EDITORIAL: RCMP auxiliaries play a critical role

National decision to reduce duties works for safety, but will cost communities

The decision in January by the RCMP to limit the duties performed by auxiliary constables will have a ripple effect, one likely to be felt on the West Shore and beyond.

Under the new guidelines, auxiliaries will no longer be able to accompany regular officers on ridealongs, or do traffic duty or crowd control, among other restrictions.

The decision, spurred in part by tragic events in Ottawa and Alberta last year, reinforces the RCMP’s commitment to maintaining the safety of volunteers in community policing programs, which is admirable. The changes are undoubtedly the most significant since the RCMP decided in 1998 that auxiliaries would no longer carry firearms.

While it may not reduce the RCMP’s visibility, especially with regard to traffic and crowd control, it will definitely increase the cost of policing for public events.

Policing of the Rock the Shores festival in Colwood generally includes a large contingent of auxiliary officers. And Remembrance Day events at Veteran’s Memorial Park traditionally see auxiliaries keep traffic flowing safely around the area.

The costs will rise exponentially if those duties are performed by regular members.

Only about one in three applicants actually get appointed as auxiliary constables under the Provincial Police Act. The commitment is steep, involving about 180 hours of training, and successful candidates are responsible for a minimum of 160 hours of service a year.

Candidates are a blend of men and women who see the experience as an asset to pursuing a career in policing, and those who want to serve the communities they live in. The West Shore has about 20 auxiliaries volunteering at any given time, and roughly the same number undergoing training. They are well versed in the risks the work entails, and volunteer mainly for the rewards involved in serving the community.

The fear is that the changes will discourage people from signing on, especially in B.C., which has the largest number of auxiliaries in the country. The changes, although arguably right-minded, may mark the beginning of the end of the program’s long-term future.

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