When auxiliary police officers offer reasons why they joined the volunteer force, most will likely speak about the challenge, the community service. Rande Johal admits she signed up on a dare.
“Someone wondered if I could pass the physical at my age,” she says laughing. “I was one of the more mature members in the auxiliary class, but the physical went great. I was up for the challenge.”
That was more than five years ago, and Johal, 51, hasn’t regretted a moment. The West Shore RCMP auxiliary constable says the specialized training, camaraderie and assisting regular RCMP members on the street makes for an exciting hobby.
“You can attend calls and feel confident,” says Johal, a dispatcher for BC Transit. “We’ve got the training to help regular members and to keep things under control.”
The West Shore RCMP detachment is looking for a few more auxiliary constables, a sworn peace officer position that allows volunteers to help the community stay safe. The detachment currently has 18 auxiliaries on duty to augment 57 regular members.
Auxiliary constables tend help on the periphery of police incidents — traffic control, crowd control and securing the perimeter of crime scenes.
Other auxiliaries might focus on community policing, such as giving talks on fraud prevention, theft prevention, restorative justice as well as helping run “bike rodeos” at elementary schools, or helping with traffic patrol during parades.
They’re also often partnered with regular West Shore RCMP members for vehicle patrols, especially on busy weekends.
“Auxiliaries can’t participate in certain dangerous activities such as high-speed chases or violent activities because they have no weapon,” notes RCMP Const. Brian Lucas, with the West Shore community policing section. “But auxiliaries in many ways are our partners in many things we do.
“On a Thursday, Friday, Saturday night they might assist with every call from shoplifting to violent assaults to break-and-enters. On a ride-along, auxiliaries are exposed to everything an officer is exposed to.”
Lorne Fletcher, Langford’s senior bylaw enforcement officer, has been an auxiliary constable for 21 years, the longest in the detachment. In 2003, he was the first auxiliary officer to ride in the Tour de Rock and has been involved in everything from training with forward-looking infrared gear on helicopters, to working with the security detail around Canada’s prime minister.
“You get involved with everything from being first on the scene at a motor vehicle accident. That’s never a happy situation,” Fletcher says. “But there’s been a lot of good times too. Finding lost children, helping save a life.”
“We put a lot of trust in auxiliaries,” Lucas adds. “They earn a lot of trust.”
Johal says it’s tough to witness the kind of abuse that can erupt with family breakdown, but for the most part, working as a peace officer is rewarding. In particular, Johal relishes training on a 17-foot Boston whaler boat “in three-foot chop at night.”
People accepted into the auxiliary program must be willing to put in 100 hours of training over about three months and be willing to commit to at least 160 hours of service per year.
Basic training involves physical, class and legal work and is offered at the West Shore detachment in Langford.
The West Shore detachment is having auxiliary constable information sessions March 2, 7 p.m. and March 5, 10 a.m.
See the application form and minimum qualifications at www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ccaps-spcca/auxil-eng.htm.