Auxiliary RCMP taken off the line

Dave Stewart dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on February 12, 2016

Cpl. Scott Stevenson, media relations officer for the RCMP in P.E.I., says several changes are coming to the auxiliary constable program.

©HEATHER TAWEEL/THE GUARDIAN

The RCMP is taking its auxiliary constables off the front lines.

Following the deadly shootings on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in 2014 and at a casino in St. Albert, Alta., last year, the national police force says it is in the process of making changes to the roles of auxiliary constables.

Cpl. Scott Stevenson, media relations for the RCMP in P.E.I., says auxiliary constables will no longer accompany regular members on ridealongs and won’t receive firearms familiarization training.

Actually, the commanding officer of the RCMP in P.E.I. suspended ridealongs last year following the Alberta shooting where an RCMP constable was shot and killed and an auxiliary member was seriously wounded.

“Our ultimate goal is to ensure their safety, obviously,’’ Stevenson said Friday. “The training the regular members have to go through to attend these high stress situations, we just don’t have that for the auxiliary as volunteers.’’

Stevenson couldn’t provide an exact number but believes there are between 20 and 30 auxiliary constables in P.E.I., down from between 50 and 70 volunteers about 20 years ago.

The auxiliary program will continue in P.E.I., but more changes are coming. A national policy is in the works, and letters have been mailed out to all auxiliary constables.

Stevenson said it will involve more community service, such as attending public school events. It could also mean other new duties and possibly new uniforms.

“It won’t be front-line (service) in the cars with the members anymore. We just don’t want unarmed volunteers attending violent crime scenes where there is a possibility they may get injured. The way policing has evolved the last number of years, it’s unfortunately becoming more and more hazardous. This doesn’t come as a surprise to our auxiliaries.’’

Peter Llewellyn of Georgetown, who served as an auxiliary constable with the RCMP in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and P.E.I., calls the decision very disappointing.

“It’s a big loss to the province,’’ Llewellyn said. “The auxiliary program is a huge plus to the members.’’

Llewellyn said auxiliary constables are often used as a second set of eyes alongside an RCMP member, helping out with traffic control and scene control at crime scenes.

Llewllyn said while he didn’t carry a sidearm, he was equipped with a baton and pepper spray.

“Sometimes (on a call) the only person they had with them were auxiliary members.’’

Llewellyn said taking volunteers off the front lines and doing away with firearms training is essentially ending the program altogether.

“You might as well call a spade a spade. They are not ending the auxiliary ridealong program; they are ending a service that is provided to the citizens of P.E.I.’’