alberta last year.
“I know those incidents were taken very seriously,” Brewer said. “The RCMP is ultimately responsible for ensuring the safety of our volunteers, especially those in uniform.”
Lorne Fletcher, a 26-year veteran of the West Shore RCMP auxiliary constable program, said he believes the changes are a result of the RCMP looking out for the safety of its volunteers and being cognizant of the duties performed by volunteers.
Fletcher, manager of community safety and municipal enforcement for the City of Langford, said he has seen a number of significant changes to the program over the years.
He served when they carried firearms, a practice that was discontinued a number of years ago.
“The RCMP recognizes that the auxiliary constable program poses challenges and the demands are different than for volunteers in other programs,” said Fletcher, the first auxiliary member in B.C. to ride in the Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock.
“Part of the responsibility of being an auxiliary constable is acknowledging directives and decisions from the chain of command.”
Coun. Lillian Szpak, chair of Langford’s protective services committee, said the committee discussed the ramifications in detail at their last meeting on Feb. 23.
“Ride alongs, traffic control and the bike patrols have been a boon to our community and we really regret the loss of those services,” Szpak said.
“They are all wonderful volunteers who make a real difference. Unfortunately we have no control, and the West Shore RCMP has no control over decisions from Ottawa.”